Five moves that show you’re a pro

This is no time for subtlety

  1. Have an agenda. “One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking the goal is simply to answer the questions that are asked,” says J. Daniel Plants, a VP of mergers and acquisitions at J.P. Morgan Chase. “Sure, you have to answer their questions, but the best candidates know how to steer the conversation where they want it to go.”
  2. Wanna be an executive? Your first step is to sit like one. Powerful people have no qualms about taking up a lot of space. Sit up straight in the middle of the chair, with one arm on the armrest and the other on the table. You’ll instantly look and feel more confident and in control.
  3. Tell a story. “There should be a theme that runs through every answer,” says a former McKinsey recruiter. “Maybe it’s ‘I’m creative.’ Whatever your story, tell it clearly and succinctly. Tailor an explanation of your strengths and weaknesses to support it.”
  4. Admit past mistakes in a way that shows you learned something. “Let’s say you once did something that a client wanted but that wasn’t what your boss wanted,” says Joni Johnston, a psychologist and the CEO of WorkRelationships, a management training company whose clients include Nokia and Ericsson. “Explain that while your instinct was to please the client–a good instinct–you learned that your manager’s wishes are most important.”
  5. Obey the rule of three. Have three points to drive home and an anecdote to support each one. If you’re applying for a sales position, maybe the points are: “I’ve sold before,” “I have great contacts,” and “I understand this business.” “This may seem obvious,” says the former McKinsey recruiter, “but you’d be surprised how many people come in with zero structure to what they’re saying. If you’ve thought ahead about what you want to communicate, an interviewer notices.”

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