In the thirty-five years or so that I have been in the job market, I have been on a multitude of interviews. I’ve spent twenty-five of those years as a training and development professional. Communication is one of the most sought after skills by employers today, no matter the position or the level within the organization. A great place to start demonstrating your communication skills is right there in the interview.
Let’s say you, like thousands of other people, want to work for Oprah. What skills would a person have to exhibit? How could you possibly shine above and beyond other candidates? Well, I went to the Harpo website and looked at a few of the job descriptions for open positions on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
What I found in the job descriptions reveals a consistent emphasis on communication. For example, to work as a field producer for The Dr. Oz Show, candidates are asked to:
- refrain from destructive communication verbally and on email
- consistently demonstrate solution driven communication
- communicate effectively with all Harpo departments, demonstrating respect and professionalism
The human resources managers I speak with tell me that how a person communicates their message can make or break an interview. Therefore, I’d like to provide you with a few tips that can help you demonstrate your communication mastery.
First, the two P’s: Prepare & Practice
Like every strategic conversation, you should be prepared for the interview. Be prepared to discuss every aspect of the job. Use examples from past experiences that highlight your strengths but also don’t be afraid to discuss how you overcame your own shortcomings. One manager told me one thing that drives him insane is the candidate who can’t think of any ‘real’ weaknesses. Not the fake ones, like, “I’m such a perfectionist!” but real examples that show the lessons learned from experience.
Then practice your answers. If you can, ask a friend or colleague to assist you with this. Select someone who will be honest with you and will challenge you to be better.
Next it’s the three C’s: Be clear, concise, and considerate
Clarity is everything.
During the interview, frame your responses using the PAR method: Problem-Action-Solution. First describe the problem or issue that best fits the question, then, describe the action that you took to solve the problem, and lastly describe the final result of your action. This will keep you on track and ensure that you make your point clearly and it also demonstrates how you would be likely to communicate once on the job.
Don’t waste their time.
Remember that in most instances, you are one of many people that the interviewer speaks with. Don’t try to impress the interviewer with story after story of how great you are. Provide your interviewer the most pertinent example to his or her question. You can have more than one example, but be sure it is relevant to the topic at hand.
Remember your manners.
It should go without saying, that when on an interview you should always be on your best behavior. I have seen and heard of many candidates who blow the interview simply because they presented themselves poorly. Never talk negaitvely about a former employer, manager, or co-worker. Watch your non-verbal signals and be polite to everyone you see. You never know who is watching you.
When I was younger, I interviewed for a waitressing job. There were about five of us waiting to be interviewed and we were told to wait in the cocktail lounge. Little did we know, one of the assistant managers was also sitting in the lounge, observing us. One of the candidates started to talk badly about her last employer. The owner of the restaurant where she had worked was the brother-in-law of the manager of the restaurant where she was now trying to get hired. Needless to say she didn’t get the job.
If you are able to actually get an interview in this job market consider yourself lucky. Don’t take the interview for granted. Taking the time to demonstrate your ability to communicate well will help you distinguish yourself from the pack and perhaps even get you your dream job. I hear Dr. Oz is hiring!
Work safe. Be happy.