When I was looking for a job, one of the best books I read on interviews was 60 Seconds & You’re Hired! by Robin Ryan. Have you ever wondered why commercials are typically 30 or 60 seconds? People have short attention spans. Robin says to any question asked, you should only take 60 seconds to answer. After that, the interviewer becomes distracted, tired, bored, and doesn’t “hear” what you said. (If you have kids, you can probably relate: I ask what they did at school and when they tell me everything, and I mean everything about their day at school, my eyes just want to roll back. I’m off in some la la land just waiting for it to be over). Interviewers aren’t any different.
So the object would be to get the employer’s attention and keep it. Within seconds of meeting you, the employer has made several assumptions about you before you were even asked the first interview question. Did you arrive on time, dress appropriately, find something productive to do while waiting (this doesn’t mean talk on the cell phone), have a firm handshake, establish eye contact, and appear enthusiastic when greeted? “Alright,” the interviewer thinks, “so far so good.” Next comes the first interview question, typically “so, tell me about yourself.” You can either continue to hold their attention span or you can lose it. If you lose it, odds are you won’t get it back.
I know, I know, you are probably saying how in the world can I tell about all my years of experience in 60 seconds. Robin uses what’s called a 5 Point Agenda to sift through what’s important for this particular interview (and agendas should be customized to each interview based on the employer and position). Before the interview, do your market research: get information about the employer and the position’s needs, examine your past experience and special accomplishments, and determine which of your abilities and aspects of your experience will be most important to the employer. Next, create 5 points based on your market research.
Then during the interview when asked, “so, tell me about yourself” you can use the 60 Second Sell . That’s where you put the 5 points in order to present a logical, effective statement. You can use the 60 Second Sell to answer questions like why should I hire you, what are your strengths, what makes you think you are qualified for this job, what makes you think you will succeed, and why do you want this job. By repeating, you are increasing the chances of being heard.
There are other great nuggets in this book such as how to answer those tough, tricky questions like why did you leave your last job, can you explain this gap in your employment, and can I contact your current employer? There’s always that one question we dread because it forces us to talk about something unpleasant. Instead of talking about the negative, turn it into a positive.
Another dreaded question is, “Do you have any questions?” You should always ask questions as it shows you are interested in the company and Robin lists many great questions to consider. However, you shouldn’t ever ask about salary and benefits. The purpose of the interview to discover if the company is a good fit for you and how well you can do the job. If the interviewer asks, you could say ” I expect to be fairly compensated for my work. I feel confident that if we determine I’m the right person, we can reach an agreement.”
Lastly, Robin discusses pitfalls to avoid and how to handle nervousness. Some things you can do before going into the interview is to visualize success focusing on confidence-building thoughts, listen to a motivational tape, shake your legs, arms, and hands, and take deep breaths. To appear relaxed and confident, sit with your hands on your lap, or rest them open on the table in front of you. Look confident and smile!
You can even apply the 5 Point Agenda and 60 Second Sell when you meet new people and they ask, “so, what do you do?” I might teach my kids about it so I can get the shorter version of their school day 🙂