It was 90 degrees with 90% humidity. I was drenched with sweat and dying of thirst. But Coach Ed Hawley wouldn’t let up. He smacked ground ball after ground ball during infield practice with a ferocity likened only to a lumberjack hacking his way through a 3 foot diameter tree trunk. I was playing shortstop for my high school baseball team, circa 1982, and dreading the fact we still had an hour of practice to go. I kicked a groundball and then booted another and let a third carom off my glove. Then, pointing the bat in my direction like a gladiator sword, Coach Hawley let out with a bellow I can still hear to this day:
“Strankowski! You do in practice what you do in the game!”
The next game I sat and didn’t play. Message taken, Coach.
Today, it’s the same thing in the job interview. In the hiring manager’s mind, you do in the interview (the practice) what you will do on the job (the game). No exceptions. The candidates that display a willingness to go up-and-above in the interview, do the things other interviewees are not doing, and show a passion for the position, will greatly increase their chances for success.
But before practicing answers to tough curveball questions and picking out that perfect power tie for the occasion, all job seekers need to understand The Five New Economy Job Interview Essentials. To skip a step here is interview suicide as there is always a candidate in the lot who knows how to sell themselves and maximize their chances. In this tepid economy and challenging job market, the pendulum now sits firmly on the employer’s side.
Don’t boot any easy ground balls during your next interview. Here are the Five New Economy Job Interview Essentials to help you ace the interview and win the job!
1- Job interviews are open book, open note
Hiring managers want you to succeed. Speaking from experience as a former corporate recruiter, the biggest problem I wanted to have was to go to bed at night after a day of interviewing candidates wondering who I was going to hire because they were all so good.
That never happened.
Today’s’ job interview is a sales call with you being both the product and the salesperson. All selling pros come to a prospect meeting prepared. Pros don’t “wing it.” They have an action plan and are ready to shift on the fly if need be. You too need to come prepared with the information that will enable you to succeed: printouts of company web pages (this shows you’ve done your research), extra résumés and job business plans (more later), an agenda, and a list of well-thought-out questions. Pros look like pros so ensure you have a nice folder, good pen, a leather briefcase, planner or smart phone for keeping appointments, and are dressed two levels above the job you’re applying for. You can wear the uniform when you’ve made the team.
2- Balance the tangible with the emotional
As a recruiter I hired more people based on their enthusiasm, achievement drive, and willingness to go the extra mile than grade point average or number of years with XYZ Company. Any hiring manager worth their salt knows that people who want to work for an organization will simply do a better job. Sure, the tangible information counts. Things like relevant skills, education, experience, and areas of expertise should be drawn upon to answer interview questions like arrows in a quiver. But the golden lasso around the entire interview–the thing that will really give your performance some “pop”–is you’re ability to explain just how and why you can get behind what the company or organization does. This is the emotional element of the interview. Whether they sell gravel, coffee, greeting cards, or assist the sick, animals, or elderly, citing reasons to the employer as to how you can champion their cause will score you big points up and beyond basic tangible interview answers.
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3- Connect the dots
All selling pros have a clear understanding of the prospect’s key needs before they begin pitching a product. One of the most common interview faux pas I saw was the inability for some candidates to stay on point when asked a simple question. I had to reel some in that were so far off course they reminded me of deep sea fishing for blue marlin. The fish, or in this case the candidate, is jumping out of the water and taking out line by not staying on point and saying way too much, all in the name of trying to impress me or say something that will stick. A solid interview plan should focus around the top 5-6 duties and responsibilities for the position and then your key skills or experience that will meet or exceed their needs in that area.
Overselling a product is common blunder in the sales game. It’s also a common mistake in the interview game. Being coy and understating your case will not win you the job either. You need to find the balance between brevity and verbosity. 95% of the interview questions you’re asked will be open-ended so prepare to connect the dots as discussed in #3 and cite a specific work example or anecdote that supports your answer. You have the green light and are ok in speaking for around 30-45 seconds, then, start to close things up. More than 45 seconds and you are flying through a yellow light and if you’re still talking by 60 seconds, expect a “talking ticket” in the mail because you just blew through a red. This skill takes time and practice, so whether you talk to the mirror, paper plates with smiley faces on the backs of chairs, or Muffin the cat, vocalize your answers out loud before heading into any interview.
5- Utilize new tools and new strategies: The Job Business Plan and Brag Book
Winning the interview means going up and above. Doing things the homogenous, C+ job seekers are not doing. The best sales people, once they clearly understand the prospect’s key needs and pain areas, always present a professional outline of product and/or service recommendations known as a sales proposal.
You need to do the same things by way of the Job Business Plan. A Job Business Plan is a two to three page mini-business plan you present to the prospective employer during the interview or, in certain cases, before the interview phase. It is designed to show them that you took the time to assess their business needs, perhaps by speaking with an inside coach or the hiring manager, and have used your creativity and business intellect in designing a results-based action plan to offer solutions.
Customers, or in your case the interviewer, also want to see testimonials, references, and validation of the product (you!) before they buy. A Brag Book is a professional portfolio—usually a three-ring binder with page protectors—that details documented academic and professional achievements. By employing this strategy and presenting it during an interview, you are stating to Company XYZ that you are someone who always does more than expected, are a high-achiever, and approaches your job in a very well-organized and pragmatic manner.
With the job market more competitive than it’s been in the last 20 years and companies continuing to do more with less, smart job seekers are going the extra mile when prepping for a job interview. Forward-thinking organizations are also taking more time and utilizing more opinions when making new hires. Today, with the high cost of recruiting in terms of both time and money, there is simply too much riding on a hiring decision to screw it up.
So take a lesson for Coach Ed Hawley and over-deliver. Do in the interview what you’ll do on the job. Show the employer exactly what they’ll be getting by doing the things other job seekers are not doing and letting them know you’re the star player you truly are!