By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Although answering questions from an engineering manager is not exactly the same as fielding questions from members of the media, there are similarities. Being coached by a professional media trainer, who understands the nuances that can make or break an interview, can boost your poise, confidence and communication skills.
After all, most of us don’t interview every day. But professional media trainers live, eat and breathe the stuff that will prevent you from stumbling and making a poor impression in your next job interview.
So, courtesy of Christina Mozaffari, a media and presentation trainer and VP of Phillips Media Relations, here are five tips to help you ace your next interview for a contract or full-time engineering job.
Talk About WIFT (What’s in it for them)
Rule number one is to engage your audience by focusing on what’s in it for them, Mozaffari said. Don’t rattle off your hard and soft skills like you’re compiling a grocery list. Communicate the value of your services by explaining how your technical skills, problem-solving abilities and project experience will benefit the engineering manager, your teammates and the firm
Use Narratives and Storytelling
Although the idea of storytelling often gets a bad rap within the scientific community, trained presenters always use narratives to support their points and make their speeches more compelling, relevant and memorable. In fact, research shows that storytelling creates emotional responses in listeners through the release of oxytocin which invites trust and cooperation.
“Encasing facts and attributes in brief narratives will help you stand out,” Mozaffari noted. “Being able to move between small concrete examples and the big picture is a valuable technique that shows a wide range of skills and abilities.”
Use Positive Body Language
Gesture occasionally, smile, make eye contact and sit up straight – even if you’re participating in a phone interview. How you present yourself nonverbally can mean the difference between success and failure in an interview.
Stay Calm Under Pressure
It is impossible to anticipate every single question you may be asked during an interview. If you are caught off guard by a tough question or request for an opinion or interpretation, don’t get rattled or defensive.
“Start by saying ‘I’m glad you asked me that,’” Mozaffari said. “Once you’ve acknowledged the question, offer a quick yes, no or maybe and then move right to the solution.”
If you don’t know the answer, explain how you would approach the problem and go about finding the solution. The key is to move quickly beyond the acknowledgment to the solution phase.
Another technique for handling queries or subjects that aren’t in your wheelhouse is to expand the original question by saying: “While I’m not familiar with the specifics of the case you’ve cited, I’ve solved similar problems before.” Then offer another relevant success story.
Start Strong, Finish Strong
When it comes to interviews, the “primacy and recency” effect applies. Meaning, an engineering manager will remember and be influenced by the first and the last things you say.
Since most interviewers like to start with an open-ended question, such as “tell me about yourself,” create a lasting impression by responding with a compelling, succinct one-minute pitch that highlights your personal brand, key skill sets, passions and the value you offer. Then, when the time is right, close with a strong summary that outlines the top three reasons why you’re the best candidate. Finally, be sure to ask for the job.
Conveying a strong opening and closing statement is a skill that you can master through practice. As self-help writer and leadership speaker, Robin Sharma said: “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”
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