Saving an Interview and Landing a Job

January 23, 2013

With an Interview Presentation This Could Happen to You!

Joe, a senior salesperson for a digital machine company, was contacted by an executive recruiter about a position at another digital machine company. Joe was interested in the position and asked the recruiter to set up an appointment with Ron, the hiring manager. As is often the case with busy executives, finding a time to meet was difficult, and the meeting was rescheduled multiple times over several weeks. While Joe and Ron were finding a time to meet, Ron’s company identified an internal candidate and offered her the position.

Because Joe was a senior executive and Ron did not want to cancel again, Ron decided to meet with Joe even though the job had already been offered to an internal candidate who Ron believed would probably accept the job. The meeting was on a hot July day in the late afternoon in a hotel in Center City Philadelphia. Due to traffic and parking, both men arrived a little late, sweaty, and harried. Wanting to limit the interview time, upon sitting down Ron told Joe that he had a dinner with a client scheduled and that he had about 45 minutes to meet. Joe had prepared an interview presentation, and he said, “I’ve prepared a presentation about how my background and skills match the critical requirements of the job and why I’m a good candidate for the position. Because our time is short, maybe we can just go through presentation together.”

iBest Interview Presentation

Use a presentation to win your interview.

Ron was relieved to have Joe take the lead and not have to run a “lame duck” interview. Joe took Ron through the presentation page by page. Because he knew the industry, in the questions section Joe included a question about a challenge with which every digital machine company was struggling. Ron said, “We’re trying to come up with strategies for this problem- let me tell you some of our thinking.” Ron went and got a napkin and began to draw diagrams.

Forty-five minutes later, Joe and Ron were still discussing potential strategies to solve the problem. Did Joe get the job? No, he didn’t, because the internal candidate got it. However, Ron went back to his boss, showed him the interview presentation, and convinced him to create a position for Joe, which Joe took. Without the presentation, Joe and Ron would have met for 45 minutes, and Joe would’ve been forgotten as soon as Ron’s dinner started. The presentation gave Joe a way to structure the interview and present information he wanted Ron to know in a brief amount of time, and it gave Ron a printed document to show his boss. The presentation was an interview- and life-changer for Joe.



Job Interview- Who do You Think is in Control?

January 3, 2013

  1. Active Interviewing

    Who is leading this process?

Here is an interesting and pertinent question: Who is in control of a sales call? One might argue that the purchaser decides the time, place, format, participants in the sales call, and service requirements, and they make the final decision; thus, the purchaser is in control. This is all true; however, a skilled salesperson actively manages the sales process, influencing and guiding the sales decision. When you walk into a car dealership or an appliance store, the salesperson takes you through a sales process, hopefully leading up to a sale. You are in control of the purchase decision, and they are in control of the sales process. If they are good, then even if you spend more money than you intended, you end up feeling positive about the experience and your decision.

So who is in control of the interview? Over the years, I have spoken with thousands of job seekers about their interview experiences. The most common complaint is that the interviewer spent the entire time speaking about himself or the company and didn’t get to know the candidate. I often ask the job seeker, “Why did you let the interviewer get away with that?” Their typical response is, “What could I do? They control the interview.” Well, what would a good salesperson do? A salesperson would take charge, guide the interview, and introduce the information she thinks the interviewer needs to know about her.

A very common misconception about interviews is that the interviewer likes being in control, and any effort to take control will doom any hiring chances. My clients’ experience has been exactly the opposite: Hiring managers love to share control and be “sold” by candidates. Remember, typically you will have an unskilled interviewer stressed by making a critical hiring decision. When a candidate essentially says, “Sit back; let me take the lead and present the information you need to know to make a good decision,” most interviewers are thrilled and relieved. Only once in hundreds of interviews has an interviewer not wanted to see and hear a candidate’s interview presentation. That one time was a human resources representative doing a screening interview; the hiring manager loved the presentation.

This brings us to a related question: Who is to blame for a bad interview? The answer typically depends on whom you ask. The interviewer will blame the candidate for lack of preparation, lack of company knowledge, poor answers to questions, lack of good questions to ask, improper interview behavior, and so on. The candidate will blame the interviewer for lack of preparation, withholding information about the position, turning the interview into a cross-examination, showing up late, and/or asking questions unrelated to job skills. My answer is, the blame for a bad interview is shared, although the problem of a bad interview is unfortunately yours. Good candidates are prepared with a number of interview strategies that will save the interview and win the job.

Why is Hiring You A Good Idea- Does the Interviewer Know?

December 3, 2012

Good Idea

Hire You- Good Idea!

