What Is the Hallmark of a Good Interview? Hint: You’re a Performer (Part 1 of 2)

By Esther Choy, MBA Prep School

What happens when you mix three carafes of black coffee, eight hours of sitting in a windowless conference room, and a stream of meticulously dressed but mechanically stiff professionals? You get a physically exhausted, mentally inflexible, and emotionally indifferent interviewer.

Ten years ago, I spent two days in Seoul, South Korea, interviewing a long line of accomplished business school applicants. Seoul was my middle destination between Taipei and Hong Kong.

By the end of my first day in that downtown Hilton, I felt extremely alone and was dying for real conversations. Wait for a second — didn’t I spend all day talking to people? Why would I still feel alone and yearn for more conversations?

The trouble is, these applicants catered way too much to me.

One of the deadliest mistakes when interviewing (or applying for anything) is catering to the screeners and decision-makers too much.

“What do they want to hear? Let me find out and say exactly that,” many applicants strategize. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this approach. The trouble is EVERYone is doing the same thing. I ended up hearing the same talking points, answering the same questions, and having the same conversations over and over again.

So how do you create a more memorable and engaging experience? First let me walk you through three things that need to happen, from the interviewer’s point of view, for a good interview to take place.

  1. Interviewers need to feel like they had a rewarding conversation. Remember, even though this interview might be the only one you have in a while, for the interviewer, it could be interview #67 on his or her fifth day of a marathon interviewing assignment. So the last thing your interviewer wants is more of the same.
  2. Interviewers need to feel like they really got to know you, who you are, and what you stand for.
  3. Interviewers would love to feel enlightened: that they are smarter, more aware, more knowledgeable, and generally better off in some way as a result of having spoken with you.

Think of it this way. When you step into an interview, you are really stepping onto a performance stage. An interview is a performance disguised as a business conversation.

So what do performers do to make sure they’re at the top of their game?

They practice and rehearse. They know their role, line, cue, timing, and purpose. They know it all so well that they don’t need a script when they perform. They have become the role that they have come to play. And they are convincing and persuasive.

They maintain their energy, even when their audiences are falling asleep. Top performers know how to exert their energy in ways that sustain them throughout the entire performance. And they know how to make their energy contagious for their audiences.

Last but not least, performers come to tell a story. They draw their audiences into their world with their characters, obstacles, journeys, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments. Performers transport audiences into their reality so much so that their audiences say, “Bravo!” and wish the show went on just a bit longer.

Next time you’re preparing for interviews, remember, you are a performer and you need to razzle and dazzle!

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