The Expert Interviewee

Trump Building
Trump Building

Last  week I spent several days interviewing security candidates in the mid west for a large security initiative.  They don’t teach interviewing in school, but they should.  It’s not easy to successfully move through the interviewing process, but you would think a sales person would be the most qualified person to do it.  Who else has experience meeting with senior managers, trying to sell them on a concept?  That really is what an interview is all about….some tips for those of you who might be changing places in the next year:

  • Don’t show up with a resume that uses language you don’t understand!  This should be common sense…if you’re in sales, certainly you’ve been called on the carpet at some point in your career.  When someone tells me they have sold HIPAA solutions, I’m going to stop them and ask what HIPAA is…I’ll also want to know if they can spell it.  Most of the time they can’t.  If you have TLAs on your resume, know what they stand for and be able to define them.
  • If you get asked to explain something on the white board – use the white board.  In a sales presentation, would you tell the decision maker in the room, “I’m not good at writing on the white board?”  Of course not, so don’t do it in an interview.  And when you get up there – definitely don’t say, “I’m not good at writing on the white board.”  Sales people should be expert presenters and exceptional on a white board.
  • If you were selling, you would have questions.  Showing up to an interview without good questions shows a lack of preparation.  It’s sales 101.  The person who doesn’t have any questions looks dumb. Why would a successful person move to a new company, “No questions asked?”
  • What about lying?  Would you lie to a customer?  If you would, I wouldn’t hire you – and no one should. Padding your resume with great sounding exaggerations is not a good idea.  Don’t do it.  If asked something you don’t know, simply say, “I don’t know but I can find out.”  Again, if you already have it on your resume, you should know all about it.  But you can’t be expected to know everything.
  • If you know the company you are calling on, or the area of focus for this position is collaboration, or security, or cloud – it would make sense to read up on these things if you’re not already an expert.  I’m not suggesting you lie and pretend to know more than you do, but in an area you hope to move into, look like you’re actually working to get there. The hiring manager should not have to push you in that direction.
  • In a sales scenario, a story is a powerful way to demonstrate to a client how your solution has helped others just like them.  It makes sense that you would show up to an interview with the same.
  • Prepare.  If you know your interviewer has written a book, you should read it. But at least know what’s on their website.  Show that you  cared before showing up.
  • Be on time.
  • Don’t show up with documents that belong to your current employer…but do be able to tell about what you’ve accomplished.  I appreciate one recent candidate who said, when asked if he has some written examples, “Everything I have belongs to my employer, so I was not able to bring it.”  Don’t bring other people’s work to show me – it will be obvious when I start asking you about it.

© 2013, David Stelzl


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