Why Hiring You Is a Good Idea

Good salespeople lead a buyer through a sales process toward a purchase. They begin by understanding the buyer’s needs and linking the features of their service to those needs. They then talk about value-adds, tell success stories about purchasers who’ve used their service, provide an implementation plan, and finally summarize why they are the best choice based on the benefits their service provides. Good salespeople understand that prospects won’t understand why they should buy a service simply because they’ve been told about it. Buyers need to be informed very directly, in simple language, of why the salesperson’s service is the best purchasing decision.

The critical element in a purchasing decision is the benefits. No buyer purchases a service without clearly seeing the benefits she will get from the service. But most job candidates focus on the skills and experience they bring to the job and don’t clearly state the benefits the company will derive from hiring them. They never clearly communicate, “This is why hiring me is a good idea.”

Don’t Let Hiring Managers Guess about Hiring You

The traditional interview consists of a question-and-answer format resulting in the hiring manager putting together the information she has heard and making a decision (guess) about which candidate to hire. But why let the hiring manager come to her own conclusion? Following your interview(s), the hiring manager should have a clear picture of why hiring you is a good idea[md]because you have told her exactly why!

Part of your interview preparation is developing a list of the benefits the company will get from hiring you. These benefits are even more powerful if they differentiate you from the competition. Going into an interview with this list of benefits will help you be focused and more confident. However, this list is of value only if you share it with the hiring manager.

In Job Interviews Find the Pain and Get the Job

June 20, 2012

Discovering the “Pain”

Many sales training programs instruct salespeople to look for the prospect’s “pain” points. Their contention is that customers are motivated to purchase services only if the service relieves a pain or problem. In many sales situations, the prospect knows the pain and is looking for a solution- for example, “My computer is broken. It can’t be repaired, and I need to purchase a new one.” In other situations, a salesperson has to identify the pain for a prospect and then sell her the solution: “Are you aware that your computer isn’t being backed up offsite to a secure location, and you could lose all your information? You need a backup service.” When you are buying something, consider what pain you are hoping to relieve.

Candidates can do both- sell to the obvious pain and identify additional pain points. The obvious pain is the company’s stated reasons for hiring- replacing a person who has left or staffing a new position. There are typically more subtle issues beneath the obvious reasons for hiring someone. Your task is to discover the subtle issues beneath the obvious ones and include these in your interview.

You already know how to discover the pain points: Ask good questions and listen. When interviewing with the hiring manager, listen for subtle statements related to pain points. For example, suppose you’re interviewing for a call-center supervisor position. In the interview, the hiring manager mentions that she spends so much of her time doing reports that she is not able to implement new money-saving programs that would make her look good. The obvious pain point is supervising the staff, but the subtle pain is all the time-sucking reporting. The first step is to gather more information about the reporting pain by asking, “What kinds of reports are required and how often?” When you have this information, talk about things you have done in your past related to reporting and how your experience with reports can save her time. This could be just the differentiator you need to win the position.

Consider that a hiring manager’s work pain may be related indirectly to personal issues. For example, a hiring manager might do a lot of traveling and thus sacrifice time with his family. If you can take some of the travel burden, he can spend time with his family, and you’ve addressed that pain. Once again, by asking good questions and listening, you can hear pain points that, if addressed, can be the pain reliever you can use to land the job.

The Best Pain of All
The best pain of all is the pain a hiring manager begins to feel when she thinks about working with someone other than you- another candidate who could be less than satisfactory, less efficient, less ethical, less timely, less friendly, less enthusiastic, and less able to solve her pain points. When you have done a great job of interviewing, the hiring manager will begin to experience this pain, and she will work hard to hire you. No one wants to hire number two, and she will negotiate with you to bring you onto her team. You are in your strongest negotiating position at this point in regard to compensation negotiations.

Here’s How to Interview Better- Hey Are You Listening?

May 23, 2012

A number of listening pitfalls will trip you up in your job interview. Don’t fall in these listening pitfalls:

