February 27, 2013

Job Interview Lessons from Politicians

Love them or hate them, but either way politicians are pretty good at answering tough questions. I'm not saying they're always honest when they're doing it, but they do seem to always know what to say and how to turn a question intended to hurt them into something positive. How many times have you listened to politicians debating only to realize they're only actually talking about what they want to talk about, not necessarily what the moderator is asking them? It may be frustrating as a voter, but as someone about to go to a job interview, it's hard not to wish you shared some of those savvy public speaking skills. I would never suggest you model their approach exactly, because you should't lie in a job search (or preferably at all), but there are a few important lessons that we can learn from the way politicians handle the tough questions.

Be Prepared
Politicians running for office know that the things they say at a public event can make or break their chances of getting elected. So they spend weeks working with a team who does everything from planning their wardrobe to researching the decision makers (voters in their case interviewer in yours). They work very hard to understand their needs and figure out how they can help them. You should be doing the same. Read everything on the company's website, look up your interviewers on Google and on LinkedIn, do the same for the comapny and their executives and really understand how the company works, what their goals are, and how they fit into the bigger picture of their industry.

Talking Points
Once a politician figures out who they need to impress and what to talk about in order to do it, they determine in advance what they want to say and they stick to it no matter what. read the job description think about the company why you want to work there and what you can contribute and figure out some key points you want to get across. Ask yourself why you want to work there, what you hope to learn, what you can contribute, and what your best skills and accomplishments are and make sure you know them in advance. Understanding this will help you with unexpected quetions because you will already have an idea of what you would like to talk about what you are asked open ended questions like tell me about yourself or tell me about a time you had to solve a problem.

Speak to What You Know
If a politician is asked a question about the economy and they really want to talk about gun control they'll talk about all the new jobs their new gun control plan would create and how important it is to create a safe work environment in order to create a productive work environment. It may be frustrating as a voter when they avade issues but it's not a bad idea for handling a question you're unsure of (maybe not is such a slick manner though). So, let's say your skills are in sales but you've maanged to score an interview for an advertising job and they ask about your related experience. Don't tell you have none. Tell them about your successful sales campaigns and how that perspective will help you understand customers and what makes them buy something and how you have a unique understanding of the psychology of marketing that you can contribute.

Be Grateful
What's the most common thing you will hear any politician say when they are running for office? Thank you. They will thank the moderator for being there and the audience for participating and they will thank every person who asks them something for giving them such a great question and they will thank the news man that interviews them and any and every one in between. Do the same. Thank the person who tells you which elevator to take or signs you in to the building. Thank the receptionist. Thank your interviewers. And be sure to send a thank you note after.
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