Recognize and use metaphors and analogies to your advantage.

I want to give metaphors and analogies a bit of attention. I've never found, in all of the research on interviewing and finding a job, any author who addresses the importance of these "keys" to expert interviewing. Along with the use of stories, you will notice that I refer to metaphors and analogies often.

Recognizing the metaphors and analogies that your interviewing authorities use during the interviewing process will give you an almost magical insight that you can use to land a job. Remember the sales adage, "if you see the world through John's eyes, you know what John buys"? Translated into the interviewing process, we would say that if you see the world the way the interviewing authority sees the world, you know how to communicate and sell yourself better than your competition.

It is very important to listen to interviewing and hiring authorities' metaphors about themselves, their company, and the job that they are interviewing you for. People are emotionally motivated by the metaphors and analogies they use in describing themselves, their lives, their company, and their jobs. If you master this concept, your interviewing will be more successful than you ever imagined. In fact, as I will show you, not only listening to the metaphors and analogies the interviewing or hiring authority uses, but also asking questions on your part to elicit these metaphors and analogies will really catapult you to the top of the candidate list.

Recognizing the metaphors and analogies used by a person, a company, or a job is very easy to do. The goal is to listen, to elicit metaphors and analogies from the interviewing or hiring authorities, and then present yourself to them with the same metaphors and analogies that they use. You sell yourself using the same "way they see the world," and therefore you will be identified as a person who sees the world they way they do. You will therefore be liked and looked upon as a great candidate that "fits" into the company.

Metaphors are figures of speech that communicate comparisons. An analogy is a concept that draws our relationship between two things that may not have a prior relationship. All of us don't see the world or experience reality as it really is. We experience our perception of reality. We represent reality in feelings and thoughts as an emotional response to those perceptions.

A quick way to measure and quantify a person's perception—i.e., his or her reality—is to listen to the metaphors and analogies. Complete these metaphors:

Life is_.

I am_.

My job is_.

My profession is_.

This company is_.

The people that work here are_.

The candidates we have interviewed are_.

Working here is like_.

My management style is_.

After you have completed these metaphors and analogies, I want you think for a moment about how you might respond to an interviewing or hiring authority if he represented himself, his company, and his job with these types of metaphors and analogies:

Life is a bitch and then you die.

Life is an exciting, everyday challenge, lots of fun.

I am a real tough manager who will push you to the limit. I am a mentor rather than a boss.

My job is the toughest one in the company, and everybody knows it. My job is wonderful, I work with wonderful people...l can't believe they pay me to do it.

My profession is an elite group of the top 1% of the top 1% and everyone recognizes it. My profession is an honorable one with a high degree of integrity.

This company is demanding and very hard working. This company prides itself in retaining employees who work together in a family atmosphere.

The people that work here take no prisoners, do whatever it takes; they are drivers.

The people that work here are totally involved in making sure the whole company reaches its goals and objectives by putting the customer first.

The candidates we have interviewed are all "slugs"—not one of them is worth a damn.

The candidates we have interviewed have been really great; we just haven't found the right match.

Working here is like working for the Marines, it's tough, disciplined, and demanding.

Working here is a great challenge...we all work at our own pace... a lot is expected, but it is all appreciated.... Each one of us feels like we grow personally.

My management style is real clear... I'm great to work with, but hell to work for...if you do your job you get to keep it. My management style is very hands-off...l expect you to do your job and ask me when you need help... I'm here for you.

You don't have to have a Ph.D. in psychology to figure out what these metaphors and analogies tell you about a person, his or her company, or the job you are being interviewed for. Don't make the mistake that many people do, because an organization might be " ... like the Marines, it's tough, disciplined, and demanding" of thinking that it may not be a really good place to work. I have worked with many organizations whose style was "take no prisoners," but they still were excellent organizations and a perfect fit for the right candidates.

There are two things that you want to be aware of when you hear these kinds of metaphors and analogies. The first is that you need to be sure that your personality and style is compatible with the person and/or the company that you are interviewing with. You may be a rather meek, humble, nonthreatening type of person but can easily work for the manager who is "great to work with, but hell to work for." Even if your style is not the same as this type of person, you still may be able to work for her and be very compatible. You just need to know what you're getting into.

I can't tell you the number of placements that I've made over the years where the candidate, a few weeks after starting the job, has called me complaining that the hiring authority was a totally different personality in the hiring process then he or she really was. Remember I said that interviewing was a staged contrived event? Well, it works both ways. Ninety-nine out of 100 times the candidate simply didn't listen to the metaphors and analogies that the hiring authorities made about themselves and the working environment during the interviewing process.

The second reason that you really want to pay attention to these metaphors and analogies is that you can better sell yourself to the hiring authority. If the hiring authority communicates that "the company prides itself in retaining employees who work together as a family," you will want to communicate a cooperative, consultative, and collaborative style about yourself. If the hiring authority communicates that "life is a bitch and then you die," you might want to communicate that you are a "survivor" and discuss all of the difficult business situations that you have survived.

Again, this is not to say that any of these metaphors or analogies communicate anything intrinsically good or bad about a company. I've known some rather harsh, blustery, "in-your-face" egomaniacs who were very successful leaders. You just have to know what you're dealing with.

Listening to analogies, metaphors, and stories can help you figure that out. Pay attention to all the people that you interview with and listen for their metaphors and analogies. I recommend that, somewhere along the line, and especially with the hiring authority that might be your potential boss, ask things like, "What's it like to work here? What is the company like? What are you like to work for?" and so on.

Listening to and absorbing the metaphors and analogies that a hiring authority provides you in the interviewing process not only tells you what you might be getting into, but also give you keys to selling the perspective employer on hiring you.

You don't have anything until you have an offer.

This is the bottom line. While the interview process may be complicated, the goal result is simple. Your purpose in the interviewing process is to get to the next step so you can get an offer. Nothing else matters. You have nothing to evaluate until you have an offer. If you follow these guidelines, you'll be in a better position to get to the next interview, and, ultimately, to the offer.

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