By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
When I met with John, he had already been on 14 interviews without receiving a job offer. A senior professional with a consulting firm, I knew he was involved with hiring many people in his career. After all, he had hired quite a few from me when I worked in search.
As he sat down with me, I listened to him for a few minutes share his woes with me before beginning the mock interview he wanted from me. I asked him whether many of the interviews he had been on had started with the classic question, “Tell me about yourself.” When he answered, “Yes,” I invited him to answer the question as though he were on a real interview and listened.
After about a minute, I stopped him. “I have a hunch about what is happening,” I began. “Would you like to hear my evaluation?”
“I care enough to tell you bluntly because I think it will help you the most. You are boring. You are bored with answering the question and it comes through and is a turnoff to me and, I suspect, it is turning off others.”
I continued by saying, “When you go to a Broadway show and see the cast perform the play, you don’t care that they work 6 days a week performing 8 shows a week, do you? What matters is that they put on a great performance for you. After all, you have paid good money to see the play and you want to see them give you a great performance . . . and rightly so.
“When you go to an interview, you may be asked the question for the 15th time, but they are in the audience, listening to your answer for the first time. They don’t care that you are bored performing the same lines over and over again. They are judging your performance based upon what you do on stage for them.”
I was reminded of my session with John as I spoke with someone else recently whose answers seemed flat and “business-like.”
“Let me ask you something. You live in a city where there are a lot of people who do what you do. Why should they hire you?”
“Suddenly, he came to life as he spoke about his successes and how he had challenged the status quo he inherited, inspired his team and led them to make magic for their organization.
“Wow,” I said. “You are so much more alive than you were a few minutes ago! This will attitude and flair will get you hired. The way you answered the previous question won’t.”
“I understand that since the time you were little until now, schools, colleges and businesses have conditioned you to ‘Shut up. Do what you are told. Regurgitate a bunch of things when we tell you to . . . or else.’ Or else you won’t get a good grade. Or else you won’t get into a good school and get a good job. All these years of conditioning have sucked the life out of you.
“But if you can remember that when companies try to hire someone, they want someone who inspires confidence, gives them that feeling, that they can solve their problem PLUS has the knowledge and experience to do so, then you will be hired.”
From many years of experience working with job hunters, this is the crux of the problem people have, particularly leadership candidates, when they job hunt. Most people can’t spot the problem, particularly when they work with a peer. After all, that person has probably also had their spirit sucked out of them over the course of time, too.
Whoever you work with, find someone who can bring the twinkle back into your eyes, the smile back on your face and the ability to discern your strengths and “rough spots” during an interview. After all the skills needed to find a job are different than those needed to do a job.
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2018, 2021
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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