Imagine yourself at a social function. The person you just met is speaking in depth about their knowledge of the logistical intricacies of managing global supply chains. While interesting, if you have little interest in that subject you will likely not be totally focused on that person’s soliloquy and will start letting your eye wander the room to see who else is there. Then another person you meet starts with a question or two about what you do. They start speaking about a topic they think may be of potentially mutual interest, based on your response, and start an interactive dialog with you. Which of these two encounters will you likely value?
It is very much the same with interviewing. Think of times in your own career when you were interviewing candidates. You will surely remember one or two examples where someone came in so pumped up and ready to tell you stories of their accomplishments that they never stopped to ask what you were interested in hearing about.
We encourage people to be prepared and to have interesting stories to tell that highlight their key strengths and successes. However, sometimes in the adrenaline rush of an important interview, people will unintentionally launch into their well-prepared stories and rush through them to ensure that every key point is made.
A more effective approach is put as much time and effort into researching your interviewer as you do preparing your core content.
First, check out the company. Read the CEO’s letter in their Annual Report; what is the top strategy that they outline, key issues or opportunities for growth in their industry? Look for news articles on the company; have they done a recent acquisition, invested in a new market or technology?
All this information can then be used to map your skills/successes. As much as is practical, tune your stories to include the terms, markets, technologies, etc. that are currently relevant to that company.
Then, check out the person(s). Research those with whom you’ll be speaking. What are their backgrounds; what do they say in their LinkedIn summary regarding their roles and what they focus on? What school did they go to; do they play golf or run marathons?
This can help you build rapport quickly in an interview before you dive into any heavy dialog. Maybe you worked at the same company long ago, or your daughter is now attending their alma mater, or you also run marathons, etc. You want to ensure that, as much as possible, you have made a human connection that is focused on their needs and interests before jumping into your content.
Together these techniques can create a dramatically different scenario where you are in a conversation with someone on a mutual topic of interest instead of a one sided monologue.