One of my friends runs a small business. He is currently looking for someone he can rely on to manage the business when he is out of the office. He showed me two resumes and asked me which candidate was superior. I chose the candidate who claimed to have had a similar position for five years. My friend laughed and said he did the same thing, which seemed to make sense until he interviewed both candidates.
The candidate with more experience gave canned answers and often contradicted himself. When my friend asked him what accomplishment made him proudest, he talked about being trained to work as a manager. The other candidate had less experience, but she listened to what my friend was saying and answered his questions in a manner that sounded sincere and honest. She said she was proudest of her ability to take on extra responsibility. My friend was impressed by the kind of detail she used and the level of passion she showed. He felt that she really wanted to work for him. The candidate with more experience just wanted a new job that paid more. Guess who got the job? The person with less experience who presented herself as somebody who could do the job and wanted to do it.
Beware of scripting answers when you prepare for a job interview. Good managers see through this trick. Know your strengths and be able to sell them in your normal speaking voice. Show why you want to do the job and why you’ll do it well.
A client told me that she wanted he potential employer to know about work she did early in her career when she was a teacher. She is especially proud of having been named Teacher of the Year in 1999. The problem is that she changed careers and moved to sales in 2003. Her new employer needs to see what makes her a good sales professional, not that she was once named the best teacher in the state. What we want to tell employers is not as important as what they want to know. Let that be your first question in writing a resume and preparing for an interview: What does the employer want to know?
A client stopped by to talk about interviewing. He said that he didn’t feel confident or in control during interviews. Then he mentioned something that caught my ear: scripting answers to interview questions, which I think is a horrible idea.
Scripts pretend that we can predict what questions will be asked. What if the interviewer throws you a curve ball? The script doesn’t work. It’s a far better interviewing strategy to emphasize listening. If we understand what the interviewer wants to know, it’s more likely that the answer will make sense and sound natural. Rather than think of interviews as tests with questions and answers, think of them as controlled conversations. Yes, you need to give good answers to questions, but they don’t have to be perfect.
Rather than scripting, I suggest using index cards to develop talking points that can be used for different purposes. For example, a success story could show a person’s ability to lead or solve problems. It’s easier to remember such “talking points.” They can be used for different purposes. Stay flexible. Think of an interview as a conversation. Most importantly, stop scripting.