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Liz Bentley: 3 foolproof ways to nail your next job interview

The art of interviewing can be fun as long as you adhere to these three fundamentals, says the executive coach.
Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs.
Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs.Miller Hawkins

Interviewing for a job can be stressful. It make sense; it’s your big moment to make a great first impression, tell your story and shine.

Many introverts would rather get their teeth pulled than go in for an interview. And while the extroverts of the world may think interviewing is easy because of their ability to make small talk and connect quickly, they may not realize their gift of gab can be a killer. No matter what your personality is, here are three ways to crush your next interview and land the job of your dreams.

1. Get the basics right

First impressions are made within 30 seconds of meeting someone. So make sure you start off on the right foot by nailing these essentials:

Be early. This will avoid the unnecessary stress of cutting it close and give you time to mentally prepare.

Have good social etiquette. Make eye contact with every person you meet, have a strong (not too strong) handshake, smile and stand whenever anyone walks in the room.

Use good diction. Speak in full sentences. Do not use slang words or bad language and manage any local accents.

Dress appropriately. Always look clean and well pressed. Make sure all of your clothes fit – not too tight, not too loose. And dress for the job. If the company is conservative, look that way; if they are trendy, go with that. In general, play to the middle of the road to be safe. And don’t be afraid to ask what the dress code is before you come in. You don’t need to wear a suit to a company with a casual policy.

Be well groomed. Make sure your hair is neat, your nails are clean and filed, your makeup is suitable and you don’t smell. People notice bad breath and sweat … so don’t be that person!

Do your homework. Research the company and the individuals you are meeting so that you are fully versed on the business, the market and the people. Google everything!

Google yourself. Make sure you know what comes up as they will be searching you too. If you need to clean anything up, get it done.

Ask good questions. Know in advance the questions you will ask and add more in as you go along. Make sure you figure out what they are looking for in a candidate and learn about the company culture. Fit isn’t just about whether your experience matches up; it’s about whether you will fit within the company’s culture.

2. Tell your story

You have a great story to tell that makes you intelligent, interesting and perfect for this job – so tell it. Your resume is the visual outline of that story. Practice talking through it and crafting the story of your life and career.

Talk about where you started, why your interests led you in certain directions and the skills you developed along the way both intellectually and interpersonally. Go over your wins without bragging and fill in the gaps creatively wherever needed. Also come up with smart, fun and interesting anecdotes that highlight your expertise and personality throughout.

Lastly, have three things that represent the essence of who you are that you want your interviewer to know about as key takeaways. They can be characteristics like resilience, optimism, adaptability, curiosity, etc. and skills like being adept at problem solving, analytical with concepts or numbers, quick to problem solve, strong in writing, etc. The best way to do this is to pick three adjectives that best describe you and then back into the answers with sentences and stories. Make sure they are adjectives that makes sense for the job. For example, you may love nature but if you're interviewing for a banking job, that is not relevant here.

If appropriate, talk about your personal interests. For some interviewers, what you have done in your personal time may make all the difference. If you are an avid sailor and your interviewer finds that interesting, it could seal the deal.

3. Read your audience

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make in interviews is failing to read the audience correctly and either plowing through with their own agenda or misreading the interviewer and delivering the wrong message. To give you a quick guide on people, here’s a review of the four major personality types and how to handle them effectively:

The "dominant types" like to be in charge which means they want to run the interview and sometimes want to hear themselves talk more than you. They can be scary and intense but don’t be intimidated. They want to know if you can take the heat in the kitchen. They are not looking to be challenged; their priority is to determine whether you have the confidence and grit to do the job. They want people who work hard, don’t complain and get the job done quickly. Speed and effectiveness are their main concerns. As these people like to win, you should focus on goals and have an eye on the big picture. They will care about your wins so be sure to share those too.

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The "influencer types" are affable and outgoing. They want the interview to be fun and for you to enjoy yourself! They like to be liked, but they also want to like you. While they want you to be competent, they also want to make sure you are a good fit in the organization and that others will also like you. In addition, they will care about your personal life and what you do in your leisure time. They may probably prefer spending the interview talking about that so make sure you get in your professional experience too. If they verbally run away on topics, herd them back in to make sure you get all your most important points across. They will appreciate it as long as you do it politely.

The "steady types" appear easy going. They are friendly and more on the quiet side. Their demeanor is very calm and they want to make sure you are comfortable. They will often start by asking if you want a drink or need to use the restroom. They are looking out for your needs. They prioritize peace. They like everyone to get along and work to go smoothly. That means they don’t like boasting, self-centeredness, or too much change. If you are a strong personality, you do not need to turn down the heat – just manage it. They want you to be a good fit with whatever the company or the team needs so find out what that might be. They will let you do the talking as they prefer listening but don’t take up all the airtime, ask them questions and learn about their lives too.

The "conscientious types" give off a serious vibe. They come to work to work and are skeptical; you are guilty until proven innocent. But don’t be intimidated, just be serious. They want to be right and want to know you know how to get it right for whatever the job may be. They have no interest in whether you have a personal life or not so don’t talk about it unless necessary. They care that you are prepared and professional and know your stuff. Do not pontificate with these people or over talk. Ask smart questions and be on point.

Be aware that people are not necessarily looking to hire themselves so you don’t need to mirror their personality. But you do need to understand what they want and how to ebb and flow with their style. The art of interviewing can be fun as long as you adhere to these three fundamentals and showcase your strengths. Last and never least, always be authentic! You are every bit worth hiring so be the best version of yourself.

Liz Bentley is the founder and president of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs. She is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and executive coach to top leaders and teams across a broad range of industries.