Putting the Sizzle in Your Next Interview
Did your last interview sizzle like bacon on the grill, or did it fizzle like a bottle of champagne left on the counter December 31?

Who wins when you seize the opportunity to shine? You, your future co-workers and the hiring manager do. Use the following tips to put the snap, crackle and pop into your next interview.

Build interest before the interview by crafting a well-written résumé and cover letter. Use your cover letter to connect your previous experience to the requirements for the position.

Build rapport with your interviewer immediately – smile, make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. This demonstrates your confidence and confirms for the interviewer that she made a smart choice when she called you. It sets a positive tone for your conversation.

Connect with the interviewer. Look around the office for ways to relate to the hiring manager. Do you notice a mutual interest in softball, dogs or France? If so, comment on it. Finding and commenting on common interests can help “warm up” the conversation.

Make it fun. Turn off the “do or die” CD and give yourself permission to use the interview as an opportunity to explore the possibilities. This will take some of the pressure off and enable you to focus on the challenges facing the interviewer. Instead of having to justify your reason for being, you can speak from a place of knowledge. What a paradigm shift!

Offer relevant examples that demonstrate the expertise the hiring manager seeks. When offering success stories, don’t hog the limelight keep them to 60 to 90 seconds, then check in to see if you have provided enough information. If the interviewer wants more information, she will ask.

Help the interviewer stay on track. It may be that the interviewer is nervous or inexperienced; in that case, ask, “Would it be helpful if I told you about my experience in . . .?” Focusing on the interviewer and what he needs to know to make a smart hiring decision can put both of you at ease.

Engage the interviewer with needs-analysis questions that get to the heart of the job challenges and requirements. Doing so illustrates a real interest in the organization and takes the conversation to a deeper level. You gain a better understanding of whether this is a good fit for you, and the interviewer gets to know you better.

Plan for spontaneity. It may seem odd to suggest planning to be spontaneous, but the fact is, the more examples you have in your “mental” back pocket, the easier it is to improvise during the interview. The truth is you never know just what twists and turns the interview will take, so be prepared to punt.

Take responsibility for follow-up. Send a thank you letter to remind the hiring manager just why she was so excited about the expertise you bring to the table. A few days later, call to express your interest and offer to answer any additional questions she may have about your experience.

Putting the sizzle in your interview presentation can make the difference between a hiring manager with a ho-hum attitude and one who is eager to get you onboard.