How is interviewing for a job similar to speed dating or giving a sales pitch?
Whether we realize it or not, interviewing for a job is no different from speed dating or giving a product sales pitch. Think I’m crazy. Well think about it: a successful speed dater or presenter has a few minutes to engage their listener and to differentiate him/herself or the product from the competition – just like a successful candidate during a job interview. The common successful denominator for all these people is communicating a strong image of who/ what they are and what they stand for. So how do you do this during a job interview?
1. Create your own brand by identifying what you stand for
One question that is often asked in interviews is: What are your strengths and weaknesses? To put it another way, if you were the only person to save your organization, what would you do? What skills would you show?
Example: One of my strengths is that I love putting out fires before they begin. For example when I’m working on a project, I identify potential pitfalls and put into place safeguards to stop problems from occurring in the first place or alternatively I try to contain these “fires”.
2. Use a metaphor/ simile to describe your job
In a world that exists of job titles that our grandparents or even our parents would not understand - think of Beverage Dissemination Officer (bar tender) or Chief Chatter (Call Centre Manager) - what we actually do is not always obvious from the job title. Therefore make these abstract job titles more concrete by using metaphors (a figure of speech) e.g. she is the spider in a web in her department, or a simile (saying something is like something else) e.g. “she communicates like a bulldozer” to explain what you do and how you work.
This is especially important if the interviewer may not be your line manager and may be less familiar with the content of the advertised job, such as the company’s HR person.
Example: A Functional SAP Consultant is like an interpreter between the IT software designers and the business clients. He/ she listens to the client, interprets the client’s needs and informs the software designers about what technical software the client needs to run his/ her business.
3. Use storytelling to translate your CV/resume
Be prepared to describe at least three experiences that illustrate how you tackled challenges and met and surpassed any goals. However, don’t communicate it in bullet form, but be like a lawyer who not only holds up exhibit A, B and C, but also puts the information into context by telling a story. Storytelling connects with the emotions of a situation and not only the facts; by doing this you will leave a longer lasting impression of who you are.
Example using facts: Earlier in my career I came up with a training module which ran for about 12 years.
This states what I did, but is rather forgettable. Let’s put it in a storytelling form.
“About 13 years ago, I was studying for my Master’s in International Relations as well as working part-time as an English trainer. One day I was sat in the library flicking through the Harvard Business Review trying to find articles to support the paper I was writing. Suddenly, my eye caught an advert about doing an Executive Masterclass in Giving Presentations at Harvard University. A light bulb went off at that moment. What if my company were to offer such a course to students learning Business English? Most of them needed to give a presentation. But, they couldn’t afford to take time off work to do a week long course which my company was offering at the time. What if we were to provide such a 2 day Masterclass focusing on a specific aspect of English. This would not only bring in new clients, but would also meet our clients’ needs? I did some research, wrote a business plan and presented it to one of the Director of Client Relations. The rest is history: a new product was born which ran for many years, and brought in both new clients but also provided an after-sales product to existing clients.”
Wouldn’t you agree that the storytelling approach creates a more memorable image than the fact based one?
The above are simple techniques to use during an interview, but make sure you do your homework about the job and the organization; take a notebook with questions you might have and also for making notes; and show your enthusiasm about the job and the organization during the interview. Finally, if the situation is appropriate, before the interview concludes, ask how you compare to the ideal candidate to get constructive feedback.
The start of a beautiful relationship?
Hopefully by using all the above techniques, you will be able to “woo” your prospective employer into making them want to give you a “second date”. And, maybe, this job interview will be the start of a beautiful relationship.
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