How to Make a Great First Impression at Your Job Interview
Develop a Flexible Mind
A flexible mindset is arguably one of the most essential skills in today's job market. With the rapid pace of innovation and industry turnover, companies more than ever are looking to be agile, nimble, and able to pivot on a moment's notice to respond to changing demands. While this might be obvious in areas such as Internet start-ups, these new workforce demands increasingly permeate a wide variety of disciplines and industries, from medicine to agriculture, business to law.
Demonstrating a flexible attitude comes not simply from telling your interviewer that you are flexible, but demonstrating the quality in the way you discuss topics and elaborate on the questions posed to you. The preparation for such an interview is less about mapping out the perfect thing(s) to say, and more about your ability to express rapid-fire responses to a variety of questions you might not have heard about. Thus, preparing in the form of even a variety of improvisational tools, such as impromptu speech and body language exercises, can increase your response time and shape the course of your interview for the better.
Communicate, rather than Answer
The interview process can quickly fall into a question-and-answer format where the interviewer asks a question and you, as the job aspirant, answers. This leads to a simple, standard exchange and at best a competent but ordinary job interview. To turn the tables on the process requires flipping the script, so to speak, and ensuring the interaction takes the form of a back-and-forth exchange of information -- a true conversation if you will.
Cultivating True Dialog
This will partially be influenced by the skill of the person interviewing you. However, if you notice yourself falling into a Q&A pattern, you can turn the tables by giving a little bit of a pause after answering the question to allow yourself to communicate a response that seeks to gain information for yourself as well. By doing so, you aren't just ensuring that two-way communication is occurring but you are sending the message that you are seeking to be proactively enriched by the interview process and not just going through the motions. This will demonstrate that you are not only someone who might perform the prescribed duties of the job, but someone who is willing to actively take charge of their role and responsibilities within the company.
Collaborate on Discovery
It is helpful to keep the modus operandi of the interview process on an active exploring, and discovering, of points-of-connection between you and the job. If you see a match between a topic or area of work that comes up in your conversation, highlight it and make explicit how it links with your experience or intention. If you find there is a mismatch, then highlight it as well. While this might seem to be counter-intuitive, the reality is that by doing so you are sending a message of integrity. You are not looking to simply please the interviewer but are actively collaborating in the process of determining a good fit with him or her. Thus, the message you are sending by doing so is one of integrity and confidence, even if it means exposing potential areas of limitation. This forthrightness and shared intention can add tremendous traction to your overall appeal as a candidate, and make you feel better about the process as well.
What constitutes a great interview is rapidly evolving with the changing nature of business. While the traditional qualities of sharing your related background, experience, and skills is essential, highlighting additional qualities is more and more essential. With the added values of flexibility, dialog, and collaborative discovery, you will be prepared to walk into an interview room in the 21st century marketplace and demonstrate yourself to be the exceptional, uniquely qualified, and can't-leave-behind employee that the organization needs.