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1 on 1 Interview
by Barbara Rocha

Focus on the job interview

Help the interviewer make the right choice. (You may not be it)

If you're looking for a way to project more confidence and poise in your next job interview, consider making a shift in your focus. Examine the full meaning of the phrase "Help Wanted", and ask yourself is this interview really about me? Chances are it's not.

The company has a problem. Something isn't getting done because they've lost employees for whatever reason, or because they have more work than they can handle with their present employees.

If they hire the right person, life will be good. The job function getting done without demanding too much of their time and attention. The department will run better. They can get on with making the company successful.

If they hire the wrong person, somebody is going to have to deal with that instead of doing more productive work. It will mean extra training, extra meetings, repairing the damage, correcting mistakes, resolving conflicts. And, probably, there will be the added inconvenience of documenting the problems that justified letting the person go.

The final blow: going through the hiring process all over again. It's expensive, time consuming, and frustrating to hire the wrong person.

Be aware: The interviewer may have more to lose than you do.

The interviewer, of course, is aware of the problems caused by hiring the wrong person, and therefore be feeling serious pressure. If you're the interviewer and you recommend hiring someone who turns out to be the wrong person for the job, you don't look so good.

In addition, some interviewers haven't much training in interviewing. The job got passed off to them by someone else who didn't have the time, or didn't want to have the time. At the age of 18, my daughter was given the job of interviewing for a large software company. Fortunately, for them, she was good at it, but she developed her own criteria and made up her own rules. Your interviewer may not be good at making up guidelines for interviewing. And may not have much confidence in those guidelines.

Because of the pressure and the lack of training, the interviewer may be as ill-at-ease interviewing as you are about being interviewed.

Be ready to walk. You don't need this job. You need to a place you can contribute your skills and abilities where they appreciate and pay you. Getting a job is about solving two problems: the company's and yours. If it's not a good fit, you'll wish you hadn't gotten the job, and so will they.

Interviews are a two-way street for the purpose of discovering if you belong together. It's not about your being judged. You need to ask questions as well as answer them to find out if this is a good place for you to work. (This would not be, "When do I get my first vacation," and "Where is the water cooler?" Rather, "What opportunities are there for learning about other parts of the company?" "Are employees encouraged to continue their education?" "Does the company offer training programs?" "What is the rate of employee turnover?" "Is the company considering any new product lines?" "How are they dealing with the Y2K questions?") Do your ethics, work styles, attitudes and goals match?

You and the interviewer are peers. If you feel desperate to get this job, you'll look and sound like it. You won't be thinking clearly and you'll come across poorly. You need your wits about you so you can help the interviewer determine if you're the person who will solve the company's hiring problem and also make the interviewer look good.

If either of you is focuses on yourself, you're not participating productively in the interview.

Help create a positive outcome by concentrating on helping the interviewer look good by hiring the right person. That is, formulate your answers based on how your skills help the company and the interviewer solve their problem and make the right hiring choice.

Don't wing it.

Find out about the company before going to the interview: go to the reference section of the library, check out the company's website, talk to someone who works there, check newspaper archives for past articles. How big is the company, how many locations, how many employees, the name of the president, their ranking in their industry. Find out their history, how long they've been in business, if they've been in other businesses in the past.

The more you know about the job and about the company, the easier it is for you to concentrate on shaping your answers to make it clear how you can help them.

This isn't about your impressing them. It's not about your getting a job. It's about looking for a match. It's the wedding of two equals. You don't want to take a job where you'll be miserable. And you don't want to take one that results in getting fired.