The “It” factor

How do you know good art when you see it?  After you’ve seen 1,000 bad pieces of art.

I’ve heard that quote in the past and it is applicable to reviewing resumes and interviewing people.  I’ve been recruiting now for 8 years and have conducted numerous interviews and have spoke with hiring managers on debrief calls after they’ve interviewed the candidate.  The one thing I’ve taken away from that experience is when the candidate has “It” they’re going to get the job.  I’ve also seen someone who has “It”, and less experience, trump the candidate who is perfect on paper.

What is “It”?

It’s hard to find and some people have it naturally and others can learn how to have “It”.  “It” is the most elusive of all interviewing traits.  “It” is the ability to make a very strong first impression, continue the perception of the first impression and close with an equally strong ending impression.  “It” is made up of doing all the little things correctly.  Below are some components of “It” and some suggestions on how to get it.

There are a number of tips and tricks on how to answer interview questions and we can address those at a later time.  I’m assuming if you’re at the interview stage your background is appropriate for the position. This article is focused on some of the intangibles which the hiring manager will base their decision on.

Starting the interview on a strong note

  • On the phone interview: The first few sentences are critical.  Not only the content but what your voice conveys.  You need to have a well thought out introduction to the interview.  It can be as simple as “Thank you for taking the time out to consider me for the position.  I’m excited to talk with you about it”.  Don’t assume you’ll be able to come up with something in the moment.  Practice the first few sentences and pay attention to whether or not you sound honest. Use their name in the introduction; so simple but makes an impact.
  • The ability to be engaging.  Having the ability to carry on a conversation and make your points in an eloquent manner is critical.
  • Be the person people want to be around.
  • In person interview:  As simple as it sounds, confidence, good handshake, being well dressed and a great smile is generally what it takes to make a strong first impression.  Add those to your rehearsed introduction and you’ll be gold.
  • Practice the above!  If you feel you need some work on making a strong introduction go to a networking event or social function and practice the basic art of introducing yourself to someone.  If you can get them to smile right after your introduction you’re doing it right.

Having a connection with the interviewer

  • You need to know the audience you’ll be speaking with and their interview style.  If you’re working with a good recruiter they should be able to provide details on the manager’s personality. If you’re speaking with someone who has a sense of humor by all means incorporate your humor into the interview.  If the person is more analytical and to the point your approach should be the same.  Being able to adjust yourself to the person you’re talking to is a great skill to learn. Practice this by introducing yourself to ALOT of people you don’t know.  See if you can be engaging with them and keep a conversation moving by adjusting your style.  In addition, the ability to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know is basically what interviewing is all about.
  • Learn about their interests.  This one can be tricky at times.  Googling the person’s name and the city they live in can provide some insight.  I’ve done this and you can find out what their 5k time is, the volunteering activities they’re involved with or the Little League team they coach.  Finding a common interest or activity takes the interview to a different level than being mired in the typical interview questions.  It’s important for hiring managers to enjoy being around the team they’re building and having something to talk about is one way to have a connection.
  • If you want a Master’s Degree in connecting with someone, read Click.

The Close

  • The Close is so important.  The one thing you don’t want to do is be awkward at the ending and if you don’t get this right all your hard work will be for nothing.  Have your closing rehearsed, memorized and practiced.  The main goal here is for the interviewer to know you’re interested, you’ve enjoyed meeting them and you’d like to move to the next step.  Have this ready to say and you’ll need to read the interviewer when it’s appropriate to say it.  Again, most people can pick up on when someone sounds honest so be honest.  Think of The Close the same as you would the introduction.  Practice leaving a conversation or excusing yourself with someone you’ve just met so it feels comfortable.

Think of an interview as if you were at a formal cocktail party or meeting your significant other’s boss.  You need to be engaging, honest, confident and yourself.  Practice as much as you can so it comes naturally to you.

I’ve talked to alot of people who are qualified on paper but just can’t seem to land a job or they’re consistently coming in second place.  Most of the time it can be traced back to them not having “It”.

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