Interviewing? 4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

May 8, 2013 — 7 Comments

iStock 000023703627XSmall 150x99 Interviewing?  4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

It takes more than qualifications to get the job.  Don’t count on your track record.  In a close race, best prepared wins.

Two candidates were interviewing for a District Sales Manager position.  Both had great backgrounds and qualifications. Both nailed the Behavior Based Interview, and we moved on to talk about their planned approach.

Joe (not his real name) came with his generic 90 day strategy.  It was as if he had read Michael Watkin’s Book, The First 90 Days,* and copied the generic advice into his plan. His key actions looked like that of so many other candidates.  Part of Joe’s plan was to visit every store in his territory in the first 30 days.  Yawn.

*p.s I love Watkin’s book. It’s a great read when applied well.

Before her interview, Jane (not her real name), took 2 days off and visited all the stores in the new territory (across a 200 mile radius) in plain clothes. She came prepared with a list of observations, priorities, a platform for improvement, and a robust plan to begin tackling the issues in the first 30 days. She nailed the interview.

Jane’s now knocking that job out of the park.

A Deeper Approach to Interviewing

When interviewing, don’t bring generic plans.  Do your homework.  Go learn something deeper to discuss.

1. An Understanding of the Business

Talk to people. Arrange advanced visits if you can. Determine who is best-in-class. Understand the current priorities. Use real data to share specifics for your strategy. Come with informed questions.  How far you can go with this will depend on whether you are interviewing internally or externally.  However, you may be surprised how much data you can find in either circumstance.  You can gain much from a solid google search.

2. A Platform

Just like a political candidate, be prepared to share your vision for this role.  What is the one big thing you will accomplish? Share why you are passionate about your vision. Articulate the unique aspects of your leadership.

3.  Your Angle

Describe your key skills and abilities and how they will benefit this organization.  Make connections between unrelated roles.  Describe how your diverse experience has built transferable skills perfect for this position.

4. Your Track Record

Come prepared with specific results and deliberate stories that highlight your leadership.  Don’t just share your stack rankings… (a common approach), share how you achieved them.

What advice do you have for standing out in an interview?

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7 responses to Interviewing? 4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

  1. Not all behavioral assessments are built the same.

    A multivariate assessment is one that measures not only behaviors but also values, skills, and emotional intelligence.

    Having said that, if I was hiring someone, I wouldn’t hire based on experience.

    Most employers hire for experience and fire for attitude. Employers need to flip this equation and place attitude numero uno.

    The way to do this is with a Job Benchmark. This takes personal bias out of the hiring process.

    Knowing about the problems of the company wouldn’t play much credence in my decision if I were the hiring manager. Everyone can Google and look up background info.

    I once saw an interview of a Google HR person and they place experience very low on the list of determinant factors for new hires.

    p.s. Day 25 of my 30 day challenge of performing 250 squats by day 30. Today, our virtual group does 220.

  2. I agree with Steve. Attitude is so very important.

    Many professional admins recommend carrying a ‘work book’ because it is a challenge to showcase our skill set within an interview setting to demonstrate our excellence. It’s a given that administrative professionals are proficient in MS Office, but that’s a small, small piece of the pie in our workday. Don’t just describe experience, showcase it!

    To do this, the interviewee should include basically 4-7 work samples related to CEO support (removing confidential information, of course). A great example would be a sample international travel packet prepped in hard copy (and link to soft copy) –reflecting perhaps the many locations of the company.

    Providing the interviewer a visual sample and detailing the scope of knowledge required for certification (Yes, there are administrative professional certifications!) seem to be very beneficial in interviews.

    Another great post, Karin. Thank you.

    • Kem, I LOVE the idea of having a portfolio. That is awesome, particularly in roles as you describe. I have had roles for which a porfolio worked very well, particularly back in my training development days. Thanks so much for adding that.

      I’ve even had folks bring their portfolio to volunteer gigs…. showcasing what they could contribute. I was so impressed. I would do anything for that guy ;-)

  3. Well…..looking to that scenario…okay…but what about those, where you can´t just drive through shops and get some opinion..
    Let´s make examples on IT, Software, Hardware, Telcos, Finance, Manufacturing?
    Do you want to visit their offices, labs, factory´s?
    It´s easy to make such story´s based on easy cases..when talking about retail..for instance in this case.

    • In some cases it’s easier than others… for sure…. but the point is, it’s all about doing your homework. I have been interviewing candidates in disciplines across HR, Sales, Customer Service, Outsourcing… for the last 20 years. Some candidates come highly prepared and have done their homework.. and others show up and ask uneducated questions. These day’s it’s so much easier to do research. I recently talked to a candidate who was interviewing with a senior executive. She told me she googled looking for speeches the senior leader had given and every time she was mentioned in the news. She got a strong sense of her leadership philosophy, values, and approach. She interviewed quite well. Not sure if she got the job yet… we’re still waiting to here… but it couldn’t have hurt. What experiences can you share?

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  1. 4 Surprising Reasons You’re Hiring the Wrong Candidate - Let's Grow Leaders - September 25, 2013

    [...] See also (How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview) and  Interviewing:  4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart. [...]

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