5 steps to turn your job interview into a conversation

Written by Debra Olshan Cooper,
President and Founder of Your Career Design lab

When it comes to job interviewing today, a new dawn has risen. It is no longer the interviewer against the interviewee, but rather, “Let’s talk.” Let’s connect and see if I like you. Can I work with you? Can you and I grab a drink after work? Are you someone who I vibe with?

There is so much more that goes into grabbing a piece of the career pie. I am hungry to work here. I am hungry to learn all there is to learn about the business or industry. If so, let’s get to know each other. Here are the 5 steps to turn your interview into a conversation and actually find you like the person you are interviewing with.

The first thing is to create rapport. Rapport is an instantaneous way of creating and building a connection. Here are 5 steps to making a first great impression and getting the conversation started. 

Let’s Get This Conversation Started:

Step 1: Dress to Impress. 

Dress in the role you are applying for. If you know or have a photo of whom you will be interviewing with, match their style. If you are applying for a career in law, finance, or social work the old norms still apply. Conservative dress, typically black pantsuit with a white crisp button-down shirt or a black or navy dress or skirt. For music careers, a more relaxed but chic dress will be appropriate. Choose a solid color like red, navy, black, or yellow as those are power colors and make you memorable. Leave off any logos and no stains on your clothes. 

Step 2: Relax and Be Your Authentic Self. Bring your value

Treat your upcoming interviews like a talk with a friend or acquaintance, or at a party and have connected with someone you really like. Do your research and find out some interesting background where you and your hiring manager have common interests. Perhaps she is an avid tennis player and you were caption of your tennis team. Some questions maybe I see you play tennis, I was the caption of my team. Do you prefer singles or doubles? Give a fun fact about your experience playing tennis. How much you love going to the US Open or that your greatest experience was watching Serena play at Wimbledon. 

Perhaps you are applying for a position in music, sharing your love of music and specific genres, concerts, etc. The key to connecting is to weave your value with your background with specifics that paint a picture.

Step 3: Tell Your Story:

How to make the preverbal questions into stories?

When the question  is posed, “ Tell me a little about yourself?” or “ What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Do not answer with, “I am good at organization, working with others, and making coffee… a story captures the moment you knew you were made for the position. A story tells others who you are. For example: “I’m so glad you asked, I guess I was made for this Example: I’m so glad you asked that question because when I was 16, I remember how much joy and happiness I had knowing that I was helping someone find their purpose. I loved talking to my cousin for hours. I always felt I had an innate sense of what other people were going through and used my intuition to help guide me to reaching sound guidance for them.

When asked what are your strengths, most young adults will answer with their one-line answers like: 1. I‘m good at organization, planning and entrepreneurship. A better approach is to tell a story. I believe I realized my strength came from when I was 5 years old and I wanted to buy food in the school cafeteria, but my mom wouldn’t allow me. So instead, she made me salami sandwiches. I would sell the idea that it is too bad my friends had to buy pizza and hot dogs. Soon I had all the kids lined up to buy the exclusive and delicious salami. They would line up and pay me $5.00 per slice. Soon my Dora Explorer backpack was brimming with $20.00 from all the kids who paid me to eat my salami slices. My mom died when I told her what I had done. I knew I was great at sales from that day on.  This allowed Sofia to illustrate that her strength comes from herself and real-life experiential experience was literally part of her DNA.

Step 4: Show What You Know

What do you know about the industry?

  1. Do your homework. Find out what the company is about. Maybe come up with ideas that might bring value to it. I love the way your company does outreach, but I was thinking I would love to see if we did this… if we could lower the costs of…
  2. Perhaps you have had some connections that the interviewer might be connected to as well. Bring these names into the conversation. I saw on LInkedin, you are connected to Susan Smith. Susan was my teacher at University and I actually had the opportunity to help her design her curriculum which brought in the most students that semester. She said to say hi if I had the opportunity to meet you.
  3. Lastly, indicate that you are already working there. Instead of saying, If I have the opportunity, or if I could work here. I love the fact that when I work her I will be able to bring in all the value added qualities. I can see working here I will be able to…

Step 5: Close the deal

Lastly, let the interviewer know that you truly enjoyed your conversation and hope that he/she could see the value you bring. Immediately upon departure, you will write a thank you note that indicates the specific narratives that you discussed. Pick one or two specific communications that you can playback to illustrate that the conversation was meaningful. For example: I truly enjoyed talking about your new puppy Rover. I hope the training goes well. Or I truly enjoyed our conversation about Sting. I will definitely send you a text when I find out when he is coming to town so you can get tickets. I truly enjoyed our conversation of where the world is going and I loved our common viewpoints on climate change. I hope to bring that narrative into this company so that we can collectively make a real change. 

Remember, turning an interview into a conversation is the best way to make a long-lasting connection that when working together will help you to build on the rapport for years to come.

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