By Denise Kalm, BCC, Career Coach

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When jobs are plentiful, interviewing skills are far less important. But now, with 1000’s of candidates for every opening, you need to show up prepared, knowledgeable and confident.  Coaching career seekers, I have found that most hold two career-limiting misconceptions about the purpose of the interview: what an interview is and how people pick the winner.  Getting clear on the facts may give you the edge you need to get the job.  These are the facts:

An interview is really a contract negotiation between equals, both offering value.
People hire people they like and can see as part of the team.

Lead with Strength in this Negotiation

The first fact affects how you present yourself and how you feel about the interview.  You bring your skills, experience and passion; the interviewer is offering a salary and a job.  The interview process is simply a chance for each of you to determine the relative value of these offers.

Most people show up at an interview as a supplicant. Rather than coming from a position of strength with a clear understanding of their value, desperation shifts the balance of power to the interviewer.  Not only will the interviewer lose respect for you, but you lose any negotiation power. Seize your power; lead with strength in this negotiation, just as you would if you were selling a house or a car.  When you see yourself as less, so does everyone else. 

The second fact is equally important.  Unless you have a unique value proposition and may be the only candidate for the position, skills alone won’t get you the offer.  In most cases, other candidates offer similar skills and experience.  You’ll lose out if you don’t understand that they need to like you too.

Engage with the Interviewer

First, remember that an interview is a conversation, not an interrogation.  Don’t just answer questions; engage with the interviewer.  Ask questions.  Find points of connection with the interviewer. Listen for cues and look around the office for clues; most people reveal their passions, interests and hobbies in some way.  Ask the interviewer to give her response to some of the hard questions she/he poses to you, such as ‘what do you hate to do’ or ‘what is your worst work-related quality?’ 

Next, find a way to have the interviewer see you as already on board.  Share an idea you have for the company based on your research. Ask about the team’s challenges and offer some thoughts based on your experience. Ask how they solve problems and share your ideas.  Give examples of your team-based, problem-solving on other jobs.  Once they envision you working with the team, the job offer is almost an after-thought.  You’ve closed the deal

Give yourself the edge. Change your approach to change your results.

Denise P. Kalm, career coach and Author of Career Savvy – Keeping & Transforming Your Job and Tech Grief – Survive & Thrive Through Career Loss (with Linda Donovan)


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

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