Preparing Your Team to Bring Their Best to the Table
Congratulations! You have just been notified that your company has been short-listed and invited to interview for contracting as a parking operator for a major municipality or university. Piece of cake, right? After all, your company has probably interviewed for this dozens, possibly even hundreds, of times.
Understand that your company’s proposal package has been scored. That means that there is already a favorite. I have often seen companies that have scored in first place fail because of a poor interview performance. Additionally, I have seen companies that have initially scored lower than their competitors come out on top because of an outstanding interview performance. Here are a few tips and suggestions from the other side of the table, to help you avoid common mistakes and improve your interview presentation.
Choose your team wisely and prepare them well.
Just because an employee will have a key role in the contract, it does not mean that you should necessarily put them on your interview team. Are they a good representative both verbally and appearance wise? Are they experienced at public speaking? Are they personable, will they act scared or overly nervous, or freeze up during the interview?
There have been many times when I’ve looked across the table at someone that, because of what they chose to wear, appears to just not care. Excuses are not appropriate and do not reverse this bad first impression. Men should wear suits; women should be in a business suite or other professional attire.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Content, roles, and timing.
This is so important; each team member should clearly understand his or her role in the presentation. Team members should know what they are going to say and when to interject when others are presenting. Your folks should not be surprised if they are called upon, and transitions from one speaker to another should be smooth.
With that said, everyone should talk. It is ok to have a main speaker but everyone should have a role to play in the presentation. All should present their area of expertise.
Also, stay within the time frame given. Typically, you are allowed 60 minutes to present with 15-20 minutes allowed for follow up questions within that period. Usually you will be informed of the time restraint in advance. If you were not told, find out.
Confidence is good; arrogance is bad.
You should project your company’s knowledge, experience, successes, and expertise. Arrogance, on the other hand, is a complete turn off. Preaching about how there are no other better companies in the world and how under par your competitors are is tasteless and rude.
Offer suggestions, but do not criticize.
Keep in mind that the selection committee will probably be comprised of managers responsible for the parking program’s operation. Poorly worded suggestions that criticize some part of the operation may seem disparaging or offensive to some.
Be upbeat, high energy.
Your presentation should provide a sense of high energy, projecting an excitement for your company and the prospect of a wonderful new client. Your team should speak up, speak clearly, and not stutter or mutter their words. Their tone, facial expressions and body language should exude cheerfulness and their interest in the proceedings.
Handouts are fine, but they should be pertinent
Keep in mind that the selection committee has already been given six to ten 150-200 page proposals to read. New information is OK, but it needs to be germane, providing new content that they have not been provided with before. Explain the new material as you are handing it out. Provide an index so they can quickly see and turn the page to their area of interest. A hand out of your PowerPoint is fine, too.
Construct your slides with just 4-8 bullet points using fonts that are large enough and clear enough for the back row to read. If your slides have too many bullet points and/or are in goofy fonts that are difficult to read, you will quickly lose your audience.
Affirm your sincere interest in providing a quality program for your potential client.
In addition, your bullet points should illicit an idea from the speaker, do not just read your slides word for word.
Agency before Company.
We want to know how excited you are about your company and how well you train your employees in company expectations, ethics, and culture. However, we also want to hear you talk about how you will garner your employee’s passion for their new client, and how you will keep that excitement going for years to come.
Do not try to fake your way through an answer, know what you should know.
We know when you are faking an answer or stretching the truth. It is OK to say I don’t know and I’ll get back to you, unless it is something that you should know.
Don’t get into the weeds with items that don’t pertain.
Do not waste your valuable interview time, and do not risk losing the interest of your audience. We already have your written proposal. Your presentation should highlight relevant information.
Specify answers to any questions.
If the agency has provided you with a list of questions prior to your interview, answer those questions clearly within your presentation. Make it clear when you are answering those questions.
Do not use gimmicks.
During my tenure with an agency that was tied to a theme park, more than one company’s team came in to the interview all wearing the same silly shirt or hat. This added nothing to the professionalism of the situation. We just thought it was silly.
Do your homework; know your potential clients, facilities, and panelists.
Try to find out who will be on the selection committee. Knowing their background may help guide your presentation. Also, tour their parking areas. I will never forget the time during an interview when a potential vendor asked me where our main parking facilities were located. Consequently, their lack of preparation became a topic of discussion by the selection committee.
Have good closing remarks.
While thanking your audience is always appropriate, don’t just stop there. Take the opportunity to highlight why your company is best suited for the job. Affirm your sincere interest in providing a quality program for your potential client.
After the interview…
Do send thank you cards. It’s not necessary, but it is always appreciated and is a nice touch. Moreover, it will prompt the selection committee members to think fondly of you. You want them to think fondly of you.
Don’t be a sore loser. More than once, after an award was given, I’ve received a call or a letter from a company telling me that a poor choice was made, labeling all the unfortunate qualities of the company we chose, or sometimes, a once friendly contact suddenly becomes strained.
If you are a parking company, I hope you have found this information helpful. Alternatively, if you are with an agency and have your own interview mistakes or horror stories to share, let me know about them, and perhaps I’ll update this article in the future.
Luis Maldonado has been in the Parking Industry for over 32 years. Working for agencies such as UCSD, UCLA, UCI, CSUN and The City of Long Beach, California. Luis currently works with the City of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org