This is another common job interview trap we can fall into – waiting for someone to tell you that you’ve lost your perspective
The Trap: Believe that you don’t sound like every other job candidate.
The Solution: It’s hard to look from the inside out without getting a distorted view. But, you need to become aware of how you’re perceived by the hiring organization. Otherwise, you won’t be able to shift your perspective and talk to prospective employers about how you can meet their needs and challenges with your unique skills and experience. This is very difficult to do yourself unless you’ve done over and over again. To gain that perspective, you can practice with low-risk contacts such as family members, friends or former colleagues who “listen” to your pitch and provide feedback. But, never be afraid to seek professional guidance from a career specialist – you’ll achieve your goals faster – and with less pain.
Here’s another common interview trap – checking your ego at the door.
The Trap: Everything is a team effort these days. So, when responding to interview questions, we tend to say things like: We achieved a 15 percent increase in sales and we worked together to get it done.
The Solution: Say exactly what you did to contribute to the team’s results. By all means, include the “we”, but don’t forget the “I” when talking about your achievements. In the example above, it’s better to say: I helped the team to achieve a 15 percent increase in sales by doing [such and such …].
Here’s another common trap people fall into during interviews.
The Trap: Talk in generalities, saying things like: Teams work better when a leader works on a collaborative basis. It’s good to get the team together right at the start of a project so they buy into the objectives. To the listener, this sounds like you know what you should do but leaves them wondering if you’ve actually done it.
The Solution: Instead, give examples, in the form of carefully crafted interview stories, to support your claims of how you can help the hiring organization fix its problems.
If you’re changing careers or changing industries, it means that some of the details about your achievements may not resonate with potential employers. So here’s what you do. Selectively toss the specifics out. Stick to describing the core of what you’ve achieved so they understand exactly how your experience matches their needs.
So, let’s say you want to change industries. You are currently working in purchasing for a hydro company and you want move to a manufacturing company.
One of your original accomplishment stories for a hydro company is:
- I created a new process for selecting the best dewatering equipment for a hydro company.
Your revised version for a manufacturing company is:
- I created a new process for purchasing specialized equipment.
So, before you head out the door for your next interview, ask yourself : Will these specific details resonate with this hiring organization? If not, toss them out.
Back on April 27th, I received an inquiry from one of my newsletter subscribers. I’ll call her Anne. Anne and I talked about her job search issues. She told me about her background, including her recent training in interior design. Here’s what I remembered about her interior design experience from that brief part of our conversation: Her design instructor told her she had perfect color sense. She helped a friend’s father who was disappointed with a color consultation from an expert. The father was thrilled with Anne’s suggestions.
10 weeks later, my friend Lorraine told me she was experiencing color angst about her livingroom. Anne immediately sprang to my mind. I told Lorraine about her perfect color sense. And, I arranged for them to meet. Lorraine was very pleased with Anne’s help, including her suggestions on how to change the furniture arrangement too.
I remembered Anne because she told me those two stories. Here’s why:
- She was specific about her interior design expertise – color.
- She described herself from another’s point of view – her instructor. That made her statement sound credible.
- She told me about how she fixed problems – the father’s disappointment when he hired a color expert.
It was the sum total of both stories that really convinced me of her skills. Had she simply said she took an interior design course, I wouldn’t have remembered her expertise nor would I have asked her to help Lorraine.
So, what does this have to do with interviews? It proves that carefully crafted stories stay memorable weeks or even months after they’re told. Anne’s ability to describe her specific expertise in convincing ways opened up a new opportunity for her. And, using interview stories can open new doors for you too.
For tips, tricks and techniques on creating memorable interview stories, read these newsletter articles: Stories Interviewers Will Remember and Making Stories Stick.
I’ve noticed that companies are shortening the length of their job interviews. They’re spending less time on each candidate and interviewing more candidates for each position. Interviews that were 60 minutes long are now typically 30 to 45 minutes in length for a senior positions. Why? – when it is so important to get the right people in senior roles? I assume this change comes from both the sheer number of qualified candidates in the marketplace and the rapid pace of today’s business environment. One senior finance client said the hiring company told him that they were interviewing 15 people for the CFO role.
As a candidate, this means that you have less time to get your message heard. So, your personal branding statement is even more important. It should be tight and targeted. Spend time before your interview uncovering and understanding the specific issues facing the hiring organization. That will help you tailor it so it resonates with them immediately. And, your supporting interview stories should be tight and targeted too. Research shows that people remember a maximum of three ideas from presentations. So, use a maximum of 3 short interview stories to support your branding statement. State the result first, then how you achieved it. Make each story two or three sentences in length.
Here’s an example from my own interview experience. In 1999, I decided I wanted to change into a new consulting specialty as a mid-career move. Consulting firms are keenly interested in people who can bring in revenue. My personal branding statement was: I get and keep clients. That simple statement got me in every door when I cold called. In support of that statement, one of my interview stories was: I got all my clients back after a 12-month expatriate assignment. I nurtured them from afar.
A tight and targeted message will help them remember you in a positive way so you stand out from the crowd of qualified candidates and land the job you really want!