We’ve all experienced it: That awful feeling when you continue talking, even though you know the person listening has checked out and is mentally halfway to Punta Cana.
Securing someone’s attention (in a good way) is perhaps never more important than it is during an interview. If the hiring manager is bored or confused, it’s guaranteed that your message about why you’re the one for the job is getting lost (or rather, going unheard).
To make sure you avoid MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) Syndrome, use these tips to be engaging and interesting and to make a memorable impression long after you walk out the door.
Dress for Success
What does this have to do with what you’re saying? If the folks in your interview are paying more attention to what you’re wearing than what you’re saying, there’s a problem. First impressions matter, and fair or not, they can last for an entire conversation.
Depending on where you are interviewing, there are different ways to succeed here, and you’ll want to pay attention to corporate culture. For example, there are tech companies where wearing a suit instead of a hoodie is a misstep, automatically signaling to the employer that you don’t “get it” and won’t be a fit for the company. It can also undermine your skills. I once had an interviewee show up in ripped jeans, which demonstrated a lack of professionalism and was distracting. The hiring committee couldn’t wait to move onto the next candidate.
Show, Don’t Tell
It’s not enough to just talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? In behavioral interviewing, examples are the way to back up your skills and talents. Your past performance—allegedly—will predict future performance. Plus, storytelling can be a powerful and effective way to hold an interviewer’s attention.
But don’t expect the employer to connect the dots if your responses are too brief or there is no context. The same goes for long winded, rambling responses (major MEGO alert!). You want the Goldilocks approach, where the meat of your answers is robust enough to gain interest and hopefully prompt follow-up questions, but not so long that the interviewer is thinking about what’s for dinner. In other words, you want your answers to be not too long, not too short, but just right.
Using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is not only a good way to practice your examples, but an excellent way to stay on point while not being vague or too wordy.
Prior to STAR
Q: What is your greatest strength?
A: My adaptability. I adapt well to challenging situations, and this allows me to be successful in reaching company goals.
Using the STAR Method
Q: What is your greatest strength?
A: One of my greatest strengths is adapting multiple skill sets to accomplish a goal.
Situation: As an example, several years before I started my marketing career, I was selling shoes for Puma in Barcelona, Spain.
Task: My main goal was to sell as many shoes as possible to a diverse group of customers. Barcelona is a hot spot for tourists, and we often had individuals who spoke a variety of languages.
Action: I not only utilized my sales skills to find the right product for their needs, but I would also draw on my knowledge of French, Spanish, and Italian, which I spoke at varying levels. I suggested we advertise in our store window all of the languages in which we could assist guests.
Result: This increased successful communication and boosted sales. I sold over $100,000 of Pumas in the span of three months, and increased customer satisfaction by also giving them local tourist tips. The success of my impromptu advertisement also led me toward my current career path in marketing. I continue to pair strategic thinking, sales, and creative communication skills when thinking about global markets.
Now that’s interesting.
I’ve sat through meetings where every answer was on target, but they were delivered with all the personality of a cardboard box. In other words, don’t be afraid to let a little personality shine through and highlight the most memorable parts of your experiences.
I once met with an individual who was incredibly enthusiastic about learning to use basic hand tools on her last project. It turns out, she was teaching others to build a hovercraft. I still remember her, her credentials, and her infectious enthusiasm.
When it (finally!) gets to the point where you get to be the one asking the questions, don’t think you’re off the hook quite yet. This is a great place to take it to the next level. If your interviewer has heard the same run-of-the-mill questions for the fifth time (“What’s it like to work here?” “Who does this position work closely with?”), this is a perfect opportunity to avoid MEGO and leave a positive, lasting impression.
Instead, as career expert Lily Zhang explains, show off what you know about the company (“I see you’ve been expanding in Southeast Asia—can you tell me more about that?”), take a moment to align your priorities (“The opportunity to mentor others is really important to me—can you tell me more about the official mentorship program?), and reinforce the connection to finish strong.
With all these tips in hand, the only things glazed should be the welcome donuts at your new place of employment.
Photo of eye courtesy of Shutterstock.
Meredith is a career enthusiast, wordsmith, and hereditary punster. An example of happenstance career theory, Meredith has journeyed from working with medical computer software, to teaching English in Chile, to delving into all things career. When she is not advising as a Career Development Specialist at MIT, you might find her musing away on a Boston-bound train.More from this Author