I will analyze this technique and tell you why it works so well. Then I'll present three specific scripts that have worked in a recent practical application.
What you say in Phase 1 is really simple. It is ten or fifteen basic intangible traits of a hard-working, successful, committed worker that you possess. In the final analysis, all hiring or interviewing authorities want to see is somebody who is going to possess the traits of a committed, hard-working employee. It is that simple.
What you're doing in this phase is simply communicating that you understand what hard work is. You would be shocked and amazed at the number of people who go into an interviewing situation and just assume that the interviewing or hiring authority already knows that he or she is a committed worker. Remember that your hiring or interviewing authority is scared of making a mistake. He's afraid of a risk. When you communicate the ten or fifteen intangible traits of a hard worker that you possess, it provides assurance in the interviewer's frightened state that you not only know what the traits of a hard worker are, but that you possess them. What I recommend here are traits like hard worker, determined to go the extra mile, early riser, staying late, accomplished, passionate about your work, committed to the customer, going the extra mile, loving what you do, intelligent, great work ethic, quick learner, etc.
I can't emphasize it enough that prospective employers hardly ever hear these words from the typical candidate. You are simply communicating basic attributes that every employer wishes he or she saw in every employee.
Transition phrase 1.
The transition phrase to Phase 2 of your presentation is, "Now, here in my background is where these features have been benefits to the people I have worked for." This is a powerful phrase. You are using the terms features and benefits. It is implied that these features will be benefits to the hiring authority and his or her firm. This transition phrase allows you to lead into an explanation of every job you have had, what you've done, how you've done it and how successful you were.
You are doing the hiring authority's thinking for him or her! No one has to ask that stupid question, "well, tell me about yourself."
Here is where you are going to work backwards and give a short, but very thorough description about exactly what job functions you had, how you did, who you did it for, and how successful you, were, as well as, and this is very important, that you loved the job, and why, in very positive terms, you're looking to leave or why you left. The execution of this phase of your presentation is so very important.
First of all, you have to be sure that you explain exactly what your job function is now or was in the past so that the hiring or interviewing authority understands exactly what you have done before. I can't tell you the number of times over the years that candidates have walked away from interviews thinking that they had done a really good job on the interview—only to have the hiring authority, in giving us feedback, explain that he really didn't understand what the candidate did (either in his present job or the jobs he had before). Here is why that happens.
In the interviewing process, a hiring authority is just as nervous as you are. He or she feels the need to get a deeper understanding about you and your background in order to evaluate you. This process takes place with, usually, quite a number of people. Most of the time in the interviewing process, when a hiring or interviewing authority asks a question, part way through your answer that person is thinking about the next question, and then part way through that answer, thinking about the next question, etc.
On top of that, most hiring or interviewing authorities don't want to look stupid or ignorant. Most of them, like most people, are uncomfortable with saying, "I don't understand, could you explain it to me in layman's terms so that I really get it?" After all, they are the "hiring authority"... got it? "authority." They are supposed to "know" and "understand" everything, since they are the "authority." So, they will act like they know exactly what the candidate is talking about, and nod their head in complete agreement and understanding as the candidate speaks in terms foreign to everyone but himself. Then, after the candidate leaves, rather than admitting they had no idea what the candidate was talking about, they will claim that the candidate's skills, experience, background, personality, etc. aren't what they were looking for.
You then need to be sure to explain, in very positive ways, why you are looking to leave the firm you're with now and why you left other jobs. I can't overemphasize this enough. You are going to weave into your explanation, along with what you've done, how you have done it, etc., all of the positive reasons that you left the companies and the jobs that you had or the one that you are leaving now. If you bring up why you left in positive terms—even if it wasn't under the most positive circumstances, i.e., you were fired—the whole scenario has a tendency to be more palatable to a hiring authority.
The reason(s) that you are looking to leave, and the reason(s) that you have left other positions, have to be very specific and almost detailed. Saying things like, "it was a mutual understanding; it was just time to go; we grew tired of each other; management changed; the company was bought; the company was sold"—or any broad generalization—will not help you be successful in the interview. Remember that the interviewing or hiring authority is very concerned about taking a risk. Nebulous, unclear, broad generalizations have "risk" written all over them.
This is one of the many situations in the job-finding process where you absolutely have to see what you are communicating through the eyes of the interviewing or hiring authority. There is a tendency for all candidates to see the reasons that they're looking to leave, or the reason that they left other opportunities, from their own point of view. What matters is how the hiring or interviewing authority is going to react to the reasons you give. If those reasons communicate risk, you're doomed.
This is going to take much thought and practice on your part. You always want to tell the truth, but you might have to put a "spin" on it, that, if nothing else, neutralizes any negative connotations. Do not think that an interviewing or hiring authority is going to see things from your personal point of view. He or she isn't.
The third idea that you are going to communicate in the second phase is that you just "loved" every job you ever had. You don't have to use the word "love" in every instance. But you do have to communicate that you had a very positive experience with every job that you have ever had..., that you learned a lot from each one, and that you really appreciated the people you worked for. You can communicate this by saying things like, "you know I really love the organization that I work for now, but unfortunately.... "
The point is that you talk positively in every way you can about the organization that you're presently with and every organization that you ever worked for. No matter how difficult the circumstances are or were, you have to put your present or previous employers in a positive light. Even if they laid you off or fired you, you have to say something along the line of, "although I'm disappointed by not being there (. . .or having to leave), I do understand what took place from their point of view. . . ." Remember, employers identify with employers.
