There is a simple interview technique that is easy to learn and very powerful. You can teach this approach to a high school kid, and you can use it yourself.
Once you get to the interview stage, your biggest obstacle as a job-seeker is your hiring manager’s overloaded brain.
It is very easy for a hiring manager to interview so many people in such a short time that the candidates run together. The manager’s brain gets overloaded, and they can’t remember the candidates clearly. You will blend in with everybody else.
The best way to stand out in your interview and be memorable afterwards is to convey the message your hiring manager a/k/a Possible Next Boss wants to receive. What is that message? Here it is:
“I understand what you are up against.”
Most of us have been taught to go to a job interview and talk about ourselves. We’ve been taught to say that we’re smart and hard-working and all kinds of nonsense that no one cares about.
Here’s how to use my simple interview technique to become the top candidate for almost any job. In our first example, sixteen-year-old Flynn is interviewing for his first job. Flynn is interviewing for a cart attendant job at a big retail store.
Manager: So, Flynn, tell me about yourself.
Flynn: For sure! Well, I grew up here in the city and I’m a junior at City High. I play on the volleyball team. Say, can I ask you a quick question about the job?
Flynn: Great. I’ve only been in the store as a shopper so far, of course, but I notice the cart attendants collect the shopping carts in the parking lot and bring them back in the store — and I guess they help people out to their cars with big purchases. I imagine they back up the cashiers and maybe do something in the back — returns? Am I missing any major parts of the job?
Manager: You did well! You’d also clean the bathrooms.
Flynn: Okay, great! It all makes sense.
Manager: When can you start, Flynn?
End of Script
Why was Flynn’s manager so happy to hear Flynn’s description of the cart attendant role? The manager was delighted because most young job-seekers don’t have a good grasp on the elements of the job — or if they do, they don’t communicate them.
Here is Melissa, using the same technique in her interview for a Sales Coordinator role.
Manager: So Melissa, I’d love to hear your story.
Melissa: Great! I graduated from City College three years ago, and I’ve had two jobs since then. I was the Marketing Assistant at Jaundiced Marketing Partners for one year, and then I moved over to one of our clients, Underwater Nightwear, for two years. Now I’m job-hunting because I want to keep learning and growing.
Manager: Awesome! What do you consider your greatest strengths?
Melissa (dispensing quickly with this brainless question): I’d say my ability to roll with changes, because that’s what both of my jobs have required. Can I ask you a quick question about the Sales Coordinator job?
Melissa: From the job ad and my conversation with your recruiter Paula I understand this is a new role, designed to support your inside and outside salespeople with proposals, order tracking, maintaining the customer database and perhaps other projects. Am I in the ballpark?
Manager: Yes! That was a good summary. One of the biggest issues is that smaller customers can get neglected. They don’t hear from us often enough.
Melissa: So you’d be looking for me or whoever you hire in this job to devise ways to keep in touch with those folks — beyond what your Marketing team is doing? It sounds like the purpose of this position is to let your salespeople focus on selling — and to be the backstop for anything your clients need.
All you have to do to make an immediate, strong and positive impression in your hiring manager’s mind is to think through the job that you are interviewing for. Don’t take the view “I’ll learn about the job once I get to the interview.” It’s too late by then!
A manager who’s considering hiring you is a potential client. If they hire you they will be your only client and thus a very important person in your life. Every client wants the same thing from an initial meeting. They want to be heard. They want to know that the consultant who proposes to solve their problem truly understands the challenge.
Clients don’t like it when you half-listen to them and then sail right into your sales pitch. Who could blame them? All of us want and expect to be heard.
Hiring managers especially need to be heard. They cannot care about your sterling credentials until they know that you understand what they are looking for, as well as the pain they are experiencing now. If there were no pain, they would not be hiring anyone!
Practice this technique for a few days before any upcoming job interview. Put yourself mentally into the job. Imagine the conversation between the hiring manager and his or her tight-fisted CFO — the person who had to approve the job opening. What arguments did the hiring manager put forth to get approval to spend those salary dollars?
That question is worth reflection! It is the key to your ability to change the hiring manager’s mindset from “Which one of these candidates can help me?” to “How quickly can I get this brilliant person on board?”