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Interview Like a Champion

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Maybe you have decided that you deserve more money than you are currently being paid, or maybe you have decided that not having a job and not being paid anything must come to an end. You may be looking for a new position in the company you are in, or you may be looking to jump companies — and possibly even industries — altogether. Whatever your situation is, you must face the inevitable...the job interview.

Many people have given this process a negative connotation because they do not know the proper steps to take to interview like a champion. Being a champion interviewer, like any other skill, takes practice. When you were a kid and first learned how to ride a bike, chances are you fell off a few times before you were burning rubber on your first two-wheeler. The same goes for interviewing like a champion. Your first interview may have a few flaws, but after reading the remainder of this article and going on a couple of interviews, you will be an interviewing powerhouse.

First, you must establish what kind of job you want. In order to do this, I like to say, "What do you love to do?" If money were not an object, what would you do for a living? Maybe you would help out in a hospital or teach children, or maybe you enjoy the roller-coaster ride of a salesperson, management, or work in human resources. Whatever it is that you enjoy, you can increase your chances of being happy on the job if you choose to work in a job that you enjoy. In addition to the kind of job, you must enjoy the atmosphere of your working environment and industry.

So now that you know what you like, are you really able to perform this type of job? If you are five foot two and weigh 250 pounds, you probably shouldn't expect a job in the NBA. Finding what you love and what you are qualified for really takes some soul searching and should not be rushed.

Take a look at what you do in your free time. Are you doing something you love? If money weren't an object, what would you be doing? Is it possible to take these two and find a job in this area? If you enjoy traveling, would a job in travel interest you? If you enjoy building things, would a job in construction interest you?

Once you have figured out what you enjoy, it is time to decide what job you believe you qualify for in your area of interest. It is best to choose at least three different companies in this industry that suit your needs. You don't necessarily have to choose an industry if it is just the position that you enjoy, but why not obtain a position in an industry that you really enjoy? Working in an industry that you enjoy as well as having a position that you enjoy will add to your day-to-day happiness on the job.

If you believe you have found the company and are working in it already, you have one foot in the door and are a step ahead of those coming in from the outside. Do not get too comfortable, though, because the prize always goes to the person who wants it the most...this is true for everything in life, not just interviewing.

You have picked the industry and narrowed your choices down to your top three companies in that industry. Hopefully you have done this by looking at many things, such as the size of the company, the location of the company (how long is the commute from home?), the company's reputation in the industry, and many other factors that you can imagine you would need to look at in deciding whether to work for this company.

Next, you must look at the position you want in that company. Is the position available? (If it is not today, it does not mean that you can't earn it; it just may take some champion interviewing.) What are the requirements for this position? Who would you be reporting to? What is the working environment like? How much can you make in this position? These are just some of the many things you will want to consider when deciding on a job.

You have narrowed down your choices, have your top three companies in mind that are aligned with your values, and are ready for the interview...or are you? Sure, if you believe you are, but like the master craftsman, measure twice and cut once. Why have you picked these three companies to potentially work for? List as many reasons as you can possibly list for each company on paper...yes, on paper. This will allow you to go back to the list before your interview to study so you can have an answer when asked, "Why do you want to work here?"

Get ready, because the follow-up question to the preceding question is "Why should we choose you for this position? What do you have to offer to us that someone else doesn't?" Am I suggesting that you have answers to these questions already scripted out before the interview? Yes! In fact, you should know the answers to these questions before you even make your first contact to set up the interview.

Now it is time to set up the interview. Hopefully when you were contacting the companies to ask questions about the positions available and about the company itself, you were friendly and built rapport with everyone you talked to (for more on rapport, please read my articles on building rapport). As you are setting up the interview, it is a great idea to befriend some workers in the company to get the "inside scoop" on the job, the company, and the person(s) interviewing you. These will be good contacts to have to prep you for the interview, especially because interviews are becoming more and more complex.

It is best to find out the appropriate way to apply for the job. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be drinking a cup of joe in a run-down cafe next to a successful movie producer like in the movie Sullivan's Travels. If your dad owns the company, you can promise to wash his car and mow the lawn, but chances are someone in human resources or the hiring manager will give you the company's process for landing that dream job.

