Communicate to Connect: Three Tips for Acing the Interview

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on February 27, 2015


At Layer Cake, some of our most personally rewarding projects are coaching for interviews and presentations. My colleague Sean O’Keefe recently helped a technology firm ace an important interview for a MSP engagement. Over the course of a couple weeks, this team readily absorbed his instructions on using language, both verbal and body language, to connect with the potential client and land the job. Remember: if you’ve shortlisted for an interview, they already believe you are competent. While you obviously want to underscore your skills and qualifications, an interview is your only forum for convincing them that your relationship will be positive — supporting progress instead of hindering it.

But many of our clients never undergo formal interviews as part of the selection process. As a result, they never learn the people skills gained through interview experience.

This can be a disadvantage during “informal interviews” including conferences, trade shows, networking events, client meetings, and the list goes on. Basically, during any business situation that involves interaction, you are being evaluated as a potential partner, referral, or service provider. Here are 3 tips, adapted from proven business interview techniques, to help you measure up.

1 – Listen WAY more than you talk. | We all know that we are supposed to ask questions and let other people talk about themselves. But it’s not merely polite; it’s a real advantage. The more you learn about them, the more you can gear your conversation to how you can help their business. Find out not just what they do, but what makes their business unique, and what drives them crazy. Your elevator pitch (Tip #2) will be all the better for it.

2 – Be clear, concise, and genuine. | YES, you need an “elevator pitch” (what you do and why they care). NO, not a canned version! If you’ve followed Tip 1 and learned about the person you’re talking with, this is your chance to “hook” them.  So, in addition to being clear and concise, this little gem (2 sentences, max) should never be a memorized script. To be most effective, it needs to be genuine and completely understood so that it can be adjusted based on your audience.

3 – Don’t mimic, but do mirror. | An effective sales technique is picking up on the habits of your customer and using the same words, cadences, or gestures. I’m not suggesting that you go this far, but pay attention to their communication style and accommodate it so they feel comfortable. A hearty laugh will likely get a better reaction from a loud, fast talker than when directed at a more reserved individual. Another way to think about this is as the non-verbal equivalent of Tip #1; keep the other person front and center in all your words and actions.

If you remember these three tips for face-to-face communication, you’ll have more  fun while you make some great new connections.

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