EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

I don’t know how many of you participated in school plays during your early years, but there is a lot to be said about thinking about the interviewing process as a series of scenes in a play. Of course, the only problem with this visualization is the degree to which the audience is in charge of how the play progresses.

Still, if you remember your lines and deliver them well, you can control much of the flow. All you need to do is work out the components and have them ready.

Introducing the characters in the play and presenting their backgrounds as part of a story is a difficult thing to write. For those of you who have seen Patton you may remember that the movie began with George C. Scott delivering a monologue. The purpose was to tell you a lot about his character so the scriptwriter didn’t have to take up a lot of time in the movie to give you that same mental image. In our context this is your 90-second announcement. (Sorry, George did get more time, but then he already had the job!)

There is an old saw that goes “you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.” I like that saying and I use it a lot. We will all assume that you have had your wardrobe department hard at work finding matching socks, an appropriate tie, and that you have found someone to shine your shoes. (Remember how shiny Patton’s helmet was?) If like most of us financial types you tend to carry several writing instruments with you, take a look at your pocket with the Bic pens and think what kind of an impression you are going to be presenting. Perhaps it is also time to replace your Swatch with something a little more serious. If you don’t look serious, no one will believe you are.

All of the items you carry with you deliver a message about who you are. They are an important part of presenting your character to the outside world. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror with your briefcase and decide if you like what you see. Financial folks should be seen as precise. That’s what we do. If you are not attentive to the details as you are going about your interviewing, how can I as an interviewer (audience) assume you will be precise and attentive to details when you show up for work?

How have you set up your briefcase for your interview? Have you checked that you will have easy access to your resume, business cards or other papers you have brought for this meeting? If you are going to take papers out of your brief case, are the file folders neatly labeled? They don’t have to be typed, but you want to present the image of someone who is very organized. That is part of the product you are selling, so don’t miss any of these details. (You want to make sure that the prop department has placed the appropriate items in the right place.)

Give some serious thought to the script for this 30-45 minute play. It really is much more predictable than you think it is.

In the opening scene you have the “get to know you” part where you talk about the weather or traffic on the roads or the train. It is silly banter really, but it is an essential part of the interview if it is to begin in an upbeat manner. The real issue being discussed is a quick decision as to whether or not you are my kind of people. Since you know what the game is, relax a little and look around the office of the person interviewing you. Decide what kind of person they are so you can cater to their personality as much as possible. Are there pictures of children, pets or boats? Any one or all may give you a clue and an opening for making this scene work well.

In the next scene you want to present your background. Begin with your 90-second elevator speech and use “the pregnant pause” to get some feedback on what direction the audience wants you to take.

Continuing to blather is called in selling terms “throwing up on the customer,” and you don’t want to do that. Which scene do they want you to go to next? Be attentive and the interviewer will tell you. Be sure a basis has been set so they will understand the next scene, but be willing to shorten any of your stories if they don’t seem to fit, or if they don’t appear to be needed.

This is probably the biggest mistake I make in conversations. I frequently give more information than is needed, and I have real trouble stopping myself. (I need someone off stage to “give me the hook” when I get too elaborate with my story.)

How are you going to end your play? This really needs to be an important part of your planning.

How are you going to stage asking what the next steps are? What words are you going to use? Can you ask for something that they will be willing to do for you? A follow up call, or permission for you to call, are all appropriate at this moment. Just keep in mind that the last scene of the play is very important. In restaurant terms it is the coffee. The reason restaurants spend so much money on coffee is that it is the last part of the meal and often what is most remembered, especially if it is bad. So, keep that in mind. Don’t over stay your welcome. That will certainly be remembered.

Think about that and plan carefully. Remember, a nice round of applause at the end will get other audiences to attend your short play!

Regards, Matt

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