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.

Building Behaviors that Inspire Sustained Results

If you are just tuning in this week, we are in the midst of a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure.

An important component to achieve your vision and accomplish your goals, is identifying the right behaviors at every level.

Just as with creating the vision, you have choices.

You can identify the key behaviors and build performance management systems and rewards to reinforce them. That may work, if your entire performance management system is carefully aligned.

What I find works even better is involving each level of the organization in the process.

How to Identify Key Behaviors: An Exercise

I have been using variations of this exercise in different roles and contexts for many years– sometimes on the outside as a facilitator, sometimes on the inside as leader. It’s easy, and mostly involves an open mind and enough time to really engage.

Set the stage:

Start with your vision and goals. Ensure everyone understands the big picture and how they fit in. You have choices on how to do this. If you missed the post on How To Develop a Team Vision, you may want to take a moment and start there.

Brainstorm Key Behaviors:

Next, brainstorm what specific behaviors each role on the team would need to exhibit to make that vision a reality. What behaviors must the leader exhibit? How about the sales reps? How about the HR team? How about…

For example:

What would the team leader most need to do each day to achieve the vision?

Be more visible?

That’s a start, but too vague.

How about if she spent 3 hours on the floor each day.

Better.

What would she be doing on the floor?

Keep drilling down until you find specific measurable behaviors that will work.

This can be done for every role on the team.

Drilling Down:

Next, consider formalizing this exercise at every level of the organization.

Start with your direct reports, and take it down as many levels as you have.

Ask.

In order for us to accomplish our vision, what behaviors do you need from me?

Then narrow it down to specific behaviors and write them down.

Next, what behaviors must they exhibit? Again, narrow it down and record.

Ask them to repeat this exercise with their teams to discuss the specific behaviors for their roles.

And then a level down.

Take all those behaviors and publish them into a matrix. Everyone then knows what behaviors are expected at every level to accomplish the vision. You can then work to hold one another accountable for those behaviors.

It’s a lot harder to ignore the leadership behaviors you committed to when everyone has a matrix of expectations they can pull out at any time.