Why You're Not Getting Hired

I get frustrated and sad when I see highly qualified people unable to sell themselves in a job they deserve. It happened again, perhaps you know someone who can benefit from this story and actions that followed.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The sweet woman next to me on the flight from Denver to St. Louis shared her story. She had a masters in teaching, and yet kept piecing together assistant jobs to make ends meet for her and her 7-year-old son. This meant no benefits and often waitressing on the side. She couldn’t seem to get hired in a permanent gig. “I just don’t seem to be what they’re looking for.” She had an interview that afternoon for a “real” teaching job. Game on.

When I asked her about what “they were looking for” in previous interviews, the conversation led to rubrics and curriculum and other teacher-y words. Her lack of experience drained the confidence from her explanation. “I keep trying to figure out what they want, and I think that makes my answers fuzzy.”

Let’s try an approach that will get you hired.

Why are you passionate about education (to hang in this long). What makes you unique as a teacher?

Seat 14 B suddenly radiated a new energy. She told me stories of raising her son bi-lingual and how she incorporates that into the classroom. How she’s an artist and how she marries art history with reading and writing in interactive field trips in the park. She shared her proactive efforts to learn at conferences and share with her peers.

And so, I asked the obvious question.  Have you ever shared any of that in an interview? 

She stopped. “No.”

They Don’t Know They’re Looking For You

In an effort to be what “they” want, she was masking her gifts. They can’t possibly think they are looking for a bi-lingual artist, with a masters in teaching, and a passion for making reading fun. It doesn’t mean they won’t jump when they see that. I would want my first grader in her class.

Teacher’s Homework

The flight was ending so we outlined an approach.

  1. Identify the 3 gifts that differentiated her as a teacher (Art, Languages later I found she knows more than 2), and Reading
  2. Practice the starting statement here’s what I’m about (she needed an elevator speech)
  3. Prepare examples that highlight her 3 gifts (specifics, with outcomes and results)
  4. Anticipate the tough questions, and weave in her gifts
  5. End with confidence. “I don’t want to appear cocky.” (She was about 7 degrees of separation from cocky confidence matters).

Your Homework

  1. Identify your 3 gifts
  2. Curate your stories and examples to explain them
  3. Identify the audience
  4. Tell your story
  5. Grow them more

More Tools to Get Hired

Why You’re Not Getting Hired

I get frustrated and sad when I see highly qualified people unable to sell themselves in a job they deserve. It happened again, perhaps you know someone who can benefit from this story and actions that followed.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The sweet woman next to me on the flight from Denver to St. Louis shared her story. She had a masters in teaching, and yet kept piecing together assistant jobs to make ends meet for her and her 7-year-old son. This meant no benefits and often waitressing on the side. She couldn’t seem to get hired in a permanent gig. “I just don’t seem to be what they’re looking for.” She had an interview that afternoon for a “real” teaching job. Game on.

When I asked her about what “they were looking for” in previous interviews, the conversation led to rubrics and curriculum and other teacher-y words. Her lack of experience drained the confidence from her explanation. “I keep trying to figure out what they want, and I think that makes my answers fuzzy.”

Let’s try an approach that will get you hired.

Why are you passionate about education (to hang in this long). What makes you unique as a teacher?

Seat 14 B suddenly radiated a new energy. She told me stories of raising her son bi-lingual and how she incorporates that into the classroom. How she’s an artist and how she marries art history with reading and writing in interactive field trips in the park. She shared her proactive efforts to learn at conferences and share with her peers.

And so, I asked the obvious question.  Have you ever shared any of that in an interview? 

She stopped. “No.”

They Don’t Know They’re Looking For You

In an effort to be what “they” want, she was masking her gifts. They can’t possibly think they are looking for a bi-lingual artist, with a masters in teaching, and a passion for making reading fun. It doesn’t mean they won’t jump when they see that. I would want my first grader in her class.

Teacher’s Homework

The flight was ending so we outlined an approach.

  1. Identify the 3 gifts that differentiated her as a teacher (Art, Languages later I found she knows more than 2), and Reading
  2. Practice the starting statement here’s what I’m about (she needed an elevator speech)
  3. Prepare examples that highlight her 3 gifts (specifics, with outcomes and results)
  4. Anticipate the tough questions, and weave in her gifts
  5. End with confidence. “I don’t want to appear cocky.” (She was about 7 degrees of separation from cocky confidence matters).

Your Homework

  1. Identify your 3 gifts
  2. Curate your stories and examples to explain them
  3. Identify the audience
  4. Tell your story
  5. Grow them more

More Tools to Get Hired

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.

How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview

Most companies use behavior-based interviews for leadership jobs.

Many leaders are really bad at them.

I have seen many highly qualified candidates not get hired because of their inability to tell the right story in the right way.

In a Behavioral Based Interview, candidates are asked to describe a situation, share what happened, and communicate the results. In other words, to share a story.

Behavior-based questions work well because they require the candidate to draw on real experiences and communicate stories in an articulate way.

They can also backfire, when great candidates bomb the interview because of lack of preparation.

How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview

  • Pick the wrong story, usually the first one that comes to mind
  • Select a story with a bad ending
  • Get carried away in your story-telling, sharing too much detail and going in circles
  • Leave out the detail, leaving too much to the imagination.
  • Forget to share the point of your story
  • Share a story in which you did not have a central role (sharing someone else’s success)
  • Over-use of the word “I” when you are describing an effort you led
  • Keep using the same job or example over and over (don’t laugh, this is one of the most common mistakes)
  • ???

How to Prepare for Success

  • Make a list of the competencies or skills most required for the job
  • Go back through your work experiences, and find the best examples (stories) that showcase your skills in these areas.
  • Develop a plan for which stories you plan to share
  • Build out your stories to include brief context, specific actions, and results
  • Practice telling them to a mentor or friend
  • ???

It is useful to keep a journal or archive of your best stories that you can call on as needed. Capture the details while the story is fresh so it will be easier to recall when the time is right. I am known for reminding my team to “remember this story” for their next interview or elevator speech, right after we have experienced a success.

Also, most leaders I know are more than willing to help their teams prepare for interviews and to consider the right stories to include. It is helpful to do a mock interview or two with a boss or mentor before you are even looking for the next opportunity.