Those of us in the 40+ age bracket may still remember the days of the Sears Wish Book, when children across the country (including myself) would start anticipating the holiday season months in advance and poring over glossy colored photos in the Sears catalog, picking out gifts to add to our Christmas list. You had to be proactive in those days, after all, since it might take weeks for the gift to actually reach you once you placed the order. Especially if you grew up in Alaska, as I did, where pretty much everything had to be schlepped up from the “Lower 48” by airplane or barge…
Today, however, we’re living in the Amazon Age, where I daresay most of us have become horribly spoiled as consumers. Want a movie? Don’t rent it or wait for it on television, just stream it. Not like the new shirt you ordered? Just drop-ship it back to the company for a refund. Want to get the best possible price on a new camera? Check out Ebay — or run a web search to see if there’s some obscure vendor out there who is willing to undercut the competition by a few bucks.
As consumers, in other words, most of us have come to demand the three adjectives outlined in the subject line of this article. We have high standards. We want instant gratification. And we don’t seem nearly as concerned as we were in the old days about WHO we’re buying from, just as long as the price is right — and we’re assured of 100% satisfaction.
Well guess what? For those who haven’t noticed, many employers today have seemed to adopt a similar view of the world, as well. As “consumers” of talent, especially in a tight labor market, hiring managers are looking for compelling, can’t-miss candidates who offer the potential of doing exactly what the company needs done, at a reasonable salary level, within a short time frame.
My question: why aren’t more professionals taking advantage of this dynamic in the interviewing process? Why is it that in all of the interview role-playing I conduct with transitioning professionals, it’s still extremely rare that I meet somebody who treats me as “the customer” and flat-out tells me they can get the job done for me — quickly, accurately, and effectively?
Here’s what this might sound like in a few hypothetical situations:
• “Abraham, if your goal is to get your products distributed by Costco, I’m your man. I’ve done it for my last two employers and I’m positive I can accomplish that for you, as well.”
• “Carla, I can envision exactly what you’re after and if you give me three weeks, I guarantee I can get those accounting records whipped into shape for you.”
• “Smitty, your vision for the new software makes perfect sense, and I’ve got just the expertise needed to bring this technology to life for you in the coming months.”
• “Frankly, Zelda, I don’t think you even need a full 6 months to pull this project off. Given some of the innovative approaches I’ve come up with, I think I can get it done for you in 3-4, tops.”
• “Mortimer, you’re right, that vendor is definitely taking advantage of you. If I get the chance to join your team, I’ll make sure to examine all of your contracts carefully and renegotiate them to make sure you’re not paying a cent more than you need to for these services.”
You get the point, right? It’s not usually enough to sit there passively during the interview, answering questions about your past and focusing attention on your own performance. At some point, you have to demonstrate that you’ve listened closely to the needs of the person across the desk, understand them, and are confident you can knock them out of the park if given the chance.
These types of can-do statements may not be in everyone’s comfort zone, I realize. Then again, most of us don’t tend to order from the Sears catalog anymore, either. Times change. And since employers have gotten increasingly picky about who they hire, the smartest job seekers are starting to adapt to this reality. So if you haven’t been as effective in the interview process as you might have hoped, think this issue over a bit, and start singing the tune that every employer (and consumer) wants to hear — that you “get it” in terms of what they need done and are confident you can deliver it, quicker and better than the competition!
P.S. Hung up on making these kinds of promises? Worried you’ll make a commitment you won’t be able to back up? While you’ll have to use your own judgment on a case by case basis, there’s one small loophole that may give you more wiggle room than you’d think. Read the earlier article of mine here to learn more about it…