In light of the "new economy" as I like to refer to things, I think that it's time we came to a new understanding about interviewing. In the past, interviewing has been looked at as a "sales call" with the employer taking the "Why should I hire you approach" and the prospective employee taking the "Why you should hire me" approach.
Today, I think interviews should really be viewed in the light of making connections. Webster's defines 'connection' a few different ways, but I think the ones I will focus on today are "bond, link" and "relationship in social affairs or in business." So if you're trying to establish a connection with an employer you need to create a bond, link, or relationship. This could still be looked at in the light of a sales perspective but in this case it's a softer sales approach.
This is going to be the most valuable thing job seekers can remember as the competition for available jobs increases in the upcoming months...relationships matter and good ones are valued. My point here is that companies are now going to be scrutinizing candidates a little differently. They're going to be wondering more along the lines of "how will this person fit in AND what can he contribute?" When companies are only looking at one side of the picture they may not be as choosy. Now they can be choosy and can ask the question, we know he can contribute, but can he work with ______________? (named employee around the corner)
I think at this point, it's going to be important for me to say, "be yourself." Is it ok to be nervous? Sure, it's natural, and homework still needs to done on how to answer certain kinds of questions and how to master the various kinds of interviews out there, but I think it will be more important now to say the kinds of things that will help people connect with you. Let's take this approach.
Rather than rattling off about the successful things you have done in your career, ask some business related questions. "Has there ever been a situation where it seemed like no matter what this company did, it wasn't going to be able to please the customer?" Hopefully the person would say yes, and go into detail. Then when he is done with his story you say, "Yes, I had a similar situation when I worked at ______________ (previous employer) and here's what I did to make it work. Even though you're sharing different stories, you're telling stories; typically when stories are told, connections are made; when connections are made, people bond; when people bond, they form relationships.
We've all been there...You pull up to the office, walk in the door, wait a few minutes to get to the person you're interviewing with, go into the room, sit down, and then after you sit down and unbutton your jacket, they drop the bomb..."So tell me about yourself." Ugh, that's not even a question, it's a statement, and if you do interviews; quit stating it.
Ok, here's a little creative amunition for handling it; the only place you will read it is here. You respond with, "Wow, you know, there are so many ways I could respond to that...I have 16 years of sales experience and I've received numerous sales performance awards, but I'm really here today to find out what the employees at "Corporate Central" value most about this company. I've been doing my research and I like what I see so far, but I want to know more because I could be making a decision that could impact several people. Have you ever felt that way before?" Whoa!
Ok, I can't even begin to think of how an interviewer would respond to that question because it's most likely never been asked. They certainly wouldn't be looking for it. The hope would be that all the person's guards would go down and he/she would probably go into some explanation of how they felt when they were making a similar decision about their career. That might get them talking about all of the positive things about the company which made them want to work there in the first place. Then you can ask, "So what has made you stay?" Whoa! You want to know about them!
Do you see what's going on with this tactic? You're now interviewing them, but because they are talking about themselves, they feel that you want to know stuff about them. To keep things on track, you can certainly interject with various accomplishments and say, "You know when I worked at Company XYZ, I had to overcome this huge problem with a project...and in the end here's what happened." But the '...' that I left out of the above sentence would refer to areas where you're making connections that have universal themes to the person who is interviewing you. We've all dealt with difficult projects, people, had to make last minute changes...what you're selling isn't terribly unique, but the fact that you're making connections is.