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THE BASICS OF A POWER INTERVIEW

In today's highly competitive job market, you can count on running into innumerable sources of advice on "power" interviewing techniques. While many of these resources provide valuable advice on situation-specific interview skills, perhaps the single most important thing to remember is to never lose sight of the fundamentals upon which all interview advice should be based. Let's briefly explore these basics.

In a nutshell, you want to shed the best possible light on the golden trio of facts:

  1. Your skills and education fit the job's tasks
  2. Your personality and work philosophy fit the culture
  3. You can be promoted

In order to meet these criteria throughout your interview, it's imperative that you do some research on the basics of the position, the company and the reason(s) for which the position is available. Go beyond the basic information you may have already collected that fueled your initial interest in the job. For instance, if you're applying for an agency position, get information on the agency's billings, its client list, office locations, its parent company and even get familiar with some of its creative work. Details about the job's typical daily tasks and challenges as well as noteworthy aspects of the company's culture will undoubtedly help you provide more intelligent, more relevant answers in an interview.

Dress appropriately for your appointment. Avoid flashy jewelry and don't wear cologne or perfume. You're meeting an interviewer for a job, not a date. Look smart, fit for the job and in tune with the company's culture. When in doubt, wear the suit anyway. Nothing's worse than showing up in an interview more casually dressed than your interviewer.

During the interview, tailor all your answers and comments to the specific requirements and challenges of the position. If you're interviewing for a media buying position in an ad agency, your reply to an inquiry about your strengths should have at least some association with your best qualities as an experienced negotiator and deal-closer.

Remember that the interview is a two-way conversation. Don't dominate the conversation. Instead, give your interviewer ample opportunity to shed his/her own light on the position and company and listen to what he/she says. Take cues from his/her input about the job and the company so your own answers are more relevant to the discussion you're having and less like some textbook interview answer.

Ask intelligent, relevant questions during your conversation. This is the mark by which interviewers measure your interest in the position and the company. More importantly, however, it's your single opportunity to learn more about the job in areas that matter most to your career objectives.

Avoid direct conversations about money and compensation on your first interview. Your primary objective (as well as the interviewer's) in an initial interview is to determine whether you're right for a job or not. If the interviewer brings up the salary issue sooner than you think, make an effort to diffuse it for greater interest in your qualifications and experience. For instance, if an interviewer asks you how much you want to make, mention that compensation is secondary to the satisfaction you can get from performing your job and being assured of a future in the company. Having said this, you may ask your interviewer what the range of the position's pay scale is and agree that you can work for them within that specified pay range. That way, you can at least assure them that they can afford what you want to earn and you can ask later what you aim to earn.

Before you part ways at the end of an interview, always determine your next steps with your interviewer or any of their associates rather than leaving an open book. This will help secure you a better chance of meeting with the company again.

Last but not least, answer questions honestly. Blatant dishonesty not only can be spotted by many skilled interviewers, but will only come back to haunt you. Remember, being honest doesn't have to mean giving away too much that you fear might hurt your image at an interview; it simply means you need to be truthful about what you choose to divulge in conversation with your interviewer. If you are faced with a less than positive implication in your interview, such as a question on why you've changed jobs frequently, devise a positive response that does not solicit any additional inquiry into the topic. In a case like this, it also is helpful to always be positive about past jobs and supervisors with whom you've worked.

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