We all end up in a job interview at one time or another. When we're out of work, when we're looking for our next big opportunity, when we're gunning from an internal promotion. Whatever your career situation - new professional, seasoned manager, or senior executive - you must learn to perform in job interviews if you're going to reach your career potential.
One of the nice things about being in the later stages of my career is that I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of Senior Executives. I always find myself in conversations about careers, best practices and even job interviews. I've probably talked to a hundred or more senior leaders about their secrets to performing well in job interviews and there are three interview tips that just keep coming up over and over again. I'll include some of my own articles on the subject at the bottom of this page so you can get into detail on these tips but for now let me give you a quick summary so you can get into the right mindset.
Here are the 3 interview tips I hear from just about every successful executive:
Interview Tip #1 - You must establish unique positioning
Before I ever walk into an interview I get a clear picture in my mind of the various types of candidates likely to be applying. For example there might be a customer expert - someone who has deep knowledge of the industry and target audience. There could be a functional expert - someone who's extremely deep in the professional discipline you're pursuing. There could be a technology expert - someone with a ton of experience in the methods or product the company sells. Or there could be a jack of all trades - someone with a balanced set of tools across all these things.
Wherever you fit. Whatever unique thing you bring relative to the other candidates likely to be applying, you need to be aware and build a story about your uniqueness. Too many candidates go into job interviews without a positioning strategy. They leave it up to the employer to put them into a category and compare with the others. That is way too passive.
Its critical that you go into your next interview with a clear picture of what types of candidates you're likely up against and what your unique position is. This will be the source for your messaging in the interview process.
I also use a very unique resume template to help me establish my unique position right out of the gate. Its a template I built to make me stand out in a pile of 20 or 30 other resumes. This is the actual resume template I used to beat out a bunch of tough competing candidates recently to win my dream job. It looks super fancy but its built using basic tables in Microsoft Word so its really easy to edit. I highly recommend checking it out.
Interview Tip #2 - You must show the value of your uniqueness
Its one thing to know what your unique position is, but you also have to be able to tell a compelling story about why that position has value. For example, if you're likely the strongest candidate when it comes to industry and customer expertise but a little weak in technical or functional expertise, you need to come prepared to tell a story about why that is the ONLY choice that makes sense for the company. In your preparation for the interview you need to build an argument for why a customer expert has so much more value than someone deep in the product or technology.
If this were me, I'd probably tell a story about how it takes years to fully understand the complexity of the customer. You can't just do a training course or two and have an expansive industry network with tons of on site customer experience. I'd tell a story to help the employer see why it makes so much more sense to choose a customer expert over a product expert. But here's the thing ... I could tell the same story in reverse if I wanted. I could tell a super compelling story about why its absolutely critical to hire someone with deep technical expertise - that there are just so few people out there with that special knowledge. That customers are ultimately looking for experts who can help them, make them smarter, improve their lives.
My point is, whatever your unique position is, you must be able to tell a story in your job interview that helps the hiring manager see why you bring unique value to the company.
Interview Tip #3 - You must demonstrate proof of your ability
I also call this one "reducing the risk of choosing you". Its critical in the interview process to show the employer what its going to be like when they've actually hired you. If you put yourself in their shoes for a minute, its very difficult to ever really know how a candidate will perform when they're on the job. As a hiring manager you do your best, but you never really know. Its a source of great anxiety quite frankly.
One of the best things you can do to differentiate yourself from other candidates and to make it easier for a company or hiring manager to pull the trigger on you, is to SHOW them what you can do. The 30 60 90 Day Plan is the perfect tool for doing this. Many people think a 30 60 90 Day Plan is just for once you've landed the job -- they couldn't be more wrong. I use it as my secret weapon in job interviews. Your competitors won't be doing it, and its a great way to show your propspective employer exactly what they'll be getting when they hire you.
If I get down to a few candidates in an interview process, I'm highly confident I'll get the job because I always use a 30 60 90 Day Plan as my secret weapon. I created a template that works for me and you can get it here. And if you're not sure about spending a couple bucks on it, I describe it in detail in this blog so you can build it yourself.
Check out these other great blogs about interviews and job search