Are You A Commodity in the Employment Marketplace?

September 30, 2011

Keep Ahead of the Competition

Competition is Fierce

In a competitive and crowded marketplace, every product and service must differentiate itself. It is not enough to be simply as good as all the rest, because there are too many “all the rests” in the market. In addition, with easy access to cheap (or even free) Internet advertising, there is a great deal of advertising that makes differentiating services and determining buying decisions difficult- just think of all the pop-up ads you see online. In the employment marketplace, this is exemplified by the tens of thousands of job sites and hundreds of resumes submitted over the Internet in response to advertised jobs. To rise above the flood of advertising, successful companies establish powerful branding and distinct value-adds. You can adopt the same strategy to rise above the flood of your competition in the employment marketplace.

A value-add refers to an extra feature of a service that goes beyond the standard expectations and provides a more compelling reason to purchase. A value-add makes the service more desirable and positively influences the buying decision. However, a value-add has no value if it is not in addition to good service. Always having on-time delivery does not make a difference if the pizza tastes terrible.
The worst position for a service is to be a commodity. A service is a commodity when it is equivalent no matter who provides it. A provider of a commodity service is easily exchanged for another provider of the same service who offers a lower price. For example, many dry cleaners provide a commodity service. Customers will change to another dry cleaner if they can find one that costs less. In the employment marketplace, many employees[md]even mid- and senior-level employees[md]are commodities in that they provide a service that can be replaced easily. In bad economies, companies replace more expensive “commodity” employees with cheaper employees. Are you a commodity in the employment marketplace?

If you are a commodity, it will be difficult to differentiate yourself in interviews. However, most of us are not commodities we just have not deteremined out value-adds. To determine your value-adds:

Know Yourself

Take a complete inventory of your skills. Do not limit the inventory to skills applicable to the job for which you are interviewing; do a full inventory. This inventory should include skills connected to your job, interests, hobbies, and leisure activities. When you have a full inventory, you can choose which skills serve as value-adds for the job for which you’re applying.

Know Your Profession

Every profession has a number of areas of concentration and a large skill base. For example, within human resources, you might be applying to be a compensation manager. However, the human resources field has a number of other specialty areas and required skills, such as diversity management, employee retention, job-task analysis, and international employment. You might have experience in international employment, and even though you’re applying to be a compensation manager, having international employment experience could be a differentiating value-add for a multinational company or a company that is expanding internationally.

Once you have determined you value-ads, use an interview presentation to clearly communicate them in your interview. To learn more about value-ads in interviews go to Active Interviewing.

Read Active Interviewing to Learn More About Value-Ads

Read Active Interviewing to Learn More About Value-Ads


Do You Interview to “The Ask”?

September 22, 2011

Sell to the Ask

What's the "Ask"?

Tom Searchy, a master sales person, tells sales people to “sell to the ask”. He is referring to what the customer wants to do next- which may be considerably less than you want. For example you may want a signed contract and the buyer wants to have you present to the next higher decision maker. Or, you may want a full blown program and the customer wants a pilot program. Searchy states that when you sell past the ask you are moving too quickly, asking too much, and you will create resistance in the customer. Moving too fast indicates you don’t understand his needs or the culture of the company and trust is shot.

The same is true in interviewing, don’t interview past the “ask”. In your interview, ask questions to understand the “ask”- what are the next step in the interview process, who will be a part of it, and how long it will take. If the next step is a second round of interviews, don’t try to sell yourself into the position. Getting to the second round of interviews is your “ask”.

Here are some examples:

In a phone screening interview you just have to qualify for a face to face interview. There is no reason to give all the details of your work history and sell yourself into the position, you just have to communicate that you are qualified for the job and you are someone who should be considered further. The screener’s “ask”  is simply winnowing down the slate of candidates and then sending the qualified candidates on to the hiring manager. Once you get a feeling that the screener considers you a good candidate, become more relaxed less salesy and more conversational/relational. One way to do this would be to ask question of the screener- how do they like the company, how long they have been there and so on.

In a first round of a multi-round interview process, don’t talk about getting the position, talk about being invited to the next round. So instead of asking, “Am I someone you can see on your team?”, ask “Am I one of the candidates that will be asked back for a second round of interviews?”  Asking to be considered for the position is a commitment that you have not earned. However, you may have earned a second interview.

By keeping the “ask” in mind, you will go at the hiring manager’s speed, you will not come off as pushy or arrogant and you will develop a winning level of trust.

Active Interviewing

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An Interview Presentation is a Targeted Sales Presentation

September 19, 2011

Target for job interview

Use a presentation to target your information to the hiring manager

Unlike a sales presentation, which can be for selling unlimited services or products, every interview presentation has the exact same goal: landing a job. Because the goal is well defined, an interview presentation has a defined format (much like a resume does), and the content is sharply focused.

An interview attempts to answer three questions:

     *     Can you do the job?

     *     Are you motivated to do the job?

     *     Will you fit the culture of the company, and will they like you?

Using these three questions as the focus, the interview presentation includes all the information a hiring manager needs to answer these questions. Using a presentation, you will actively communicate the information the hiring manager needs to know to make an informed hiring decision.

An effective interview presentation consists of a structure that frames the objective (presenting the reasons you are the best choice), covers all relevant material, transitions smoothly from topic to topic, and finishes strong. In addition, it should be well organized, short, focused, and relevant. A powerful interview presentation includes the following:

     *     A purpose. This is the one thing you want the interviewer to remember when you leave the interview. Typically, this is the same for any interview: “Based on my background, experience, skills, education, and personality traits, I am the best candidate for this position.” You introduce an interview presentation with this exact purpose: “I have a presentation that communicates how my background, skills, and experience match the critical requirements for this position and makes me an excellent candidate. May I share it with you?”

     *     Critical information. The critical information in an interview is how well you can perform the job. Performing well consists of doing the job tasks with high quality, fitting into the company culture, and getting along with others. To communicate your ability to do the job, there must be agreement about the job requirements. The first part of the presentation addresses the job requirements: “These are what I consider to be the critical job requirements for this position. I would like to discuss them with you to make sure we are in agreement about them.” This aligns your and the hiring manager’s expectations. When there is agreement about the requirements, the rest of the presentation focuses on your match to the requirements.

     *     Benefits. Every person listening to a presentation is thinking, “How does this affect me or benefit me?” If there is no effect or benefit, the person quickly loses interest. Each item mentioned in an interview presentation should link to a benefit for the hiring manager. For example, “You’re looking for a person with experience in new consumer product introduction. In my previous position, I introduced three mass consumer hardware products that accounted for $4.5 million in sales. As part of the introduction, I was responsible for consumer research, product development, marketing strategy, and sales. As you introduce new products, I’ll be able to provide expert leadership in each of these areas, which means that you will require fewer managers, save personnel costs, and bring products to market more quickly and successfully.”

A visual presentation (which makes an excellent leave-behind) with all of these elements and good, insightful questions make up the most powerful way to communicate in an interview. Candidates who have used interview presentations report dramatic results, and hiring managers are bowled over by their level of preparation, professionalism, and organization. And even without a written document, developing an interview presentation as part of the interview-preparation process is an excellent way to organize critical information that you can present when there is an opportunity in the interview.

Read Active Interviewing to Learn How to Present

An interview presentation is a cornerstone strategy of Active Interviewing