I believe in the "top-down theory," where you go right to the top of the company, and they refer you to the person responsible for the hiring decision. How does a referral from Bill Gates sound to you? (That is, if you can get ahold of the person at the top.) If not, a simple phone call, personal letter, fax, or email should do.

When setting up the interview, do not sell them on hiring you on the phone; your main concern should be booking the interview. Who knows who or what is on the other end of the phone? The in-person interview is where the true champion thrives, beating out the unprepared person.

You have the interview booked; now what? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Define them — yes, on paper — and ask others who know you to define them for you as well. This will really give you an opportunity to see if you see yourself the way others see you.

Get to know what kinds of questions will be asked in the interview, and role-play with people. Remember: sloppy practice equals sloppy play, and outstanding practice equals outstanding play. What questions would you ask someone applying for the position? Know the questions, and know and believe your answers. You can see trepidation when someone does not believe in what he or she is saying.

Interview day is where the champion shines. I will not get into appearance in this article (if you would like to know more about appearance, check out my article "Dress for Success"), but needless to say, you should look the part of a successful employee in the position you are interviewing for. Whatever is called for, wear it, and groom yourself accordingly. Review your notes about the company, yourself, and why you are their best choice. Visualize the interview, imagine any questions that may be asked of you, and have answers for them.

Unless you are applying for a job as a mafia hit man, I would suggest smiling at everyone. Nothing is more becoming than someone who brightens a room with a beautiful smile. Not only is it contagious, but people will also want to be around you because you must be smiling about something good about yourself. This may even have the interviewer wondering what is so great about you that you are smiling, and you may even be offered the job.

In addition to smiling, please be friendly to everyone — yes, everyone. You never know who's who in the office. The CEO may have just decided to take a seat for a moment in the lobby. Wouldn't it be great if you were smiling and acting friendly?

Here comes the interviewer. With a friendly, warm smile, shake hands and let him or her lead you to where the interview will take place. Please shake hands like you want the job; the dead-fish handshake really is a turnoff. (For more on handshakes, check out my article "Who You Are Is Speaking So Loud That I Can't Hear What You Are Saying.") The person giving the interview will probably take the lead, and the interview will probably look something like this (this is how the most common interview is structured; for more on unique interviews, check out my article "Now That's an Interview"):

First, they will ask you questions about yourself. They will tell you about the company and position and then ask why you are a fit. You will master that question because of all your outstanding practice. Finally, they will ask if you have any questions. You should have at least one, if not several. The one you should have is "Can I have the job?" This will show confidence and that you mean business. If you are this powerful in the interview, the interviewer will think that you will be just as powerful in the job. Confidence is the most important thing to have on an interview. If you are not confident about yourself, why should the person conducting the interview be confident about you? (For more on confidence, check out my article "Confidence...Fake It Till You Make It.")

Regarding questions, you should also ask them to clear up anything that you did not understand when they were giving you information about the company and position. You should ask anything else that you want to know about anything. It is said that the quality of your performance is judged by the quality of your questions. Outstanding questions get outstanding answers...and people who ask outstanding questions must be outstanding...wouldn't you agree?

If you are not offered the job on the spot, kindly thank the interviewer for their time, and when you get home, send a thank-you letter or e-mail. This shows that you respect them and their time. What if they have to decide to hire you or someone else and you are both even for the job, but the other person hasn't sent a thank-you card? Who do you think they will hire?

You should be contacted in a week or two, and if you aren't, follow up with a phone call inquiring about the job. If you got the job, great (check out my article "First Day on the Job"); if not, you should have two other employers getting back to you, if not at least two more interviews to go on.

About the Author

Louis Lautman is a business consultant, life coach, and peak-performance expert. He is the president of International Sales University, a sales-training company based in Miami, FL. He runs extraordinary public and private seminars to create breakthroughs and transform people's lives. Louis can be contacted at 813-380-7467 or Check out his website at

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