  • Being so intent on what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to make your point. You may be thinking that you have a very important point you want the interviewer to know, and if you don’t say it now, the opportunity will be lost. In reality, you won’t lose the opportunity, and this pitfall often results in an interruption[md]never a good thing during an interview.,
  •  Formulating and focusing on your answers quickly, based on what the speaker is saying. Candidates often are so concerned about giving the “right” answer that they get nervous and stop listening. They also have the misconception that they have to answer a question immediately after it is asked. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “Let me think about that,” and then take 30 to 40 seconds to formulate an answer. A thoughtful, considered answer is better than a quick, confused, or off-target response.
  • Focusing on your own personal beliefs about what you’re hearing. Your personal beliefs form a filter that may distort the interviewer’s meaning. It is important to be aware of how your beliefs distort what you hear and adjust for the distortion. You can do this by becoming consciously aware of your beliefs. For example, the interviewer might be talking about the importance of offshoring certain functions in their department. Perhaps you are opposed to sending jobs overseas. Your opposition may impact how you listen to the interviewer’s message. However, if you say to yourself, “This is an area of disagreement for me. I need to stay in active listening,” you will be able to focus on the message and not your internal resistance and judgment.
  • Evaluating and making judgments about the speaker or the message. While the interviewer is busy making subjective judgment about you, you are busy making subjective judgments about her. Judgments can distort how you hear things- both positively and negatively. If you have a positive impression of the interviewer, you might tend to believe what she is saying and not ask clarifying questions. If you judge the interviewer negatively, you might prematurely dismiss what she is saying and not listen fully. Be aware of your judgments, which can be as simple as whether you like or dislike the person, so that you don’t lose the message.
  • Not asking for clarification when you know you don’t understand. Many candidates think that asking for clarification is a signal to the interviewer that they don’t understand and that, as a result, they will appear stupid. A candidate of mine walked out of an interview sweating because the interviewer used an acronym he did not know, and he didn’t ask what it meant. Throughout the interview, the candidate was hoping he wouldn’t be caught; as a result, he was a nervous wreck and performed poorly. It turned out that the acronym was an obscure, little-known term that he couldn’t have known anyway. The interviewer was either impressed the candidate knew or guessed that he was covering up- probably the latter, since there was no job offer.
As it is in all sales situations, listening is the most important activity in a job interview. The more time you spend listening and understanding the job, the better you can match your background, skills and experience to the critical job requirements.

Are You Prepared to Answer These Critical Questions in Your Job Interview?

March 26, 2012

www.ActiveInterviewing.comWhen customers purchase services (including yours), they typically ask six basic questions. These are the questions you will be answering as well in your interviews. The actual questions asked may differ in format or content; however, the underlying information remains the same.

*     Who is [company]? Customers are asking about industries or markets served, geographic presence, a layman’s expression of the value created, time in business, and the size of the company.

*     What do you do for customers? Customers are asking about the value the company delivers and the top two or three ways customers benefit from it.

*     Who are your top customers, and what do you do for them specifically? Customers are asking for more specific proof or evidence that substantiates the company’s claims of the value they deliver

*     How are you different from other companies who do similar things? The customer wants to learn the differences between the products or services the company provides and those offered by competitors. It is an attempt to clarify why selecting the company is the best choice.

*     Others have made convincing promises about these things and then not delivered. How can we be sure that you will do what you say? Customers have experience purchasing services that did not deliver the value promised, and they are concerned about being subjected to or persuaded by a clever sales pitch. They have been burned, and they are wary.

*     How can we be sure that we would get the best value if we selected you? Customers have multiple companies from which to choose. Asking this question forces a company to make comparisons with competitors and helps clarify the selection decision.

As you prepare for your interview, develop answers to these six customer questions. Then, in your interview, listen for these questions and use your prepared answers. In addition, develop examples and stories to support your answers. In Chapter 10 of the book Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Interview,  you will learn learn how to develop powerful stories to support your claims of value.

Are You Using a Success Story to Win Your Interview?

February 6, 2012

Our Stories Define Who We Are

Our stories define who we are. Our sense of identity is forged by the stories we tell ourselves and share with others. The success stories of our careers tell about the defining moments when we were at our best, using our strengths, and contributing in meaningful ways. Our stories build and communicate our brand.

Most of us have multiple examples of career successes. The key is to understand that a career or job success is not defined by its size or financial value, but rather by how we feel about it and its contribution to the organization. One person’s success story might be about turning around a corporation, saving millions of dollars, and getting his profile in Forbes magazine. Another person’s success story might be about helping a troubled student feel more confident in school and having him progress to the next grade. Interestingly, both these success stories probably depend on many of the same personal success factors, including creativity, persistence, courage, hope, persuasion, and leadership.

When my clients write success stories, they come alive. They remember the times they felt productive and were fulfilling their purpose in their careers. They become energized and get in touch with the skills and strengths they enjoy using in their jobs. Some realize that they are doing what they love, while others are reminded of things they need to return to. Regardless, the stories are important statements of the contributions they have made in the past and indications of contributions they can make in the future[md]if they have done it once, they can do it again.

When telling your success stories, you have energy, enthusiasm, and confidence, and you feel a sense of pride. You are persuasive, engaging, and interesting- all the qualities you want to bring to your interviews! Telling success stories in your interviews will help you differentiate yourself, will impress the interviewer, and will make you memorable.

Active Interviewing

Go to to learn how to develop interview stories