By Lucy Dunn, April 2013

There are books, blogs, videos, white papers… you name it, on the topic of “interviews” but it is still challenging to find any which are actually to the point. We are all busy professionals, constantly bombarded with information. What we need is executive summaries not authors repeating the few important points, so let me try.

When you are invited for an interview, how can you maximize the time and make the conversation as mutually beneficial and constructive for both parties? The answer is: your need to PREP, PREP and more PREP.

You will be surprised to hear that even senior managers sometimes struggle to make the impression they wanted during interviews. Why? Just like everything else in life, practice makes perfect, and they don’t practice these skills. You are good at your daily work because you have been “practicing” it every day.

Therefore the very best investment you can make is to take time and “practice” listening to what people are REALLY saying and waiting for them to finish, framing your ideas in a larger context and asking more questions not because you have an interview today, but because it will also make you better at the job you currently have.

What are the best ways to make the right impression in an important interview?

- Spend some quality time preparing before going to an interview: Do your homework. Gather as much information as possible on the prospective company and review your CV so that your answers are quick and certain

- Practice asking yourself big open ended questions. If I look at my biggest competitors or partners, “What challenges they face?” “What opportunities are they not taking advantage of?” Just asking these questions in advance will make sure you are more comfortable in your next interview for business meeting for that matter

- Be proactive and make sure you are prepared to ask questions about the things that most interest you, and/or most concern you about the job or the company. A good question invites the interviewer to open up and connect with you personally, and they will often tell you things that would not have come out in a traditional one-way Q&A interview. In a sincere tone, why not ask about the challenges of the job or facing the company? This may well open the door for you to show how your skills would bring value and a solution. Think about how many job descriptions you have read that said they were looking for “self-starters.” Rather than saying you are one, show that you are by being super prepared for the interview. It will become your opportunity to shine.

- Bring every meeting to some closing. Never leave an interview without telling them if you are genuinely interested and if so, asking how the other party thought the interview went. Usually it is best to just say, I am really interested in this job and think there is a good fit because… When you are done give them a moment and quietly ask “What do you think?” The body language will give you your answer.

- Make the next steps clear and simple. When the interview is coming to a conclusion, ask “What are the next steps?” It is trial close, an opportunity to show your follow-up, and a test of how the new company works.

I hope these points have offered you a useful review and time-saver. In a future update, I will show how these very same points apply to being even more effective in your current job.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me or just send me a LinkedIn request.

Lucy Dunn
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