Avoid a Three-ring Circus with These New Interviewing Strategies

by : Teena Rose

I referenced the circus because I just finished another interviewing book that recommends asking for the job before leaving the interview. I can envision up to 15 qualified professionals each asking the interviewer for the job. If each asks for the job, doesn’t that make the question null and void … cross out each other’s great gesture? If everyone jumps through the same hoop, performing like a good little circus monkey, what’s going to set you apart from other candidates?

Giving this great thought, I decided to look at the things that would impress me. I’ve been in the career industry for many years, and if I hired individuals on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be impressed by someone asking for the job. By showing up for the interview, I know this person wants/needs the job. The real question is who is the best fit for the position — the person that will add the most to my bottom line.

A number of new strategies that I recommend include discussing the position at the time of scheduling the interview, creating a position-specific presentation for the interviewer, and shocking the interviewer with specifics on how you will transform their business.

I’ve seen many instances where stepping up to a challenge have been very rewarding. Benefits can cannonball into your favor because going the extra mile has its own rewards. Years ago, for example, I heard a story about an executive who was applying to a well-known jean company. Rather than taking the traditional route, she opted to write her résumé on the back of a pair of jeans. Wouldn’t you know it, she got the job! Another example I’ll share is of a gentleman who wished to serve on a school board. Rather than submitting his request, campaigning, and holding his breath, he went around and spoke to school administrators and teachers about the condition of the school district. He valued their input, focusing on many of the important issues plaguing the school’s progress; and when it came time for the election, he won without trouble.

Each of these people did the same thing: they went against the grain of their competitors. If there are 6 clowns stuffed in a 2-seat car, yet in the rear there is one clown riding a float with fireworks coming off the back. Are you looking at the small car stuffed with clowns, or are you looking at the great show behind the car?

Setting yourself apart has become critical because — let’s be honest — the interview process is flawed. The best candidate doesn’t always get the position. It’s generally the person who says all the right things, at all the right times. The person who has best performed their stage act is not necessarily the one that has the best skills. With this said, I suggest doing something unique, yet professional, showing employers that you care about their successes.

Probing for Information Prior to the Interview

Some individuals love to dish out dirt, so you need only ask the right questions beforehand. Holding the answers to certain questions will make the interview saturated with elements relevant to the company’s current situation and needs. Examples of questions that you can ask a secretary or clerk (also referred to as the gatekeeper) at the time of scheduling an interview:

  • Specifically, what are the challenges in this position?

  • Can you tell me why the person in the job is leaving/has left?

  • What problems are keeping the department from running smoother?

  • Are there concerns the department manager has about filling this position?

  • Is the department behind or lacking support to complete certain functions?

  • Can you give me any additional direction that would help me identify what elements of my background will help your department manager meet his or her objectives?

On occasion, you only need to ask one question, sit back, and listen. Remember to hear more than you speak, taking notes throughout the entire conversation. You should cultivate enough information so you can create a nice presentation for the interviewer on your special day.

Create a Presentation that Solves Problems

I’d hire the first person that walked through my door and convinced me that they could make all my problems go away. I know that sounds farfetched because realistically no one can fix everything, but I would hire the first person that came close to being a savior to my exhausting daily workload. Managers want to hire individuals that will satisfy the job description, continue to solve problems independently, and excel regardless of the pressure, all while making the direct manager look good, of course.

As an example, imagine that the gatekeeper said the department experiences huge backlogs of acquisitions. Reference your own experiences to determine the types of obstacles the company may be facing. Log each of your solutions and make notation of a couple of solutions along with implementation procedures. Also, jot down the number of acquisitions you can complete daily and how quickly you can catch up on any backlog the company may be experiencing.

Give the interviewer an offer that can’t be refused, rather than performing the same mundane act as the other performers. Sales positions revolve exclusively around clients (revenue); so if you KNOW that you can secure a certain prominent client then offer it as an asset. You can say something like, “I noticed that S3 Corporation isn’t an existing client of yours. I know they spend up to a million dollars per year buying products inferior to yours. I have a contact in the business development department that would love to meet with us to discuss ways we can save them money and offer a better product matched by your award-winning service … once I’m offered the job, of course."

Some newspaper publications offer an archive for tracking a company’s history relayed in print. Learn about new contracts awarded to the company, a new division or location, or possibly, a new CEO. Mentioning current events within an interview shows that you are taking an interest in the business. On the other side, you can use these items as ammunition in your presentation.

You’ll WOW them only if you do your homework. If you plan to attend the interview with all the magical answers that everyone else practiced, then you should go out and play the lottery. Your chances are stacked against you, especially with today’s job market. The competition is fierce, so I recommend modifying drab strategies to incorporate “death-defying" initiatives to get you to the other side of the tightrope rather than falling onto the net.