Last year the editor of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired suggested we extract all of the candidate-oriented content and create a video version for job seekers only. The intro is below. This year he suggested we convert The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired into a practical handbook for job seekers.

The big idea behind this is that too many active job seekers settle for lateral transfers rather than jobs offering career growth. To make this shift, the editor asked me to highlight what job seekers must do in order to get these better jobs. I told him too many job seekers accept the fact that they’re being interviewed improperly. Worse, they don’t do anything about it. Therefore we need to use the main chapter to identify and correct the problem.

This post will be used to test the concept out so please comment below with your results. It starts by asking this question early in the interview.

Based on the job description it isn’t clear what the focus of the job actually is. Would you mind giving me a quick overview of the job and some of the key challenges the person hired will be expected to handle during the first year? Based on this, I’d like to give you an overview of some of my accomplishments that best relate to what you need done.

As the interviewer responds, ask a few clarifying questions like:

  • What are the measures of success?
  • What’s the current status of the project?
  • What happened to the person in the role or is it a new position?
  • What resources are available?
  • Who’s on the team?
  • What’s the quality of the team?
  • What are the biggest technical or business challenges involved?
  • What needs to be done first?
  • What’s the timeframe for completing this project?

With this information you now need to prove you can handle this work successfully. The best way is by giving an example of a comparable accomplishment that best meets the company’s needs.

To get ready for this part I suggest to candidates that they put together a list of their major accomplishments as soon as they begin the job hunting process. Then take the top 3-4 and write a few paragraphs for each one with a lot of descriptive details. This includes the why, when, where, what happened and the before and after results. Describe the team and the technical challenges involved. Be specific and includes dates, metrics and percent changes. The purpose of writing this down is that you won’t forget it during the frenzied atmosphere of the actual interview.

Now you have to practice giving a response. For this I advise candidates to prepare a two-minute summary of each accomplishment using the SAFW format for speech writing or Say A Few Words. This stands for:

- Say: Make an opening Statement.

- A: Amplify the statement with some clarifying information.

- Few: Provide a Few Examples with specific details.

- Words: Conclude with a Wrap-up and summary of the accomplishment.

What I’ve discovered is that interviewers remember the stories and examples and from this conclude the candidate’s ability to do the work required. General statements about strengths without an example to back it up are ignored or quickly forgotten. As important is the length of the response. If it’s too long the candidate is viewed as long-winded and boring and if too short, not insightful enough. That’s why 1-2 minutes is a good length for every answer.

You’ll know the interview is going well if the interviewer starts describing next steps in a positive and specific manner. If things are left up in the air with the standard, “We’ll get back to you,” response, don’t go away without some type of push back. Instead ask something like, “Given what we’ve discussed today, do you think my background fits with your job needs? If so, when do you think another meeting will be arranged and who will it be with? If not, is there something in my background you don’t feel fits your job needs? Would you mind sharing that with me?”

Asking the interviewer to describe real job needs is a great way to ensure you’re measured on your ability to do the actual work required. Then by forcing the interviewer to reveal his/her hand at the end, you will get a chance to redeem yourself if you fell short somewhere. As I say in the video above, while these techniques won’t help you get a job you don’t deserve, they certainly will help you get one you do.