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Here we supply useful information for both job candidates and employers. We cover preparing for your interview, how your personal brand makes a difference and how to screen during the interview for the candidate who most closely fits your needs. 

You have been there--getting ready for the interview that could change the direction of your career. Sometimes through the excitement of it all, we forget some of the basics of preparing for the interview. Below are good reminders for the big day:

1. Do as much homework as you can to know the company you are interviewing with.

Reading the company's web site is absolutely necessary. Hiring authorities have told me that the candidate asked questions they could have easily found on their web site. You guessed it. The candidate didn't get the job because they didn't impress the hiring authority.

As you review their web site, jot down questions. These questions will help you get a sense of the company's goals and direction once you get to the interview.

If you know an employee in the company, check with them to see how they like working there and to identify issues the company may be facing.

If it is a public company, review their financial information. This can be easily done by using their stock symbol and pulling up their financial information on the web.

Learn people's names in the organization as you review the web site. It should be very obvious that you have prepared for the interview and understand their structure and business.

The morning of the interview, make one last check to see if there is any news-breaking press release on the company. Nothing is more embarrassing than to arrive at their door and not know the current company buzz in the headlines that morning.

2. Have everything together the night before.

Don't wait until the morning of the interview to pull everything together. We all know how quickly time can get away from us.

Have several copies of your resume printed and in your portfolio. It is also very important to know what is on your resume. If you haven't read your resume in a while, re-read it and know your stats. You should know your quota achievements, awards, account wins, and other accomplishments. Success will sell itself as you relay it to the people interviewing you.

And, yes, you should pre-think what professional attire you will look and feel best in for the interview. Have your clothes ready to go so you don't have to deal with that in the morning.

3. Be ready to go mentally.

Short of sounding like your mother, make certain you get some good nights of sleep prior to the interview. Also, allow plenty of time to get to your interview. I always suggest cushioning it a bit so you are not uptight once you get there. Being mentally sharp and ready to go will make all the difference and can set you apart from someone who isn't as prepared and alert.

Pre-think your interview and be prepared. If you are prepared, then you will be able to enjoy the conversation. The chemistry between you and the hiring authority is a big determinant as to whether the interview process will continue. If you are confident and ready for the interview, they will get to know you at your best and you will be able to catch all the important signals about your potential new home. 

By Mimi Evans

When the economy was hot, everybody was successful and life was great. As someone said to me the other day “even a dead fish can swim downstream”. Many did, and the current was flowing more quickly than anyone could have ever imagined. Now, sales opportunities are tougher to find and jobs are more difficult to land.

As we look around today, there are a limited number of people that we can identify as extremely successful. What REALLY makes the difference? What do they possess? What is the X factor? We wanted to find out and share the results of our research with you. So, we interviewed a number of executives who achieved and exceeded their goals in 2003 in order to understand the common denominators in how they achieved success. We asked the executives “how do you consistently over achieve?”

We uncovered that “the real tests in business are never quite what you’d expect”, according to David D’Alessandro, CEO of the John Hancock Company.

In his new book, Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It, he explains, “It’s like a Rorschach test. Somebody flashes your name. What leaps into their minds? Eats peanut butter and liverwurst for lunch? Or has a really unique vision for the business?” He stresses throughout the book that your personal brand and your company’s brand are the key differentiators in today’s tough market place and they make the difference.

We found that in today’s economy, your personal qualities, traits, and characteristics are just as important as the company brand that you represent. People buy from people, not from big corporate brands. People buy on emotions, not based on facts and figures. The one common factor that will influence the emotional buying triggers is the personal brand that you portray. What comes to mind when someone hears your name? “She helped the company survive and thrive in a down economy” or “He is a bumbling idiot with no personality and communication skills”. Do you hear other people talk about the CEO by mentioning that “He could sell a dog off of a meat wagon” or “He’s content free…an empty suit”?

How do you improve your personal brand and help your customers and prospects feel good about doing business with you and your company? According to an executive at Kronos Corporation, “We consistently deliver value and ROI to our customers. We (continue to) build up a reputation which reflects upon our company and the individual sales people who delivered the return that was promised.” This statement reflects the importance of creating a company brand through the individual brands of the employees. This concept has been applied and it works because they have consistently grown revenues quarter over quarter.

