Most people don’t realize when they’re job interviewing that the interviewer’s memory has a strong influence in whether the job candidate ultimately gets hired. Why? Because hiring decisions simply don’t happen in real time. Furthermore, in today’s corporate world, interviewers are untrained (it’s not their “day job”), overworked, and distracted, and they’ve most likely interviewed several candidates for the same position. You need to not only set yourself apart, but also make them remember you in a positive light.
That phrase is simple. Remembering those eighteen words, which ought to be easy enough because most of them are the same, at a minimum provides you with a successful formula for the interview. Using the five following principles to execute that formula will make you memorable.
- Keep It Short and Simple. Superfluous information hinders their ability to remember.
- Capture and Keep Their Attention. They can’t remember you if they’re not listening.
- Talk in Their Lingo. Speak in a language they understand.
- Make Them Believe You. Use details to make yourself believable.
- Get Them to Care. Highlight the benefit to the individual in addition to the company.
This is the third in a five part series that covers each of these principles. If you simply can’t wait for the remaining pieces, you can review the material in much more detail in the Storytelling Chapter of Interview Intervention: Communication That Gets You Hired. I provide a complimentary eBook to anyone who signs up for the email distribution list on the front page of the milewalk website!
Talk in Their Lingo. Pick your expression. Put it in their terms. Target your audience. Speak in their language. You get the picture. Realize that interviewers are busy, and many have likely been placed in front of you out of obligation. They are untrained and might be assessing you strictly for cultural fit or something “softer” than your job-specific capabilities. It might be because they are unable to comprehend what you’re capable of, or they might simply be breaking apart the process to evaluate you from many sides. Regardless of the reason, you need to adjust your responses so they understand and remember them.
In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult things for people to do when they’re communicating. Do you know why? Because as we evolve through life, we forget what it’s like not to know what we know. Here’s a little story for you. I have a battery of exercise trainers and medical professionals that keep me tuned for life and the kamikaze sporting events I love. During our training sessions, my trainer has a habit of saying things to me like, “Your gluteus maximus isn’t engaging quickly enough, which puts more pressure on your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles to keep the lower part of your leg and ankle stable while your foot pronates. That’s why your posterior tibial tendon is swollen and your navicular bone is dropping.” I’m thinking, “Huh?” You can imagine I’d like to throw my high school biology book at her when she says something like this to me. Obviously, that’s not a friendly response, so typically I simply laugh because she is doing what most people do when they communicate to someone else—anyone else—communicate as if your audience was you.
As you prepare for your interviews, you need to think about what it is like to be the interviewer. Keep in mind, a professional title is not always a dead giveaway of what a person knows or has experienced, but it can serve as a starting point. (I also recommend doing thorough reconnaissance on the interviewer if you are aware of her name. Use sites such as LinkedIn to gather a more complete profile of what she does and where she’s worked.) Regardless of her title, you can use a few techniques to determine what language she actually speaks. First, you can simply ask her the level of information that would be appropriate. You can also pay close attention to the depth and content of her questions. Questions from a human resources official related to what you’re looking for in your next role can be answered at one level. Questions from a technologist who wants to understand specifically how you would design software might be answered at another. If the verbal cues are missing, you can always look for squinted faces, dropped eyebrows, or lack of eye contact as a cue that the interviewer doesn’t understand you.
Ultimately, if you can speak in a manner that allows the interviewer to literally visualize what you’re describing, you’ve mastered speaking at the appropriate level. This means you have found the common denominator around which you can both communicate. It likely means you are using specific nomenclature that helps her comprehend how you felt, what you built, and so forth.