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4th Down and Ten...

February 7, 2011
by Tim Tolan
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To win the interviewing game, you have to play smart

As in most sporting events, if my team isn't in the big game this Super-Bowl season, I usually pull for the underdog. I like to see David slay Goliath, and I think most of us do. I’m talking about teams who are down by 7 points with less than a minute to play. It’s a 4th down and 10 yards to go - just to have a chance to win scenario. The real winners dig deep and find a way to win regardless of the odds they face. The odds of getting a first down and allowing your team another 4 plays to score just aren't great.

To win the interviewing game, you have to play smart. I encourage candidates to be a bit more game-ready when preparing for an interview. Spend the time getting ready by running these 4 plays before you show up for your interview:

Know Your Audience – Make sure you spend some time researching the people you'll be meeting with well in advance of your interview. Preparation is everything here. Ask your recruiter or sponsor inside the company to spend some time with you going over the backgrounds of each individual and try to get a flavor of how they deal with people - what they like or dislike. This will allow you to avoid any potential land mines. Knowledge really is power.

Use LinkedIn – Look up each person on the interview team and try to learn more about their background and who they're connected to. What you find out may surprise you. You could learn you're connected to another employee in the company or even to some of the people who'll be conducting your interview. Once you find a profile, research other employees who are with the same organization or were with previous organizations earlier in their career. Again, if they can check out your background through people they know, it may give you the upper hand.

Formulate Intelligent Questions – The very worst thing you can do at the end of an interview is not have any questions. It's an unspoken warning to the interviewer that you may think you've got all the answers, or worse - you're just not prepared. Think about 3-5 really well thought-out questions you can ask during the interview that will demonstrate your critical thinking skills, and make sure you allow the interviewer plenty of time to answer them.

Maintain a High Energy Level – Like football players, to stay on top of your game you have to have a high energy level. To some, having a high energy level means being overly “enthusiastic and bubbly” – to me it’s being alert, having the right body language/projecting the right attitude, and listening to the interview questions and providing good solid (succinct) answers. It means engaging with the person you're talking to and communicating in a way that demonstrates your natural personality. It means a firm handshake when you first meet them and another handshake when you wrap up. It also means projecting and communicating your desire to work for the company if you like what you see.

I wish you well on your next interview, and if by chance you slip and fumble – pick yourself up and keep forging ahead. You can still win the game!

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Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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