My previous blog post focused on raising your communication intelligence. Building on that theme, I wanted to expand on how to improve your communication specifically as it relates to job interviewing. Keep in mind, communication technically doesn’t have a sound. The most elegantly strung together words can sometimes be nothing more than gibberish. Communication is, in fact, about message transmission—sending and receiving it with zero distortion.

Talking with your friends allows for freedom to clarify and forgiveness when misunderstood. Speaking with an interviewer regarding a job opportunity leaves little room for misinterpretations. So how can you improve your communication skills to ensure you’re sending and receiving the proper message? Start with what I call the “Three Knows.”  They are the three essential elements that literally automate your ability to communicate more effectively, while selling you and extracting information from the interviewer to best determine whether the employer is for you.

Know yourself. Know what you offer, what you want, and what you absolutely need. Consider this, if you stroll into an interview unprepared or unaware of any of these items, you’re not only wasting your time and theirs, but more importantly placing yourself in jeopardy of making a poor career decision. Don’t think that’s important? Most job-seekers are about to decide where to spend a minimum of 40 hours with the prospective employer. On your best week, do you spend 40 waking hours with your loved ones? Furthermore, even if you are aware of your needs, you need to be prepared to effectively gather the intelligence to know whether the employer can actually provide for those needs. Think first date. Think, like you, they are on their best behavior. You need to develop questions that will help you see past the surface and dig beneath their veneer. (There will be more about evaluating employers in future articles. For now, knowing yourself will be a great start to developing the questions you need.)

Know the subject matter. While knowing yourself includes understanding of your contributions, accomplishments, lessons learned, needs, and so forth, knowing the subject matter shows the employer you come equipped with the capacity and experience to do the job. When you fully understand the subject matter, your communication, including the stories you provide will be chalk-filled with details. You will also be able to more easily and naturally organize your stories. This combination has two benefits. First, the organization of the story makes it easier for the interviewer to follow you. Secondly, the details you provide help the interviewer feel as though you know the material and have experienced it before. If you’re faced with a question regarding a situation you haven’t previously encountered, focus on answering the question using an organized approach that shows logically how you would address or handle the situation.

Know the company. Considering the almost endless, free access to company and people information, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t gather as much information as possible about the organization and interviewer (if you know the person’s name in advance). Obviously general information about the employer will help you become knowledgeable, but I strongly recommend tailoring your research so it will yield information that is important and relevant to you. This ensures you’re buying what you need versus what they’re selling. If you’ve taken the time to get to “know yourself,” you’ll have a wonderful list of criteria you’ll want to evaluate. Those criteria should drive how you investigate the company.