When that precious moment comes in your job search, and you get a call from an employer who has received your resume and is interested in talking further, how do you respond?  Do you tell yourself that you need to prepare to “be interviewed” — or do you start planning, instead, on how to “sell yourself” assertively and aggressively to the hiring manager in question?

As you might suspect, we feel that far too many job seekers fall into the former category, and that this issue can’t be written off simply as one of mere semantics.  Over the last few months, in fact, we’ve noticed a lot of people who appear to be viewing the interview process in a passive way, as “something that happens to them”, versus taking a more proactive approach and viewing the interview as an opportunity to promote their credentials, show off their capabilities, and directly engage the employer’s imagination.  By adopting the former posture, however, and following a defensive strategy characterized by avoiding mistakes more than taking risks, many candidates simply don’t make the powerful impression required to generate true employer excitement — and command a job offer.

Here’s a quick quiz that might help you assess where you fall on this important continuum.  Ask yourself, when you get called in for an interview, do you…

…let the employer completely control the agenda or do you show up armed with key questions and discussion points of your own?

…sit passively throughout most of the interview, politely responding to questions, or do you take opportunities to lean forward, display energy, venture to the whiteboard, and possibly even display some work samples?

…assume that you’ll help the employer solve their problems only once hired, or do you arrive armed with some problem-solving thoughts and ideas you’re really excited to share right off the bat?

…try to broadly address the entire job description, and convey the entire set of relevant qualifications you possess, or do you focus instead on drilling down around a few key competencies?

…hope that the employer doesn’t ask too many questions about your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, or do you relish the opportunity, instead, to overcome these potential objections?

If the former parts of each sentence above sound more familiar than the latter parts, that’s a strong sign that you might be approaching your interviewing opportunities too passively — and will continue to have trouble convincing employers to offer you a spot on the team.