Boni Lonnsburry, CEO of In Touch Today, a Denver-based marketing firm, has increased her business in the past 3 years by over 222% annually. When asked how she swam upstream and achieved these goals, she revealed a true focus on her person brand and her company’s brand and reputation. “We have a reputation in our industry for making our clients look good and achieve success in their businesses. It seems so simple, yet business people continue to overlook the importance of personal brand. Every person in our company knows how important it is to insure that the company name is reflected in everything we do.”

What can you do to increase your personal brand? Author and speaker Diane Darling, in her book “The Networking Survival Guide” offers these suggestions:

• Recognize Your Personal Strengths and Gifts
• Consider What Your Target Audience Needs and Wants
• Identify the Value You Deliver to Meet Those Needs and Wants
• Communicate Your Value
• Recognize the Gaps in Your Personal Brand and Overcome Those Gaps

Everyone’s personal brand, from the receptionist, to the sales people, to the CEO are the individual parts that make the whole of the corporate brand. Recognize your personal brand and corporate brand and know your strengths and weaknesses. Understand what attracts others to you and your company and success will be yours.

Mimi Evans is a Founder of Seligence, LLC.

We know that finding the candidate of our dreams is not an easy task. We want it all--perfect tenure, someone who hits the ball out of the park with his sales numbers every year, someone who has all the right C-level contacts, a magnificent presenter, an organized person who gets his sales reports in on time, and, of course, a team player.

Here are some ideas on how to screen during the interview for that candidate who most closely fits your needs.

1. Is the candidate prepared? How many times do you talk to a candidate and it is obvious he/she hasn't done his preparation for the interview? It is clear he hasn't looked at the web site and it is clear he really hasn't researched your company's background. Is that how he will treat his clients if he is hired? Most probably.

2. Is the candidate a fit in your environment? Does she understand your business and your sales cycle? In addition, has she ‘lived' it? If your sales cycle is 6-9 months and she has been selling products that only take a week to close, she probably won't last too long. Can she handle the rejection that comes with the longer sales cycles? If she has been closing deals that are several hundred dollars and your opportunities are $250K+, how comfortable is she going to be with your product line?

3. Is the candidate a good communicator? Is the candidate articulate and clear in his conversation? Listen to him early in the interview and notice how he presents himself. Any question you ask should be answered with a response that is detailed enough to answer your question but not too wordy. He should not go on tangents but stay with the question presented to him. The candidate should be giving you good eye contact (if you are interviewing in person). Most importantly, he should be very confident in his approach.

4. Does the candidate understand sales and the sales process? Having been through some the Fortune 1000 training programs can be a big plus. There are also many independent programs that companies use that give them the sales tools they need to close business. Can he articulate steps in the sales process such as call preparation, needs analysis, benefits, objection handling and closing? Has he walked through a scenario or two regarding his most successful sales call and why. And, of course, is the candidate a good listener? Are they listening to you or just talking to try to sell you.

5. What about the candidate's past performance? Nothing takes the place of good solid experience where she has been a performer in the past. Does she have that “fire in the belly” that will produce revenue for you, or is she burned out? Ask for specifics in the interview. Make certain she can articulate her past business successes and knows her quota and achievements. I always question a candidate who doesn't have a good grasp of her numbers in her past few positions. Drill down on the candidate's quota achievement to understand the details of her business. What was her biggest deal? Does she know decision makers' names? What did she do to make the deal successful (wouldn't it be interesting to hear it was a team deal and someone else did all the work?). How did she manage the process? If you see the candidate uncomfortable during this questioning, you may begin to wonder if she was a true performer.

6. Can you work with the candidate? This may be a very simple question, however, are you comfortable with the candidate and do you enjoy him? Do you feel you can trust him? I'm sure your customers will feel the same way. Ask for details about his favorite manager. You can learn a lot by listening to him talk about people he has worked for in the past that he has admired. If it doesn't sound like you, this candidate may not be a fit.

Once you are comfortable with your selection, make certain you allow others in your organization to screen him as well. Sometimes the opinions of people you respect in your organization quickly verify your feelings about the candidate. 

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