The first time I conducted an interview, I focused a lot of attention on the resume. That’s because I was inexperienced and didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Experience is important, but as it turns out the preparation and behavior of an interviewee is far more telling. Over the past 10 years, I’ve conducted close to 100 interviews for several different job positions. Even though these positions, skills and experience requirements were sometimes very different, I discovered that there are a few things to look for in every candidate no matter the position. And trust me, once you’ve hired the wrong person for a job you’ll never want to do it again.
The interview checklist
Make sure you’re looking for the right things in every candidate no matter the position. This is also a great list for interviewees to prepare. If you’re the interviewer, ask yourself the following. Did they…
1. Do their homework – If someone shows up to an interview knowing very little about you or your company, that’s a red flag. Usually, it means their bouncing from interview to interview and may not be deeply passionate or interested in your company or the role. I always ask candidates “What do you know about us?” or sometimes “If you were to tell a friend about us, what would you say?” To get the job I have now at The BRIEF Lab, I looked up the interviewer online to try and get some info. Turns out he produced music on the side and so did I. I made sure to bring that up in an effort to connect. It paid off!
2. Outline their thoughts – Every good candidate will think through the following questions “What’s my back story? Why am I uniquely relevant for this position? What are 2-3 points I’d like to make? “What’s my closing point?” Of course, they should adjust to the flow of the conversation, but they should be prepared to make those key points. I recommend using BRIEF Maps (download the BRIEF Map and other BRIEF tools here) as a way for interviewees to organize thoughts and make a clear point. If the interviewer asks “So tell me a little about yourself…” this is where the BRIEF map comes in. Here’s a link to download the BRIEF Map.
3. Share a compelling story – The best way to demonstrate skills, behaviors or values is through an antidote or story. When I interview I always ask for examples, either success or failures. I’m listening for specifics around the situation, task, action, and results. This is called the STAR technique and it’s great! – Here’s a more in-depth article that outlines the STAR technique as well as great example questions for interviewers and example answers for interviewees.
4. Keep their answers BRIEF – Some people are nervous talkers and ramble. Of course, there are practical tools to improve. You just have to ask yourself “how bad is it?” We live in a world of inattention and information overload. We don’t have time for rambling. We need our people to make a clear point very quickly. BONUS: Did they cut out the jargon? Jargon plus rambling? Definitely a deal-breaker.
5. Ask good questions – Most good interviewers will ask “do you have any questions for me?” Candidates should have a few good questions in their back pocket. “What’s the culture like?” “What are your expectations for the hire in 30/60/90 days?” “What could I do to exceed those expectations?” This is a great sign that they value themselves and are thinking about how they will benefit.
Ready to nail the interview?
And if you’re the interviewee, just flip these around and make sure you show up prepared. Either way, if you’re reading this, nodding your head and saying “yes”, then I highly recommend checking out our BRIEF Boot camp online certification. We teach you how to get to the point quickly and give you essential skills and tools to stand out from the rest and be heard, especially in an interview. Here’s a link to learn more. Oh and what about you? What have you found helpful to find the best fit when interviewing?
About the author: Matt Cornelison is on a mission to help people master concise communication at The BRIEF Lab. He specializes in storytelling and coaching executive communication. He’s worked with top Fortune 500 companies from Harley Davidson to elite Special Operations Units within the Military. Follow Matt on Linkedin.