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4 Steps to Successful Job Interviews

Oct 13, 2007
So, you have finally moved beyond the prescreening phase and have landed the job interview! Your resume set the stage to get you in the door, and now here is your chance to ice the cake. The interview, as you are well aware, is what will either move you towards completion of your goal - or it will be the last step in a lengthy series of steps you have already undertaken. Question: how can you succeed within the interview?

Assuming that you have appropriately prepared yourself for the interview, then the interview should be easy. However, despite all of the preparation, even the best falter when sitting down face to face with a hiring manager or human resources staff. It is one thing to outline who you are on a piece of paper (the resume), it is something else to actually explain who you are in person and face-to-face with another person. The one question most of us dread having to answer is: "Tell me about yourself." Do they want to know where you previously worked? Or, where you were born? I mean, there are just so many ways to go with that unbelievably dreaded question. Here is a quick tip: the "tell me about yourself question" is simply asking you to "tell me why you are sitting here, today, interviewing for this specific job?" That is it, nothing more.

So, what are the 4 steps to succeed within a job interview? The best career advice, as it relates to job interviews, career development, etc., is one that encourages the candidate to creatively customize the steps. So the following steps below apply regardless if you are seeking a position as an educator or a computer programmer, a manager or a salesclerk. The most important thing to remember is that every interviewer has a particular goal in mind. If you use these 4 steps, then you are likely to cover all the bases.

The four steps specifically deal with how you manage your response to the interviewer's questions. Did you catch the word "manage" as it was used in the previous sentence? Yes, I am talking about how you manage the process - - take control of the interview - -. So, when the interviewer asks you a question (i.e., tell me how you handle an angry customer) here are the four steps, as promised:

1) Provide a brief description of the situation: "One of my customers was unhappy with our XYZ widgets."

2) Add some detail to describe the specific task or role you were assigned to deal with the situation: "I was responsible for dealing directly with our department's major clients and so, I was charged with turning the situation around for this unhappy customer."

3) Provide one or two key action steps you took to handle the situation: "I contacted the customer directly and requested feedback. I authorized a refund or future discounts to this particular customer."

4) As a RESULT of your action steps, what happened? "As a result of the refund and discount, the customer increased their orders by 25%."

The four steps may be interchangeable - - you describe step 4 (the results) prior to step 1 (the situation), however, the key is to be able to list specific results that were gained. Most importantly, the results have to be tied directly to your action steps. Interviewers are looking for RESULTS, not just generalities ("I think I would make a good employee for your company"; or worse yet, "I am good with clients because I enjoy relating to others."). They need hard facts, verifiable data. And you are the most qualified candidate who is prepared to give it to them.

A bit of caution: please do not create a script to memorize these 4 steps. Ok, if it makes you feel comfortable, and better prepared, then you can write specific responses to the typical interview questions and follow the 4 steps above. Review it, then throw the script away. What is important is that you remember the 4 steps and can apply them to your own career success stories.

The best type of job interview is one that unfolds into a content-rich discussion of how your specific qualifications match the needs of the company. It is important for the interviewer to be able to see how you fit within the company environment and culture. Of course, one interview may not provide all of this detail - - but you want to give yourself a good head start. Succeeding within the interview requires extensive preparation, an understanding of how to tailor your capabilities within the scope of the company's needs, and your ability to provide details related to how you can provide desired results as a future employee.
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