I know what you're thinking... Duh, the purpose of the interview is to get a job.

But what if this company has a better job for you, maybe a job that pays more and will better utilize your talents and experience?  Or you're qualified, but so are the other three final candidates and you need someone in your corner?

I strongly recommend that you go into any interview (whether it's the one job that you are sure is perfect for you or whether you're in it "for the practice") with the express purpose of making a friend. 

It will not only change your perspective on the interview, it will help you relax and appear more confident.  (Hiring managers tell me they view confident candidates as more candid and trustworthy.) 

If your goal is to make a friend of the interviewer, you'll have a sharper focus in preparing for and making conversation in the interview.
In preparing for the interview, if you realize that it's all about the connection you make with the interviewer, you'll research him or her in addition to researching the company.  You'll check out the interviewer's profile on LinkedIn.  You'll read the interviewer's recommendations to see what others have to say about him or her.  You'll see if you have a group or two in common. 

What are you looking for?  Not what you might think.  You're not looking for common skills (they already have these skills, why would they need you?) or even work-related experiences (although that's good info to have, too). 

You want to know if you both lived in Cincinnati. 

You want to know if you both enjoy fishing. 

You want to know if you both are writing the great American novel in your spare time.  Both members of a group?  If you look hard enough, you'll strike gold.  If there are six degrees of separation between human beings on the earth, trust me, there are far less degrees when it comes to common interests or experiences. 

In the interview, you will find ways to bring these common interests or experiences into the conversation.  Not in a "stalker, I know all about you" way.  Subtly.  Casually.  Worked into the conversation. 

Today's interviewers expect that you will have researched the company and, most likely, have read their profile on LinkedIn.  So they are not surprised that you know some things about them.  A "Yes, I was team lead at Smithfield Industries in Cincinnati.  I noticed you spent some time in Cincinnati.  My husband and I enjoyed hiking in the great parks there.  Did you?" is better than randomly tossing out "You lived in Cincinnati just like me."

If your goal is to make a friend of the interviewer, you'll create the possibility of acquiring a champion who will stand up for you if the job offer is between you and another candidate. 
You make a great impression on the interviewer.  Score.  But, in today's tight job market, you and I both know you've put points on the board, but you haven't won the game. 

You need that interviewer in your corner.  You need them to be your salesperson within the company.  If they are the final decision maker, you want them to stamp your name on that final decision.

And, if someone other than you is offered the job and refuses the offer, or is hired and three months later is moved up or down to another role, the interviewer (your friend) will suggest they bring you back in.  Because... in the meantime, you have:
1) Sent them a note immediately after the interview thanking them for the interview and
2) Graciously thanked them for the opportunity when you were notified that they made
    an offer to someone else,
3) Invited the interviewer(s) to connect on LinkedIn, and
4) Sent an email thanking them for accepting your invite to connect, and asked how you can
    support them in their professional goals. 

Trust me, no other candidate will have done all four of these actions. 

If you make a friend of the interviewer and another candidate gets the offer, they may help you snag an even better job.
I've seen this happen over and over again.  Seriously.  Interviewers who are sold on a candidate will often shepherd the candidate into another opportunity.  They will suggest other jobs within their company that are suitable for your skills and experience.  More often than not, a better fit and at a higher level or, even if not, one that will helps the candidate to "get a foot in the door".  And, if this happens to you, with the benefit of being a candidate who is internally recommended, which is golden. 

I've also seen situations in which the interviewer/friend recommends their new friend to their peers in other companies who may have an appropriate position. 

Actually, I've even known of situations where the interviewer actually stopped interviewing for the current position - in the middle of the interview - and started interviewing for a better role. Or created a better role.  Yes, right there in the interview.

This is not so extraordinary if you think about the rapid pace of change in today's business world.  Managers need strong teams and roles within those teams can fluctuate as business objectives change. 

I have only seen this happen, however, in cases where the interviewee was articulate regarding their skills and experience AND made a personal connection early in the interview. 

I hope I've sold you.  Because this is really, really important. 

By the way, you probably know how to make a friend.  But here are a few tips.  Don't let their simplicity lull you into thinking you don't need to practice. 
  •      Make and maintain eye contact
  •      Listen, really listen
  •      Let the conversation flow organically
  •      Flex readily if they change the subject
  •      Nod, smile, laugh appropriately to the conversation
  •      Avoid canned or trite responses    
  •      Allow yourself to pause and think if you need to before you speak
  •      Be genuine
  •      Be your best self

Bottom line:  The "listen more than you talk!" rule even applies to interviews. 

What I hope you got from this story: 
Relax.  You're in this interview for the sole purpose of making a friend.  If you do that, the bonus is you will probably get a job you really want while having a great conversation. 

Take action: 
1. If you don't know how to do so, learn how to research a person on LinkedIn.
2. Take a few minutes to think about how this information may change the way you prepare
    for an interview.
3. Practice the tips above.



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