Both the second and third points in this phase of your presentation must never communicate an adversarial relationship between you and your present or previous employers. No matter how difficult the experience was or is with your past or present employer, you have to communicate a "we're all in this together" type of attitude.
In this phase of your presentation you only need to go back three, maybe at the most four, jobs and go through what I have suggested here. If you had jobs before that, unless they are germane to the position that you are presently applying for, you can "lump-sum" them altogether by just saying something like, "before that (. . . meaning the third or fourth position back) I was in sales ...or accounting...or engineering, etc. for a number of different firms."
In this phase of the interview, you want to make sure that you don't go on and on so long that the interviewing or hiring authority gets bored. Stick to the high points in your background that are applicable to the job for which you are interviewing. It should not take more than five to seven minutes.
It is also advisable in this phase of the structured interview that you weave as many stories about what you have done as you can throw into the presentation of yourself. People love stories. People remember stories. People remember you when you tell them stories about your past. Stories, analogies and metaphors about you that pertain to the hiring authority's need are absolutely the best way to be remembered. The stories, analogies, and metaphors about you need to be short, to the point and, above all, pertinent to the opportunity for which you are interviewing.
Transition phrase 2.
This is a transition phrase to the third phase of your technique. You simply ask, "Now, tell me Mr. or Ms._, how does what I have to offer stack up with what you are looking for?" The person who asks the questions, controls the interview.
When the interviewing or hiring authority starts answering your question of how you stack up with what he or she is looking for, you take notes. When he or she stops answering that question, you want to have a relatively prepared set of questions that you can even have written out. Some questions that you may ask are:
What are the most important qualities that a successful person in this position should possess?
How would you measure the success of the last person that was in this job?
Why was he or she successful? or Why was that person not successful?
In your opinion, Mr. or Ms._, what is the most difficult part of the job?
Mr. or Ms._, how long have you been with the company?
Why do you like working here? What is the most difficult part of your job?
Where do you see the company going in the next five to ten years?
As I was doing my research on the company, I found that__. Could you give me your opinion about that?
What is the biggest challenge that the company is going to face in the next five to ten years?
I believe your competitors are doing_. How does your firm respond to that?
How do you know when you have found the "right" person for this job I'm interviewing for?
How would you describe the culture of the company?
What do you, Mr. or Ms._, like most about working here?
How many people have you interviewed for this position? Have you seen anybody whom you felt was qualified to do it? Have you offered the job to anyone before my interviewing here?
Well, I could go on and on but you get the idea. Ask enough questions to engage the employer or hiring authority in the conversation. You want this person to open up to you as much as she possibly can about what she wants in the person that she's going to hire. You then have a better idea of how to sell yourself into the job. You will also answer the questions that you will be asked.
Now, the following is very important. As the conversation progresses and you write down some of the highlights of what the employer is looking for, you will reinforce the fact that you are a qualified, excellent candidate by going back to some of the jobs that you had or the job you presently have and talk about it in even more specific terms than before. As the interviewing or hiring authority is sharing with you his or her exact needs, you need to be able to relate exact experience, responsibilities, duties, and successes that you have had that specifically address the particular issues being discussed. In the presentation you made (in Phase 2 of this technique), you talked about each job that you either presently have or have had, your duties and responsibilities, and your successes. But you did it in a very broad, descriptive way. Now you are going to use the information that the interviewing or hiring authority is giving you and bring up examples in the job that you have now or the jobs that you had before that specifically demonstrate your ability to do the job. Whereas your initial presentation about your experience and background was detailed enough for the interviewing or hiring authority to understand what you have done, you now get real specific about particular things that would be of value to the interviewing or hiring authority—based on the conversation that results from the questions you ask.
After the conversation has begun to wind down and you can see that the interview is almost over, you close the interviewer or hiring authority by stating that your background and experience fit what the employer is looking for and you need to ask, "What do I need to do to get the job?" This is the hardball part of the interview. You are either a candidate or you are not, and you need to know right now!
More often than not, candidates at this point in the interview will get afraid of being outright rejected. So they will say stupid things like, "Well, what's the next step?" Where do we go from here?" When should I hear from you?" etc. Weak, weak, weak, weak! These kind of weak questions are the ones that most interviewing and hiring authorities expect. They get them from 98% of the candidates they interview.
Interviewing and hiring authorities want to hire an individual who wants the job. I can't tell you the number of candidates over the years who fail to ask this essential question in the interview and end up being dismissed by the interviewing or hiring authority. I do know that this is terribly unfair. But life is unfair. This is a special part of the interview that truly is a contrived event. The truth this, there is no real way of knowing whether you really want this job right now. But, unless you ask for the job, you're never going to get beyond first base.
Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Well, I'm not really sure that I want the job so, before I commit, I better think about it." Remember, while you are "thinking about it" somebody else is getting an offer. Remember, you don't have anything to decide about until you have an offer.
The question: "What do I need to do to get the job?" is gutsy and takes courage. That's OK. But if you're serious about finding a job, you will use this question at the end of every interview, especially the initial one.
This whole process and presentation of yourself in an initial interview is very simple. A lot goes into the presentation, though, and once you get the hang of it, it's very easy to keep doing. After all, you're going to give the same basic presentation to just about everybody you interview with. As you do your research for particular organizations, you will end up customizing your presentation when you know there are certain things that might be of value to the particular employer.
It's important to remember to try to find specific "differentiators" that you might have for a prospective employer that might put you ahead of the other candidates. This is one of the things you want to do when you ask questions after your presentation of yourself. If you ask the right kinds of questions, you will be able to get even more detailed information about what the employer might need. Then you can go back over your previous positions and emphasize your relevant experience.