You can find hundreds of valuable suggestions about job seeking on this site and on others, in numerous books and columns, in seminars, and during individual coaching sessions. As you get ready for an interview with a potential employer, your checklist will probably include at least these ten reminders:
--Maintain good posture, which looks authoritative
--Bring all the materials that will support your qualifications
--Arrive early enough get acclimated to the place and people
--Bring a list of five or six key questions you want answered
--Anticipate questions your interviewer is likely to ask
--Know as much about the employer as an outsider can learn
--Run a Google search on your interviewer, select something to mention
--Turn off your cell phone, beeper, and pager
--Read the company’s Annual Report
All right, I’ll admit. . .you can add another ten or twenty more items appropriate for your preparation list. Every item carries potential value, enabling you to avoid serious blunders, and—more positively—emerge as the winning job candidate.
Let’s consider the one major hazard of making a 30-item checklist, namely: You can come in so programmed and structured that you stifle opportunities for spontaneity. Put another way, you appear so perfect that you do not look and sound like a real person—a warm, energetic, effervescent man or woman a company gets excited about adding to the team.
Recently a television program featuring legendary film director John Ford underscored Ford’s strong preference for shooting a movie scene in one take. Why? Because he knew the actors and actresses would be fresher and more convincing on the first take, since they would be genuinely feeling the emotions the scene called for.
Clint Eastwood agreed: “John Ford wanted us to get the scene right the first time. He sensed correctly that if we filmed the scene thirty times, there was no way we could maintain the vitality the first scene nearly always has.”
In fact, Ford even welcomed unscripted actions that looked unrehearsed. One scene in a Western movie had Jimmy Stewart relaxing, even slumping, in a chair on the front porch, propping his feet against a post. That was planned. However, Stewart added a touch of natural authenticity when he yawned widely and audibly. A few days later, Ford told him, “I liked the yawn.”
Clearly, Ford was happiest when his actors gave “the illusion of the first time.” They looked and sounded alive, alert, animated. Viewers forgot the players were following a script. The impression was that everything that was happening was spontaneous, a surprise even to those being filmed.
How successful was Ford as an acting coach? He won four Academy Awards for directing, which no one else has done. Asked to name his own three favorite directors, Orson Welles said, “John Ford, John Ford, John Ford.” John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Ward Bond and other Ford regular actors referred to Ford affectionately as “Pappy,” “Uncle Jack,” and “Coach.”
Adapt John Ford’s approach for your next interview. Allow for actions that improvisational theatre calls “being in the moment.” Avoid having every word scripted. Be willing to get away from your game plan.
Granted, an employer wants to talk with an applicant whose professional behavior reflects a preparation checklist, and shows respect for standard protocol. Even so, the tipping point could likely be this: The employer likes you. As a well worn saying goes, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. That could be you.
So I encourage you to keep in mind that while a few factories use robots, predominantly employers are looking for lively individuals who smile, laugh, nod in agreement, cough when they have to, stop in the middle of a sentence and start over to clarify a statement, live balanced lives, enjoy hobbies, follow sports, love to talk about their families, and display enthusiasm.
Related to this theme, I urge you to note the subtitle Roger Ailes—Chairman of Fox News—chose for his book, You Are the Message. The subtitle sums up what I have been driving at today, regarding the illusion of the first time.
Remember this subtitle as you enter every interview situation:
“Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are”
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