It's that magic moment. You finally got the call back and a company you are interested in working for is interested in you. Now, it's time for you to close your first sale. It's time to sell you.
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to interview hundreds of sales candidates who were interested in positions in companies I worked for or with. I've seen people do extremely well, and I've seen people completely bomb.
Most companies have a set process they follow when they are recruiting for an open position. They sift through resumes and identify people they want to move forward in the process. Typically, they start with some type of phone conversation that is more high level and gives the hiring manager or recruiter an opportunity to get to know you by speaking on the phone. This is an important first step and something you should take seriously. While you're not meeting someone in person, the discussion you have on the phone will be the first impression someone has of you.
I consider the next step to be the most important. The first face-to-face interview. This is where you will be assessed, and a decision will be made quickly about whether you will be a good fit for the organization. Of course, the people you are interviewing with are learning more about you and your ability to successfully perform the job they are hiring for. But they also are assessing you as an individual. You have to be a good fit for the company's culture and team dynamics.
Here are a few suggestions I often give people when they ask for advice on how to have the best possible chance to win people over in their first face-to-face interview.
Ÿ Do your homework: If you show up to an interview unprepared, you may as well not go at all. I always start interviews assessing the person's knowledge of the company, industry and, of course, the job itself. Spend time to research the company, just as if they were a target prospect you were trying to sell to.
Ÿ Overdress: Even if you know the company has a casual dress code, you should dress for success. Men should wear a suit and tie, and women should be in a business suit. There's no reason to dress sloppily. If someone shows up to an interview dressed casually, they are almost always crossed off my list.
Ÿ Pay attention to detail: If you get instructions on what to do and where to be for the interview, pay close attention. I worked for a company where we had to give specific instructions on where candidates should go and wait once they got into the building. If someone couldn't handle those simple instructions, I was immediately concerned.
Ÿ Ask questions: When I end interviews, I always ask the candidate if they have any questions for me. If someone says no, I am shocked. Prepare a list of questions and make sure they are questions that actually mean something. Asking about vacation time or sick days is always a turnoff.
Ÿ Be ready for tough questions: Something else I always ask about is why people left companies they worked for in the past. I like to find out what the driving force was behind their departure. Did they leave on their own? Were there problems with their manager? I like to know, and people often struggle with specific questions about why they left a previous employer.
Thompson (email@example.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.