You were perfect for that job. You had all the skills they listed in the ad. When they asked that softball “tell me about yourself” question, you were ready: You related your extensive experience and cited all the skills you had picked up over the years. In fact, in all your answers you made sure to impress them with your skill-set. And when you asked about benefits, they in turn extensively detailed their generous vacation and sick leave policies, health benefits, and even the 401K plans. You knew you had made an impression.
You felt great walking out. And then, you either never heard back from them, or you got the “don’t fit our culture” email two days later.
What happened? And why did it happen again?
What happened is that you’ve forgotten why people hire people. Note how I did not say “companies hire people.” I said, people hire people.
Put yourself in the position of anyone who wants to hire someone. Chances are you’ve done this far more often than you think. Homeowners and some renters hire plumbers, electricians, or a landscaper. If you own a car, you’ve “hired” someone to service or repair your car. Even teenagers have selected (and paid) a college to teach them.
So, how did you make the choice? What led you to hire a specific person or to do business with that store, dealership or company?
It all starts with your having a problem.
For example, this past summer I hired a lawn service for the first time in 21 years. My problem was it took me an hour-and-a-half to mow the lawn; I was employed full-time; and I was tired after work.
Hiring a lawn service solved my problem. Freed from the drudgery of mowing the lawn, I had more time for other important (or not so important) things after 5pm.
The interviewers at companies act the same way as you and me. They aren’t looking to hire someone because a job is open. They are hiring someone, because they have a problem. Sales have increased and paperwork is piling up. Or someone left and none of the other employees know how to do that specific work. The proposed solution: Hire someone to do the work.
So, here’s the first thing you must remember when prepping for an interview: Everyone is hired as a problem-solver.
People hire people to:
Solve their problems
Make their lives easier
Get them closer to their next goal
The second thing you must remember is: They only care about your skill set as it relates to solving their problem. They already know about your skill set. They have your résumé; they can read. So, stop trying to win them over by stressing your skills and accomplishments.
Instead, ask questions about their problem. Where does it hurt? Your attitude must be: This person has a problem and wants to hire me to fix it. They have a headache. You’re their aspirin.
Would you hire a plumber or electrician who didn’t ask questions about your problem? Wouldn’t you quickly grow tired of a trades-person who merely kept talking about their previous assignments and accomplishments? (That’s so cool how you fixed that HVAC issue at that company; now please tell me whether you can get my lights back on.)
Asking questions to discern the problem---why they really need to hire someone---not only educates you on the problem, it enables you to immediately relate your skills to the problem. (Ah, I understand what you mean. I worked on a similar issue at my previous company. Let me tell you how we addressed the issue there.)
So, not only do you get to cite your accomplishments, you also demonstrate how you’re a good questioner and listener.
Finally, the third thing you must remember is: In the early interview rounds, it’s all about them. They want to know whether you can fix their problem and they want to know how much it will cost. What you want is secondary to what they want. Would you hire someone without verifying their competence and how much it will cost you? (I see, you want a ten-minute break every hour and an hour for lunch. Now please tell me whether you can fix my car and how much it will cost me.)
In other words, in the early rounds, don’t ask about the vacation plan, health plan, 401K, sick leave, flex time or anything that is about you. Once they show they are really interested in you, then you can say “You’ve got my interest, and I have some requirements.”
So, let’s sum up three things you need to know as you prep for the interview:
Everyone is hired as a problem-solver.
They only care about your skill set as it relates to solving their problem.
In the early interview rounds, it’s all about them.
Remember these three things and you’ll have a better chance of being invited back for the next round, or maybe even being hired after that first impressive interview.