When first published, some companies banned The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, considering it overly disruptive. Worse, they thought it was inappropriate for me to provide so many insider secrets on ways candidates could stealthily bypass the gatekeepers and how they could then overwhelm weaker interviewers. This Amazon comment highlights its effectiveness:
From the company perspective, one of the biggest disruptors involved replacing generic and skills-heavy job descriptions with the answer to this question: “What does the person taking this job need to do over the course of the first year to be considered both successful and highly satisfied?”
The answer resulted in a list of 6-8 KPOs (key performance objectives) describing the work the person needed to do and its importance. For example, rather than saying someone needed 3-5 years of C# and .net experience it’s better to say, “Build a front-end dashboard on a ____ platform identifying real-time performance trends of the critical customer service group.”
Use Misdirection to Get Interviewers to Describe the Real Job
Whenever an interviewer asks vague questions or something like, “How many years of experience do you have with (some skills)?,” I advise candidates to avoid answering the question by using this type of misdirection: “How are the skills used on the job?” or “It wasn’t clear from the job description what type of work the person in this role would actually be doing. Would you mind clarifying this? Then I’d like to give you some examples of work I’ve handled that are most comparable.”
Just asking the question will brand you as both insightful and assertive. But better still, providing some good answers will put you on the short-list of finalists. This video series describes how to frame your answers by describing a specific example with lots of details (i.e., when, where, why, who, how, metrics) about a related accomplishment.
Put Compensation in the Parking Lot
I advise recruiters and candidates to postpone any salary discussion until late in the first conversation. The idea is that if the job represents a career move the compensation is something that can be negotiated. Too often both recruiters and candidates use it to determine if it’s worth even having a conversation.
As a candidate, if you’re asked what your salary needs are too soon, say something like, “From a practical standpoint, salary doesn’t matter much if the job doesn’t represent a worthwhile move. Let’s first see if the job represents a career move, and, if so, we can then see if the compensation fits.” Then ask the interviewer to describe some of the big projects the person would be handling and provide examples of comparable accomplishments.
By delaying the conversation about compensation, candidates get a chance to be objectively and accurately assessed. Often this leads to other jobs if the one being discussed is not the right one, or, if it is potentially a good fit, compensation becomes less a barrier for moving forward.
Preparation Matters, but Using Forced-choice Questions Matters More
Long before the interview, candidates need to prepare a summary of their core strengths along with detailed examples of accomplishments supporting each one. Describing these during the interview ensures a complete assessment. By keeping a mental checklist of what’s been covered during the interview you’ll know what hasn’t been. Then ask this type of forced-choice question whenever one of your core strengths hasn’t been fully addressed: “Is (major strength) important for success in this role? If so, how is it used?” With this clarification, you’ll then be able to give an example of something you’ve done that proves your ability to handle this aspect of the job.
Controlling the Interview Ensures You’re Assessed Properly
Candidates need to take matters into their own hands whenever they believe they’re not being interviewed properly. This is not sinister or manipulative, just commonsense. It starts by asking about real job needs, putting compensation into the parking lot and asking forced-choice questions to ensure all of the person’s core strengths have been adequately covered. The most important part of this whole process, however, is giving detailed examples of accomplishments most related to the real job requirements.
Having debriefed well over one thousand different hiring managers over the years, it’s clear they use the examples chosen and the supporting details when making their assessment about competency, fit and potential. As important, candidates also need to understand that hiring managers minimize or dismiss generic statements without any descriptive proof. So, while taking control of the interview as described will brand you as assertive enough, you’ll need some great examples of comparable accomplishments to prove you’re worth hiring.