The Simple Interview Trick That Will Get You The Job
The Simple Interview Trick That Will Get You The Job
If you want one thing to focus on in your next job interview (and every job interview you attend in the future) here it is: focus on the person sitting across the desk from you.
It is normal and natural to focus on yourself in a job interview. You want to put your best foot forward. You can’t wait to talk about your career, your accomplishments and your skills.
We’ve been taught to talk about ourselves at a job interview, but it’s not an effective strategy.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that people love to talk about themselves. They love to have other people listen while they talk about what they’ve done, what they’re working on and what’s in their way.
We are all more focused on ourselves than on other people. Your hiring manager — the person who will interview you and hire you for your next job — is also focused more on him- or herself than anything else.
That doesn’t make your future boss a bad person. It makes them human!
Imagine how painful it is for your hiring manager to interview candidate after candidate, listening to each person’s long life and career story. They don’t really care about all these career stories but they have to listen. They have to try to attend to the candidate sitting in front of them, but it’s not easy.
We can brush off your hiring manager’s burden by saying, “Too bad! If they have to interview a lot of candidates and listen to a lot of stories they don’t care about, that’s their problem. They shouldn’t have become a manager if they weren’t ready to do that.”
You could say that and you’d be right, but being right about that won’t help you get hired. You have to be smart, rather than right. Think about your hiring manager’s mindset. They are only interviewing candidates right now because they have pain.
They have a problem! If they didn’t have a problem, they wouldn’t be interviewing anyone.
They have a problem, and they’re as easily distracted as anyone else is. Their mind will wander during your interview — especially if you are rambling on about your story and your trophies.
Your hiring manager may be trying their best to stay focused and attend to your story — but they can’t. Their mind will intrude. They have many other, more interesting things to think about than whatever you are saying.
Mentally, they will leave the interview room and start thinking about other things. If you pay attention, you can see it in their eyes. You are still talking, but they are a million miles away.
You can surmount this obstacle, stay very large in your hiring manager’s mind and get the job. Here’s how!
The simple interview trick that will get you hired is to focus all of your attention on your hiring manager, instead of yourself. Get them off the interview script by asking them to tell you the real reason they need to hire someone right now:
Manager: Can you walk me through your resume, starting at the beginning of your career?
You: Sure! My first job was with Acme Explosives. I learned about Inventory Management there, and then I moved to Wiggly Devices in a Marketing role. Say — I don’t want to bore you to death with my story. Can I ask you a quick question about the job — to make sure I understand what you’re looking for?
You: The ad says you’re looking to hire a Product Manager. I’m guessing you need someone to manage the new line of wireless products you’ve announced for 2010 – is that in the ballpark?
Manager: Yes, we need someone to manage that development project and we also need help on some of our existing products. We’re looking at cutting some of our less-profitable products to make room for new models.
You: I’d love to hear the story.
Manager: Well, our flagship product is the X-15. It was released in 2012. It’s been a great seller since then, but recently it’s not selling as well and it’s also not as profitable.
You: Thanks. I’ve got a few questions for you about that…
Now the interview script is forgotten. If you keep your manager talking about his or her pain, they will not go back to the script — and that’s exactly what you want.
There are three things you must do in the interview in order to get hired.
First, you have to capture your hiring manager’s attention. That is not trivial. You won’t capture their attention by answering their questions the way they expect you to.
Secondly, you have to let your hiring manager know that you understand what they’re up against, and know enough about the subject matter to ask intelligent questions. You won’t be able to demonstrate your insight until you get your hiring manager off the interview script.
That’s why you turned the open-ended question, “Can you walk me through your resume?” into a discussion about the role — and specifically about what isn’t working perfectly right now.
If you get out of the interview without discovering the hiring manager’s pain, you are much less likely to get the job. You have to ask probing questions to understand what’s keeping your hiring manager up at night.
The minute you take the conversation up to a higher level — where your manager is really engaged because the subjects you’re discussing matter more to him or her than almost anything else — you become a very important person to your manager.
The third thing you have to do in order to get hired is that you have to give the hiring manager confidence that you can solve his or her greatest problem. You won’t do that by spitting out the answer to the problem, which will not be a well-informed answer because you are not walking in the hiring manager’s shoes.
Any magic bullet you suggest at the interview can only be stolen or dismissed as impractical. Don’t give away the “right answer” to the manager’s pain at the interview — but use the interview to let the manager know that you offer his or her best hope for finding that answer, and putting it into practice.