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You’ve written up a perfect résumé and hit it off with the hiring manager in a quick introductory call, and now, it’s time for the big interview!

These days, that’s more likely to take the form of an hour-long Zoom meeting than making the trek to an office building and meeting with (gasp!) real, actual people.

Over their 30 years in the talent and services business in Raleigh, Ronnie Duncan and Adrian West have helped thousands of technical writers, instructional designers and corporate communication pros prepare for interviews.

Whether you’re throwing on your finest shirt and running shorts in front of the laptop, or breaking out the trusty Interview (Pant) Suit, they’ve got a few tips to help you nail the final step of the hiring process.

Master Technology

You’ve received the meeting link, and somehow, it’s not one of the seven virtual conferencing platforms you’ve already downloaded.

Rather than trying your luck moments before an interview, arrange a trial-run the night before. If possible, hop on a meeting with a friend to help familiarize yourself with the program and ensure your camera and microphone are configured correctly.

Beyond functionality, you’ll also want to ensure your camera is set at a proper angle (eye-level, ideally) and the room has good lighting. Also, confirm your audio is coming through loud and clear during the dry run.

Unexpected technical issues are an unfortunate reality of our new virtual world, and most people are understanding that the Technology Gods are occasionally unfair.

Still, it’s worth doing everything in your power to mitigate those factors and avoid giving someone the wrong idea.

“It immediately sets a perception that you’re not technical, not prepared,” Duncan said. “Neither of those are good things to start an interview.”

One more thing – it’s best to check your background and filter settings to ensure that your first impression isn’t made as a feline.

The Magic Question

At this point, you’ve seen the job description a hundred times and even heard it explained several more by a recruiter. You’ve done your research on the company, clicked through the website and even looked up Linkedin profiles.

Still, there’s one question that we’ve told every associate to ask at the beginning of each interview:

“I ‘ve researched this company and the role in great detail, and I’ve read the job description, but I know that a lot is lost in translation. Would you mind starting this interview by giving me an overview, in your words, of what you need — the company, the role itself and the most important thing you see for me to do in this role?”

Voila! If you’re lucky, the interviewer has, in a way, just given you the answers to the test by telling you exactly where you should focus your efforts in the conversation.

Not only are you getting valuable information on how to position yourself, but you’re immediately establishing a good rhythm.

“Get the interviewer talking right out of the gate,” Duncan said.


Listen Up!

We’ve always walked out of an interview cringing at just how poorly we represented ourselves.

Think back to the worst interview moments you’ve experienced. Chances are, you’re talking. And talking. And you might still be talking today if not for a well-timed interjection from the interviewer.

When humans get nervous, we tend to ramble on so as to avoid the introspection that comes with silence.

Fight human nature and bring your statement to a halt at the first opportunity. The interviewer will either pick things up, or you’ll face a few seconds of silence – both are better options than droning on.

“They’ll be doing most of the talking, and that’s a good thing,” Duncan said. “If you’re talking more than them, it’s probably not going well.”

Just how far should that ratio be skewed toward a candidate listening?

“If they’re talking 70 percent of the time, they’re trying to sell you on the job – that’s a good thing,” West said.

You’re the Interviewer

Coming with a list of prepared questions is the easiest way to ensure that you’ll spend more time listening than speaking. 

Besides, if you’re truly excited and interested in the opportunity, the interviewers will have far more ground to cover than you possibly could.

“They have a lot to tell you about the job, the company, their role, the role,” Duncan said. “You’re just there to tell them about you.”

Particularly in technical writing and instructional design, your ability to work with a subject-matter expert is an important skill. In this setting, the interviewer is the SME on the company, and you’re simply trying to extract their expertise to create a better deliverable – the interview itself.

“You need to ask questions to dig,” Duncan said. “Your questions tell more about your ability to do the job, than the answers to the questions you’re eventually going to give them.”

With great questions, the interviewer will help you, help yourself.

“The questions you’re asking them, to get them to give you more detail, will lead to dialogue,” West said. “It will spur them to tell you the answers to the test.”


Want to be Wanted

Whether it’s an established Fortune 100 company or a start-up in Research Triangle Park you’re interviewing with, people are ultimately making the decision.

People have emotions, and whether conscious or subconscious, emotion will play a role in who is offered the job.

“People make these decisions emotionally and justify them logically – not the other way around – in spite of their best attempts,” Duncan said.

If you think you’ve found your dream job and couldn’t possibly be more excited, tell the hiring manager at the end of your interview, and speak with conviction. When you send your thank-you note later that evening, make it clear that this is an opportunity you wouldn’t pass on.

“Don’t be ambiguous about whether or not you would take this job. People are people, and even big companies fear rejection,” West said. “People have a need for being wanted, and if they don’t feel you want them, they’ll offer it to somebody else.”

TimelyText has employed and placed hundreds of instructional designers, technical writers and corporate communication professionals in North Carolina since 2003. Submit your résumé via our homepage, or reach out to info@timelytext.com to discuss how we can help you reach your personal and professional goals! Come find out why we’re more than a staffing agency.

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