Similarly, every day, thousands of people across the country are interviewed for jobs. And in the same vein, it's about the most unnatural way to get to know someone. Yet the work ritual exists and, to some extent, offers value to the hiring manager. So, how do you impress a potential boss in the fifteen short minutes you have with him or her? How do you get his or her attention?
Below are five tips that work, whether you're hoping to join a massive conglomerate or a lean startup:
1. Cut out the jargon. Unfortunately, business is afflicted with the jargon disease, and it's turning us into plastic cut-outs of real people. While you may think you may sound smart, a sharp boss knows that you're using jargon to hide gaps in your knowledge. Just speak like a normal, relatable person, and you'll make a much stronger impression.
2. Keep eye contact. Don't stare your interviewer down, but don't shy away from eye contact when talking. Hold the person's gaze, lean in, express yourself through your eyes and your posture. In an episode of our Radiate podcast, Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire founder of private equity firm Blackstone, told me that "people give themselves away with their eyes. I'm always very focused on their eyes and whether they seem to be comfortable in a setting, how fast are they processing things, are they interesting?" For these reasons, eye contact is crucial; and avoiding a person's gaze can make you look shifty, insecure and unemployable.
3. Avoid the word "but." For some reason, sentences sound worse when people inject the word "but." For example:
"I can get that project to you by Friday, but it might not be until 5 pm."
"I can get that project to you by Friday, and it might be more like 5 pm."
Doesn't the second sentence just sound more pleasing, even though it's conveying the same message? The problem with "but" is that it's almost always followed by something negative. To combat the "but" effect, try swapping out "Yes, but" with "Yes, and." You'll rankle fewer people, guaranteed.
4. Be prepared for the trick question. Usually, the trick question is something like "What is your biggest weakness?" I hate that question because almost nobody answers it truthfully. Here's the rub: nobody is expecting you to answer it truthfully. Rather, the interviewer wants to see how you handle being challenged. The best way to answer this question is to find a moment years ago when you made a mistake, and then talk about how you rectified it. Just try to avoid an example that directly relates to the job at hand.
5. Come with your own questions! Nothing is more lamer than responding to "Any questions?" with a shrug, a smile and a "not really." First off, the interviewer knows that this isn't true, because every applicant has a ton of questions. Second, not asking questions shows disinterest. And third, you've just given up your one chance to rise to the level of the interviewer. Don't be afraid to ask a few tough but polite questions back to the interviewer. Questions like "What was their thinking behind going after X deal?", "What is the pathway to advancement?", and even "I've read reports of staff turnover at X department. Can you tell me what the situation is?" show that you're confident, that you've done your homework, and that you're seriously interested in the position.