I’ve been interviewing job candidates since almost the beginning of my career. And, I’ve been in my fair share of interviews. I’ve come to realize that there really isn’t anything secretive about the process… sometimes they feel wonky, or weird. But there are just two things that you need to somehow get across in the entire process.
Note that “the entire process” includes every communication you have with people who are making the hiring decision, which includes your resume, LinkedIn profile, online social presence, etc.
The first things you need to prove is that you are technically competent.
Can you actually do the job? Most of the job seekers I talk to think they are the best fit for the job because they’ve gone through the job description and know they can do every bit of it really, really well. In my job last year at Bamboo I went through the job description and thought “I can do all of this (with one exception),” and “my heavens, no one should have this weird of a background or list of proficiencies!” (The exception was a bullet point that was mistakenly copied over from another job description for a completely different role. The lesson there is that not all job descriptions are bullet-proof, and many of them would probably be about a C-)
Can you do the job? If so, how do you prove it?
Do you use stories? When I had this role before, I found that the processes were too limiting and my team wasn’t able to really contribute the way they should have. We worked on optimizing some processes and policies, which allowed my team to work much more efficiently, and get more work done. I was able to create those optimizations because I’ve worked in similar teams for years, and had an intimate understanding of what needed to happen.” Not a super story, but you get the point.
Do you use quantifications? One of the most important things you should have on your resume is a list of quantifications of how what you have done has made improvements. Did you raise scores at the school? Did you sell more widgets than anyone else? Did you open more offices, help more people, improve the satisfaction score? Where you working with hundreds of thousands of dollars, or millions, or billions? Put numbers on those things, and impress me. Give me something I can sink my teeth into.
Do you use testimonials? I find that allowing other people to talk about my proficiencies is sometimes more powerful than me “bragging” about them. You can ask for testimonials (you should do this!) and coach people on how to give one that has merit, and isn’t just a good-ol-boys-club-fluffy- statement. Or, you can say something like “People I have worked with would say” or “People who have hired me” or “People who have reported to me” and then some statement that, once again, makes your case in a meaningful way.
Perhaps you prove your proficiency in other ways, but those are the main three I can think of right now. Of course, the vehicles you use to do this could be varied, depending on your audience. Maybe you use a personal blog, or LinkedIn articles, or write on Medium, or speak at local events… the list goes on and on. But don’t use those vehicles without understanding WHAT and WHY.
One last point on this: if you asked me to coach you on this, I would suggest that this is a career management strategy, not just a job search strategy. In other words, this is a long-term strategy, not just something you do while you are in a job search.
The second thing to prove is that you will fit into the culture of the team and organization.
I have interviewed people who, technically, would have been excellent hires. They would have done such a good job at the job. But, they were not cultural fits.
This comes down to how nice you are. What your emotional intelligence (EQ) is. How perceptive you are.
Look, I know that sometimes there are some very technical things that need to be done and it just doesn’t matter whether the person is good with people or not. Maybe you can isolate them, or by the very nature of the job, they will not be around people. But in today’s world that isn’t super practical. Team members want to enjoy who they work with. They don’t want to go to work with anxiety because of a conversation that might happen (I’ve been there).
Working with horrible people who are good at the technical part of their job is miserable.
How do you show that you are not a horrible jerk?
You could tell people how nice and great you are. But I know a narcissist who is excellent at convincing people about how nice and great they are. I’ve seen people, who were supposedly nice and great, hired, and became a cancer to the organization.
How do you help convince people that you really are cool?
Again, stories. These stories could be about pulling a team together, or working with difficult people, or how you have contributed to a team culture. “Tell me about a time when…” and relate it back to how you work with others, which can give me insight into how you will work with me, our team, and our customers.
Again, quantifications. Perhaps these quantifications have to do with helping employees stay in a company or on a team longer (which is a real issue), or bringing more people to your team (growth), or satisfaction scores. How can you quantify any part of your niceness and previous cultural fit?
Again, testimonials. Let others talk about and for you. This is how most LinkedIn Recommendations are… focusing more on your soft side and how great you are to work with. There is nothing wrong with asking people for specific testimonials and recommendations, but there is something wrong with not having any to show.
I’m not sure I can say which is more important: the ability to do the job, or the culture fit. I think it will depend on many factors, including what the pain points are the company has experienced. Maybe they had someone that was a jerk but good at what they did, and they are reeling from that pain. Or, they have a bunch of nice people who aren’t good at what they do, and they know they need to hire better for competency.
Your job, as a job seeker, is to someone prove both of the things above. Feel free to let me know how it goes!