Staying Competitive: Tips for Interviewing in Today’s Market
It doesn’t take a PhD economist to know that supply and demand create all kinds of different outcomes. The job market is no different. We are now in the stage of what I call an “arrogance of supply” – meaning companies are more often looking for “the perfect fit” rather than hiring “the best athlete” who can be trained to become the right fit. When unemployment is low, companies embrace the “best athlete” model of hiring where they will take a chance on a person who is smart, ambitious, accomplished and shares the values of the corporation. Best athletes are people who employers would say, “have all the right stuff, now let’s train them to do what we need them to do.” In times like these with oversupply, companies often lose their progressive thinking and adopt an attitude that each and every person must be “the perfect fit.” This means it is more important than ever to stand out and be unique in a job interviews because if you aren’t a “perfect fit” you aren’t going to get the job.
Here are five ideas for you, beyond the standard advice, that can make you stand out from the rest:
- Come prepared with a solution to a problem. You are a smart person, you can use your functional area of expertise and evaluate the problems of a company and come ready with a plan to help them solve the issues. Example, if you are in marketing and you read from the news or the company website that their customer base is eroding, then you should come with a one page PowerPoint that provides the five ideas you have to stop the erosion. Even if you are wrong, or you misread the problem, you will have done something others won’t.
- Offer to start on a probationary period. Let’s face it; if you are already on the inside, then you have a better chance than someone else on the outside. So offer to work on a temporary/probationary period and allow your confidence in your own abilities and your belief in performance-based rewards to be seen. Offer to start on Monday and sign whatever they would like to be signed that you will leave voluntarily and positively at any time during the “try-out” period for any reason that they ask. This approach might be just what the hiring manager and the HR person needs to get the job filled quickly at a lower risk.
- Use the language of the company. Every company has a lexicon of buzzwords and acronyms that are unique to them. Before the interview, read the company website thoroughly, use sites like Glassdoor to read what employees talk about and how they say it, talk to someone/anyone who has worked at the company before or now and ask them for some of the buzzwords and “language” of the company. We all like people who we think know us and act and sound like us. Knowing and using those buzzwords can create confidence in the interviewer that you are a perfect fit for the culture.
- Know something that the interviewer cares about and then apply yourself to that interest. Most everyone you interview with these days has a LinkedIn profile or some type of web presence. Find just one thing about the interviewer that you can apply your skills/talents to. It could be that you are talking in the interview about how to adapt the company’s offering to Gen Y. You could say, well, imagine if we were to go back to your alma mater, (insert University name here) and do focus groups. These focus groups….” You get the point. It might be that you find that the person coaches AYSO soccer, is involved in their church, reads books like crazy, and does Tai-Chi. It doesn’t matter; just get one conversation thread going that connects you to them in some way.
- Give examples of how you make other people better. In an interview we get plenty of time to talk about ourselves and detail our accomplishments but rarely is there enough time for the interviewer to ask about how well you play in the sandbox. Come prepared with a story to tell her/him on how you have made others better on your team, on other teams, for the company as a whole, whatever it is, but something that leaves them with the impression that you will be a great teammate.
Keep at it. Just because you don’t get one job, doesn’t mean that there isn’t another right one out there for you. And always remember, you are talented!