The belief that being interviewed is a passive role seems to be widely held and we think this idea is not true and essentially flawed. There are ways to be proactive and to sell yourself effectively whilst remaining in the norms of an interview scenario. Here are some ideas to be considered:
1. You are there to sellTo promote yourself effectively, think of yourself as a high value product and that your job is to sell yourself to the interviewer. That means understanding what the interviewer thinks is the solution to their business issue and then, to demonstrate how your product matches with their solution-idea. Of course, one has to accept that there may not match and that’s fine.
a. Acknowledgement: There is an awareness that there is a business problem or issue that needs solving, be it fixing, building something or exploiting an opportunity.
b. Job Specification: A job spec will be written answering questions such as: What skills, experience and culture will our recruit need to solve our business issue?
c. Searching for Options: It is now time to consider if the recruit should be an internal promotion, a transfer from another part of the business or someone from outside.
d. Selection: At this point candidates will be found and then formal interviews will be conducted. Bear in mind that the job spec is likely to be refined and developed as the recruitment team meet candidates. This is because issues will be raised during interviews which make them realise un-thought of possibilities or pulls them into a more realistic and grounded solution. The candidate who seems to be the best fit for the spec will be hired.And please note that the earlier on in the decision chain, the more likely the interviewer may be to engaging in a collaborative discussion rather than later on, once the view of the solution has hardened.
2. Understand the Business Issue and their Perceived SolutionIn the old model, the interviewer knows what they are looking for and questions to ask the candidate on that basis. Then alone decide if the candidate fits. There will have been little or no input from the candidate in that decision. We would suggest that the candidate can strive for a more active role in the interview. If the candidate understands the business issue and proposed solution then they will better able to help the interviewer get a more clear understanding of fit. However, how does one do that without seeming to wrest control from the interviewer and appearing to usurp their authority?
a. Read the job specification if possible. This should give you a clear idea of what they are looking for. Remember that the interviewer will have their own perception of the spec and if fact, may disagree with some aspects. Furthermore, as stated before, the job spec may have drifted from what was originally written by the time that you are interviewed. Thus, you do need to ask them about their perception of their current perception of the business solution during the interview.
b. Listen carefully to the clues in the questions. Just as in reading the question in an exam, you can see what the questioner is looking for in your answer. The question may give clues about their solution-idea. Remember, you can always ask them to expand on the question so that you can give a more satisfactory answer.
c. You can always consider asking directly about what they are looking for and how the need has come about. This is a less oblique approach and may not fit with the culture of the firm/interview.
d. Ideally, we want to develop a collaborative conversation between two professionals about the business issue and a joint exploration of whether or not you will fit will their perceived solution. Develop a conversation about the industry, their business, the competition,..., and then put this role in the context of their perceived needs. Keywords: Who, Where, When, What, How, Elaborate, Explain, Describe, Tell me.
3. Make the Match in their MindMaking the match in their mind is not easily done and does require the interviewer to have allowed you insight into their perceived solution, so that you know what to target. However, if you are able to understand their thinking, you are now in a position to present your skills and attributes in a way that matches what you have discovered.