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Two Interview Winners & What They Teach Us

Two Interview Winners & What They Teach UsThe best part of my work as a job search and interviewing coach is getting an email saying “I got the job!” This morning I’ve had two of those.

The first, from a talented young professional in product marketing – I’ll call her Andrea – was a lengthy, unsolicited testimonial.

“Hi Thea,

“Just wanted to give you an update on my job hunt. I’ve gotten two job offers this week! … I’ve also been able to negotiate my salary to … (impressive increase) …

“Your coaching really helped me bring to light what my strengths were and how to clearly explain them to the hiring managers … Being able to break down my resume into stories and keeping my focus on my KPIs as I respond to the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question really propelled my interviewing approach to a new level. The conversations became much smoother …

“I can’t thank you enough for helping me when I felt so down and had lost all confidence in myself. I knew I still had it and you really helped me get back to where I needed to be.

“Thank you again and feel free to post my review on your website. I am very happy I was able to connect with you.”

Instructive take-aways:

  • Like Andrea, many of us don’t have a clear sense what our strengths are, nor how to explain them clearly. We need to figure that out somehow. I helped her gain this clarity by asking a lot of open-ended questions, listening, and providing an outside perspective.
  • You need stories that illustrate your abilities. They’re there, you just need your memory jogged.
  • The answer to “Tell me about yourself” sets the tone for the interview, so develop an answer that illustrates the top 3-5 things that make you stand out from the competition – what Andrea called “KPIs”, or what I would call “key selling points.”
  • Use every interview question to show – not just tell or claim, but demonstrate with examples and specifics – what makes you the right person for the job.

A tough interview challenge.

The second person who emailed me today has a story that moves me even more. This lady – let’s call her Teresa – in her mid ’50s to early ’60s and had been out of work for more than a year. That’s a tough situation from which some people never bounce back.

Teresa is a warm and very likeable person. She has a relaxed, casual presence that has made her an easy person to work with in her past work as a finance executive. But I was concerned that her easygoing demeanor could be misconstrued as a lack of energy. That didn’t combine well with the fact that her answers to many questions about her experience were vague, lacking in detail. “It’s just been so long,” she would say. “I can’t remember exactly.”

She may have been unwittingly confirming some employers’ typical stereotypes about older candidates who have been unemployed for more than half a year – that they’re “downshifting” in life, lacking drive, out of touch, mentally foggy and maybe struggling with depression or health problems.

Job interviews are marketing. Marketing herself didn’t come naturally for Teresa.

There was no magic bullet; we spent two sessions, a total of three hours, mock-interviewing and piecing together her memories into stories to make visible what we both knew to be true: that despite her low-key manner she was a very motivated, capable professional with creativity and drive – qualities that are now serving her new employer.

Job interviewing isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t come naturally for most people. You put a lot of work into learning how to do your job. You also have to learn to get the job!

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