You don't have to be a Houdini or a David Copperfield to create
interview magic. Sharp listening, observation, and communication
skills will work a lot of magic for you. If you don't have them
now, don't despair—you can cultivate them!
Did you know that you can listen much faster than most people
talk? That’s a bad-news/good-news situation when you’re
in an interview. The bad news is that your attention might begin to
wander if you’re not fully engaged in what the speaker is
saying, or you might start planning what you’re going to say
as soon as the other person stops talking. If that happens, you
could miss an important piece of information or, which could be
worse, show the speaker clearly that you’re not focused on
him or her.
The good news is that if you develop the habit of
listening, consciously and actively, to what’s being said,
you can file-away the key points in your memory and respond
appropriately to them when it’s your turn to
speak— without losing
concentration and becoming unfocused. That’s a key skill to
acquire with regard to interviews. What the interviewer
says—and how it’s said—should provide hints that
enable you to select and customize the information you choose to
share about your skills, accomplishments and potential value to the
Along with active listening goes observation. How much
attention are you paying to non-verbal clues about the organization
and the job you’re applying for? This question relates not
only to the duration of the interview itself but also to every
aspect of the process—before and after the
Hints on What to “Watch”
• During the telephone pre-screening, do you sense
any pressure or abruptness from the caller? Any non-responsiveness
to your questions?
• How early or late do the company’s current
employees arrive or stay? (You’ll have some idea about this
if you pay a visit to the facility at the beginning or end of the
• Is the company atmosphere open and friendly? If
not, how does it strike you?
• Are you kept waiting well past your appointment
time? With or without an explanation or apology?
• Do you pick up on any indications that the
company might be experiencing difficulties?
• When you ask probing questions, do you receive
frank answers? (For example, “Why is this position open? What
happened to the person who held this job before? What challenges is
the company facing in the near future?” etc.)
• If you follow up appropriately after the
interview, do you receive a prompt, courteous response?
• Have you checked out the company with impartial
outside parties who might know something about it? What feedback
did you get?
• Does what you’ve been seeing/hearing about
the company and/or the job give you the feeling that you and it
would make a good fit? If not, why not?
So now that you’ve honed your listening and observation
skills, does the interview magic happen automatically? Not quite.
You still need to know your “product” (yourself) and
find ways to articulate to the interviewer that you are genuinely
enthusiastic about the company/job and underscore why you believe
strongly that you can contribute value to the organization. Be
prepared to offer specific, relevant examples from your experience
(selected based on what you’ve learned by listening and
observing), because “showing” carries more impact than
Finally, send or drop off a thank-you/follow-up letter
(not an email,
unless an actual handwritten or typed note is impossible for some
very good reason). Send one to each person you interviewed with.
Don’t make the letter sound like just a pre-recorded speech.
By all means thank the interviewer—
sincerely —for his or her time, but
you need to do much more than that. Mention at least one thing you
particularly appreciated or found interesting about your interview
with that individual. If possible, add a point or two to emphasize
the value you are confident you can bring to the organization and
your main reasons for wanting to become a contributing member of
Not enough people send these letters, so if —
no, when —you do, you
will leave a strong impression with the interviewer, and that plays
a key role in making your
interview magic happen.