by Steve Adubato, PhD
The stock market may be doing a little better, but that doesn't mean people still aren't losing their jobs due to downsizing, restructuring and organizations simply going belly up. With that in mind, it is imperative for prospective job seekers to be in the best frame of mind as they prepare to sell themselves to employers.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in interviews is talking in generalities. Another mistake is to simply repeat what's in your resume. There are several problems with these two approaches. First, employers can read your resume. They don't need you to tell them what's in it. And when you communicate in generalities, employers have a hard time grasping exactly how you can benefit them and their organization.
Instead of saying things like, "I'm a team player" or "I'm a problem solver," (anyone can say these things) job seekers should start thinking and communicating in a more tangible and targeted fashion.
For example, when you say you are a team player, be prepared to immediately follow up with a concrete example or anecdote that describes how you did this in a previous job as well as the benefits the organization gained. As for being a problem solver, site a specific work-related problem that you encountered and briefly describe how you handled it. What was the resolution and what did you learn from it?
The other piece of the interview equation is to relate what you say to the prospective employer. Connect the information you gained from your Internet background search on the company and its activities. If you say that you are a "strategic thinker" who has experienced "leading change," talk about how those attributes can help the company in their recently announced expansion and reorganization. If the employer is embarking on a quality customer service initiative, talk about your experience; "In a previous position, I played a key role in handling customer complaints and helped turn them into opportunities for the company to improve its sales results."
All this comes down to the fact that most employers have limited attention spans. Given that they interview so many people, you have a limited window to get their attention. The key is to be as specific and customized in your interview communication as possible. It's not enough to generate an acceptable response and simply answer the questions you are asked.
As Robin Ryan, the author of "60 Seconds and You're Hired," says, "When you get your point across in 60 seconds or less, you increase the odds that the person will listen. When you add specifics of how you've completed the needed tasks before, show support materials and work examples and add vocal variety and enthusiasm to your answers, the employers start to wake up and take notice." Ryan argues that job seekers should come up with what she calls a "verbal business card." This business card summarizes your skills, abilities and experience in a concise and compelling fashion. This doesn't happen by accident. It takes hard work and editing as well as practice and prioritizing.
So, if you are looking for a job or think you might be in the future, write a narrative that succinctly lays out who you are and why you would be valuable to a particular organization. Focus on three or four tangible skills or attributes that you bring to the table and connect them to the prospective employer's needs. Once you get this down, it can be used to answer a variety of commonly asked interview questions that often stump people such as, "tell me about yourself" or "why do you think we should hire you?" Finally, even if you are gainfully employed, this tangible communication technique will help you identify your strengths in your current position as well as what you offer to your organization. Try it, the results may surprise you.