Interviewing for a job can one of the more stressful experiences in your life. The good news is, it really doesn’t have to be.
I have been asked by lots of good people over the years to take a peek at their resumes in order to give my opinion and help where I could. Of course this is something that I have always been willing to do.
I’m certainly not billing myself as the Resume Guru of the World…but I have had the opportunity to interview hundreds of people over the years, mostly for sales positions with varying requirement levels regarding experience, and I have been able to hire some truly wonderful folks! So, I know my way around a resume. The truth is, the resume itself is not near as important as YOU during any interview.
Basically, the resume needs to make sense, flow well, show a consistent work experience, and look nice. After that – it’s all up to you! Most people spend way too much time trying to get things on paper in the resume and way too little time thinking about who they are and what they bring to the table.
To me the resume is like an insurance policy…do it right, make sure it meets the criteria I mentioned above, and it will probably never come into play. The person doing the hiring may give it the occasional glance, and make some witty comment about your alma mater…but what they really want is to be “wowed” by YOU.
Of course, also like an insurance policy (maybe one that you don’t have) it can blow up and cost you dearly. If the resume is not in good shape, has unexplainable gaps between jobs, doesn’t list any skills pertinent to the job, or lies about anything, you will spend all 45 of your minutes back peddling and explaining yourself from a defensive standpoint. Result: No second interview and a big knot in your stomach!
So, I’m going to assume that you have the resume in order.
Now, let’s get to the stuff that really gets you hired!
As I mentioned, I have interviewed a lot of people in my career, and in fact I am in the midst of talking to people right now. Even though I don’t have an actual available position on my staff, I still find it a very constructive use of time to keep in touch with people, and find out what caliber of prospect exists out there. It’s sort of like gathering the fire wood before winter hits.
And I can tell you this – no matter how different each interview situation is, once the process runs it’s course, it has inevitable always come down to this:
I’m sitting in my chair and looking at three or four resumes in front of me. Each of these represents a candidate for the job that I believe to be willing and able. I like all of them. I also think that if I closed my eyes and used the EMMM Method, you may know it as “eeny, meeny, miney, mo”, I would still get a person that I would not regret hiring. Well, in lieu of using the aforementioned technique, I always pause and seriously consider this question: “which one of these people was able to separate themselves from the pack?” By pack, I mean a group of their highly skilled peers. And by separate, I mean truly individualize themselves and establish the most unique value.
In fact, I tell people during the interview that this is the scenario I know I’ll be faced with. I let them know that if I do my job properly, and talk to enough good people, then I will end up with a short list to choose from, and there needs to be something about a particular candidate that absolutely stands out in my mind…or I might have to go EMMM afterall. I’m certain that every person who makes hiring decisions reaches this type of decision making process.
So, it really comes down to this – what can you, and will you do that is unique and what are the benefits to the person doing the hiring? And remember, this is the stuff that you will bring with you starting on day one if you are hired.
Look, no one really cares what type of animal or flower you would be if you could, so don’t waste valuable time putting that scenario together.
Here’s the most important piece of advice I can offer – make sure that you avoid becoming a walking, talking cliché. By this I mean a “team player” who is “goal oriented”, or a “self-motivated person” who is a “hard worker”. In my opinion, the absolute key to the entire process lies in assuming that every single person who interviews for the job has the same level of education and experience that you do, and that everyone is a hard-working, self-motivated, goal-oriented team player. Assume that you are all exactly the same, right up to that part that separates you from the pack!
What is it, you ask?
One of my good friends and former colleagues who I was coaching through this process said to me, “Great Mike, separate myself…what does that mean? Should I wear a chicken suit to the interview?” I had to think about that for a second. Not really. Although, if she had been interviewing for a job as a chicken sandwich representative that might have been pure genius.
No, I said to her, while the chicken suit would no doubt “wow” them, at least in some strange way, it probably wouldn’t be the best approach. So we started thinking a little bit more.
The advice I gave to her is the same that I give to anyone, and the answer is completely different for each. There isn’t a cliché or canned response or thought, which is why it is so valuable. Whatever it is you say needs to stand out to the person you’re speaking with, often weeks after your initial interview. So, in a sense, it has to have the verbal impact that the chicken suit would have had on their memory. Hey, no one would forget that oufit! Make sure that your story is just as strong.
You have to figure out what it is that YOU do better than anyone else. What makes what YOU do unique? How is it, for example that your “150% of sales objectives achieved” is better than all the other candidates who have done the same thing? Think about how you did it. And why is how you did it more important to your potential employer than how the others did it?
Consider all of the intangibles that you bring to the table as well. I don’t think I have ever talked to anyone who didn’t describe themselves as a “people person”. It’s almost comical to me now, when I hear it. But perhaps a description of what you consider a “people person” to be would be invaluable to the person doing the interviewing. Remember, they are evaluating you based on what you would do for them. If being able to effectively communicate with all departments within the company is something you do extremely well, tell them that. Then provide an example as to how that worked in the past and what the benefit to the company was.
You want to spend the most time figuring out what it is that you do better than anyone else, and why that is so important as it pertains to the position that you are seeking. This will be the one thing that pays off the most for you in the whole experience.
Someone once said, if you truly want to stand out, just be yourself. The idea being that we are all unique individuals in this world. We’re already different – and you are the absolute best at being you, not so much at being anyone else. The same applies to your career. What you’re trying to do is let them know that you are the right person for the job. Because you’re YOU.
Separate yourself in the truest sense, and you will find that it will get you exactly where you want to go.