Persuasion and The Interview

Persuasion is an art.  But it’s an art form that can make your interview go completely differently.  Getting the job is always a  bout convincing the hiring manager you are the choice for this job.  Some of these techniques are simple, some will take time to master.  Let’s start with something simple


Blue 1, smiling immediately before the trench run!
Blue 1, smiling immediately before the trench run!

You’d be surprised how much a smile can make the difference in an interview.  People respond better with those who they feel are friendly, outgoing, and cheerful.  A smile on your face can easily tell them you’re all those things and more.  A smile can also show you as confident, something that is important for technical roles.

I can hear the concerns being raised now.  “I’m nervous about this interview, how can I possibly smile?”

Smiling has a great side effect on you as the interviewee.  It can relax you  a bit.  I know few of you have ever worked in a call center, but I have.  One of the mantras they used was “Smile, then dial.”  The reason for this is even over the phone, the person can hear the friendliness pour out over the phone.  It also calms the person making the call, clearing most, if not all, of the stress from their voice.  If you smile during your interview this can work for you too!

Empathy and Reading the Interviewer

This one can be a bit tougher.  Learning to read the interviewer, and anticipate how they want you to respond can be tough.

Sometimes they are looking for a clear leader, someone who will stand out from the team, and lead by example.   In those cases, you have to be more bold in your interview.

Sometimes they are looking for a team player, someone who can get along with the rest of the team, and help build consensus.  In those cases, you have to show examples of your experiences where you worked with a team, and the best possible results came from the team.

Sometimes, they’re looking for someone with cutting edge skills.  Aware of every new topic, and how it relates to their problems.  Sometimes they want someone who sticks with the proven tech.

Learning to read the interviewer is a skill you have to learn if you want to master the interview.  It starts by studying their questions.  Look through the question, and see if you can see a pattern to their line of questioning.  Can you tell what they’re looking for?  Are they asking you about newer technologies?  Did they invite you to speak with “the team”?  Often you’ll spot what they are looking for if you study the way they ask questions.

Sound Bites

The rent is too damn high!
The rent is too damn high!

Ok, it’s going to sound like I’m helping you run for office.  In a way, I hope I am.  Hopefully the interview will lead to you getting a private office, rather than a cubicle.  But that’s besides the point.

In America, we all have a bit of ADD.  We have shorter attention spans.  If you can work in specific details into your answers that will stand out, all it takes is the interviewer recalling one of these sound bites, and your name will be in their mind, ahead of those who only gave “meh” interviews.

By using dynamic management views in SQL 2005, I was able to reduce monthly load times from several hours, to just over 2 minutes for a half-million rows.

It’s short, sweet, has specific numbers, and it’s impressive.  It’s truth too.  Don’t let your sound bite be a lie.  If you did that, and got called on it…You could see some serious repercussions down the road.

Silence is Golden

...but duct tape is silver!
...but duct tape is silver!

Sometimes you have a tough interviewer, and he or she will use silence after your answer to make you second guess yourself.  It’s a mind game.  Don’t let them use it against you.  Answer their questions, and after each, smile.  If they repeat the silent response, ask helpfully, “Did that fully answer your question?”  or “Would you like additional detail?”

If they take you up on the additional detail, turn it around on them.  Ask them for specifics in their environment you could use to illustrate your answer.  Turning it around on them makes it a bit more interactive, but you do have to be careful in your tone when turning around.  If the interviewer is using the silent response trick, they will easily take offense if you don’t express your desire to help them.

Speaking of which:

Being Helpful, Not Desperate

My shtick, is I’m the helpful guy.  This may not work for you, but it’s been a goldmine for me.  When I go into an interview I ask questions about their environment.  I follow up questions with, “what sort of issues are you trying to resolve?”  By expressing genuine concern over their issues, I can build rapport with the interviewer very quickly (quickly being a 2-3 hour interview).

Showing them that I have a desire to help them by applying my experience and knowledge to their systems has always worked.  You can take this too far, you can come off as desperate.  It’s a tough line to define.  Be sure you want to help them, but make sure they understand that helping them actually helps you by growing your skills.   Once you learn to master the balance, you’ll be surprised at the change in the interviewers response.


There is a dark side to persuasion.  You can take it to far and learn to manipulate others, I’m definitely NOT suggesting that.  I just want to show you some ways to perform better in your interviews, and enjoy greater success.

Again, that’s my desire to help you.

If you have any questions or comments, send them in!  I’m always here to help.

By Shannon Lowder

Shannon Lowder is the Database Engineer you've been looking for! Look no further for expertise in: Business Analysis to gather the business requirements for the database; Database Architecting to design the logical design of the database; Database Development to actually build the objects needed by the business logic; finally, Database Administration to keep the database running in top form, and making sure there is a disaster recovery plan.

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