As part of your homework, it’s critical that you know with whom you
are talking—not just his or her name and title. Do you know their
interests, their past roles, their accomplishments? If it’s not an interview
but a networking session, it may be a slightly different conversation since
you’re not restricted to protocol about interview boundaries. I wouldn’t
recommend being too casual, but I suggest being more creative in your
approach about topics to discuss.
I suggest keeping things professional; however, you do have more latitude
to talk about potential common interests and connection points.
For example, you can talk about running marathons or how many kids
he or she may have in their family, when it makes sense. Conversely, try to
understand what topics are taboo. I once asked a contact how his wife was
doing, as I knew the couple when they used to live nearby. He mentioned
their recent divorce. I couldn’t have gotten every bit of information in
advance to ensure the conversation went smoothly, but I could have been
more attentive to the fact that he was only talking about his kids, and not
pressed the question about his spouse unless it came up more naturally.
It made the discussion awkward for a little bit. We recovered, but it was a
good lesson in the importance of a better awareness of the surroundings
and situations. As much as personal connections will enhance the relationship,
I’ve learned to do enough homework to be sure, allow others to
bring subjects up first, or to stay away from personal topics until a deeper
relationship is forged.
What do you know about the audience with whom you’re interviewing?
Look for more than personal facts, especially in an interview, since
the dynamics are slightly different from a pure networking session. Do
you know the person’s style and personality type? Does the person you’re
interviewing with like humor? Are they “down-to-earth;” are they shirtand-
tie-type where everything stays extremely professional; are they looking
for past history or go-forward dialog? Stay true to yourself in the
interview but when you know how to adapt, it can be a key factor to
making the most of the conversation.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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