The Best Kind Of Interviewee Is An Active One

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By Evan Taylor

What is active interviewing?

Eric Kramer, author of "Active Interviewing," says: "An active interviewer should guide but not control the interview. The interviewee takes on an active participant role." Kramer relates the job interview to a sales call involving a buyer (the employer) and seller (the interviewee). "This creates a different interview from when a candidate sits in the interview, hoping the interviewer asks all the right questions," he says.

An active interview vs. an interrogation

The interview shouldn't feel like you're in the principal's office. "The interview should be a conversation, not a cross examination or interrogation," Kramer says. While job candidates often feel intimidated by interviewers, and interviewers may feel fatigued by the candidate search, active interviewees can change the attitudes of those involved by guiding the interview and offering input.

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Give an interview presentation.

Present your best traits and sell yourself as a match to an organization by giving an interview presentation – a printed-out PowerPoint with bullets, charts and graphs that tells your story. "The interview presentation is well organized to communicate visually," Kramer says. Include slides about how you match the job requirements, your soft skills, a strategic action plan and questions for the interviewer. "You can share the presentation in the beginning of the interview or use it as a leave-behind with the interviewer after the interview is over."

Do your homework.

A big complaint of interviewers is that job candidates aren't prepared. Kramer suggests thinking beyond the company that's granted you the interview. "You should look into research about the industry, trends, competitors, new technology and what the press is talking about," he says. Kramer suggests visiting the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, which provides insight on jobs and hiring demand.

Show you can fit in.

It goes without saying that you should overdress for the interview, but Kramer says a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile should also be on your checklist. "You want to establish trust. You can engage in some small talk. Your focus should be on the job and learning about the job from the interviewer's perspective," he says. However, be sure to steer clear of personal or political questions.

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Tell relevant stories.

Tell stories that include a situation you were in, the barrier you faced, the actions you took to overcome it and the results. "People love stories. They capture emotions," Kramer says. Your potential employer can contextualize how your success stories fit his or her wants and needs.

Listen, pause and respond.

The interview is not a timed test or quiz. Don't be afraid to take your time listening, thinking and answering the questions that come your way. "Take 20, 30 or 40 seconds to answer a question," Kramer says, adding that a moment to reflect can produce more considerate and thoughtful answers.

Communicate your interest.

You have to show, tell and infer that you're interested and motivated in the job. "You can communicate you are motivated by your body language and energy level," Kramer says. Telling your plans to help solve the company's problem and boost its bottom line also shows you're ready to dive in.

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Ask power questions.

When the interviewer asks if you have questions, your answer should be yes. Ask "power questions," which Kramer says apply your research to the company's needs and goals. Take into consideration an industry trend, and ask a question related to the company's plans to adapt. Use your questions to show your knowledge and engage the interviewer.

Eliminate the guesswork.

Ask "How and when should I follow up with you?" and "If I don't hear from you by X day, can I call or email you on Y day?" A lot of time is wasted after the interview because candidates didn't ask how to follow up, Kramer says. Also follow up with your interviewer in writing. "You should continue to sell yourself," he says. "Talk about your benefits or values, address concerns brought up in the interview and express interest."
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