Put yourself in a job interview's shoes. In addition to talking to you for 10 to 20 minutes, he or she is also likely going to meet with dozens of other applicants who are all likely coming from a similar background as you. You might be the first person getting interviewed, or you might even end up somewhere in the middle. It is also important to keep in mind that the time of day could affect your interview. If it is in the morning, then the hiring manager might be fully charged to speak with you. If you meet with an interview right before lunch, then an interviewer's mind might be wandering to what is on the menu at the restaurant across the street.
Capturing attention in a job interview is crucial to making a lasting impression and getting the job. You need to find something that makes you stand apart from the other applicants so that when the interviewer is reviewing all the candidates later, you are going to stand out. You need to be aware of what makes you unique, so that you are not just another face in the crowd.
The "You Factor"
Simply stating that you are a team player, that you have leadership skills or that you would be an asset to the company is not really going to impress a hiring manager. Those traits should be a given with everyone who walks through those office doors. To truly capture someone's attention, you are going to need to expand upon those characteristics and discuss experiences that are unique to you. This is known as the "you factor."
For example, if a hiring manager asks you if you have ever demonstrated any leadership skills, he or she is expecting you to say "Yes." No one is going to admit that they do not have a desired trait. The "you factor" in this scenario is describing a time where you showed your leadership skills. Talking about a project you undertook at a previous job, the challenges associated with taking on this task and then discussing how you were able to overcome those obstacles and produce stellar results is going to make you stand out better in an interviewer's memory.
Ways to Capture Attention
You should never think for a second that you have the interviewer's full attention. You should always be working to get a hiring manager to truly listen to what you have to say. Not only do you need to attract attention, but you also need to keep it once you have it. One way to do this is to talk about something unexpected. You can talk about a unique problem that came up with your last job that you had to overcome. Surprising someone with a story that they were not expecting to hear is an excellent way to make someone snap out of their apathy and pay attention.
Another valuable tip for gaining a hiring manager's is to keep all your stories short and to the point. Most stories should be kept around two or three minutes because that is plenty of time to go through all the necessary facts while not boring the interviewer. If your story is much longer than that, then you are risking losing their attention. If there is no other way for you to convey all the vital information than to make your story five minutes long, you definitely need to make sure that it is compelling.
A useful way to see if your stories would hold someone's attention is to schedule a mock interview with a family member or close friend. Have the person ask you questions that are typical of most job interviews, and at the end of the exercise, have them tell you what they thought of your responses. They should mention if the stories you told were boring, irrelevant or way too long. This is a great way to see if your storytelling capabilities need some work.
Although a hiring manager should be paying attention to each and every applicant to see who is best for the job, chances are that some are going to have their minds drifting elsewhere. By telling credible and interesting stories, you are going to make it much easier on the interviewer to want to pay attention to you and give you the focus you deserve.