All too often we approach an interview without a strategy for success. We make the mistakes of thinking we cannot be in control of the process much less the outcome, we don't put ourselves in the shoes of the ideal candidate, and worst of all, we don't finish strong. Stop relying on LUCK, and start relying on STRATEGY.
Think like a solution, not an employee
This is a concept I speak to people about a lot. The thing is, until you actually own the business that is paying the salaries of the people that you employ, it is very difficult to fully grasp why this is such an important point. But an understanding of this will undoubtedly help you land more jobs, so dig in and pay attention. The very best people that have ever worked for me had a knack for not only exceeding expectations in their defined role responsibilities, but they also were able to keep their eyes open for problems. And when they found problems, they solved them.
You understand, there is value that you provide in performing your job responsibilities, and for that, you are paid a salary. I pay you to perform a specific set of responsibilities that we agree upon when you show up on day one. But there is a whole different level of employee who is able to find problems and create solutions. If you can be this kind of person, I guarantee you will be the one that gets the promotions and the raises when the time comes.
Well that is great Mark, but I thought we were talking about getting a job, not getting a promotion?
If you want a job that I am hiring for, show me you are a problem solver. Do this by understanding and asking questions on the role and what its responsibilities are, but also, ask questions above the role. Ask questions about what challenges the company is facing. Or what are the biggest struggles facing the team you are interviewing to join. Ask questions about progression. Show me you have the ability to see past the role and to the future of the company. I want to hire people that don't need me to fix things. I want to hire solutions, not employees.
Control the Interview
It is safe to say almost everyone reading this post has been interviewed at some time, but in case you have not, let me briefly cover the process. The candidate walks in, sits down, we small talk, I ask a list of prepared questions, I then ask if they have questions for me, I then walk them to the door and shake their hand and tell them they will be hearing from me soon. Sound familiar? Well it should. This is how 99% of interviews go.
Q: Was this candidate in control of the interview?
Q: Is it crazy to think you (the candidate) can be in control of the interview?
I want candidates to guide the interview! This shows me a very high level of emotional intelligence and confidence to lead. Show me you why you should get this job. Connect with me. Set the stage. Ask me questions like, “Can we agree to be completely open and honest with each other?” Direct the interview and conversation to your strengths. I am not going to remember the fancy name on the resume, but I WILL remember the candidate who controlled the interview and handled themselves flawlessly.
Reflect the Role
The sad truth about interviewing is, in order to be successful, you must tailor your resume, cover letter, and dress to reflect the role you are applying for. If you are in the market and applying for 4 different jobs, you must be willing to tailor your resume and cover letter 4 different times. If you don’t have the time for that, then I am sorry but you will not be devising a strategy for success, you will be relying on luck and that is not what we do. It’s the chameleon rule - become the candidate that I am looking for. I know I am not going to find a person that fits exactly who I am looking for, but show me you can be the part. Show me you have what it takes to fit into this role.
This is even more important if you are being interviewed at a big company by the HR department and not by me at a small business. I can tell if you have what it takes to succeed at my company but an HR manager may not. The HR team is usually given a specific description of what kind of candidate the company needs for a particular role, then they use that paragraph or two and compare it to you. Look the part and be the part.
This includes cleaning up your social media accounts and monitoring your online presence. Interview questions like “Tell me what I would find if I searched YOUR NAME on google” are becoming more and more widely used. Be ready to handle those questions.
Be Real and Do Not Overreach
Do you know what really makes me nervous in an interview that I am conducting? It is when I can tell a candidate is overreaching to try to impress me. Now please understand, there is nothing wrong with trying to impress me, I want you to impress me. But what I don't want, is you to overreach in your answers to my questions. If you overreach in your answers in an interview, you will overreach in your answers on the job. And that is an operational risk that I cannot afford. If I ask you about your experience with SQL and you don't have any, don’t tell me you are familiar with it and have used it a little bit. Tell me the truth, then give me an example of how you have learned something very quickly in the past. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to be hired and be unable to meet the expectations YOU provided ME in the interview. The interview is not the time to make promises that you may not be able to keep. Do not underestimate my ability to know whether you are overreaching in your answers or not.
Friends this is one of the most important things you can do to increase your ability to land great jobs. Call out the elephant in the room. Ask me, “Mark, what is your biggest hesitation about my candidacy for this role?” Ask me! This question is great for both of us. It’s great for me because I get to say what is on my mind as the biggest concern about you, and you get a chance to defend yourself! That conversation may go something like this:
You: Mark, I wanted to thank you for your time today. I am really excited about this opportunity and wanted to ask you what your biggest hesitation is regarding my candidacy right now.
Me: You know, I am glad you asked me that. I like everything about your background except for the fact that it looks like you have bounced around from job to job over the past 3 years and I am worried this role will be just another pit stop on your career track.
You see, now the elephant in the room is called out. You know what the concern is and you have a chance to explain why I shouldn’t be concerned. Ask what my hesitation is - then defend yourself. If you want the job, don’t leave me with a reason not to hire you.
I strongly encourage you to ask a next steps question. I can’t tell you how many people just stand up after I have finished my list of question and walk out the door. Show me you care. Ask me when you should expect to hear back on an answer. Ask me what the next steps are. Possible questions are:
- If I move to the next stage, will there be another round of interviews or will you be making the decision after this round?
- What does the decision making process look like from here?
- What can I do to show you I am the perfect candidate for this job?
Finish strong by asking strong questions. Have the courage to ask me about my hesitations. Don’t make ME be the guy who has to go out of his way to give YOU a chance to explain your weaknesses! Because guess what, I am not going to do it. And ask me about next steps. Make me give you a timeline on when to hear from me.
Friends, landing your dream job will not come by luck. It will come by a well executed strategy of preparation, confidence, and energy.
You now have the tools to stand out above the pack.
Go get that job.