Recently, I’ve had the good fortune to become acquainted with communications coach Keith Ferrin, of True Success Coaching, who was kind enough to come in and share some thoughts with a group of my clients on how to supercharge their effectiveness as communicators.
The #1 point Keith emphasized to the audience? It was that when you communicate without purpose, and fail to clarify the specific reason/purpose/agenda of your message ahead of time, you’re merely engaging in “information dissemination” and will end up boring people, at best, or failing to generate the specific results you’re seeking, at worst. Citing many highly familiar examples, he urged people — nay, begged people — to think hard about what they actually wanted to accomplish, up front, before putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or standing up to deliver a presentation.
At first, I know this concept sounds a bit simplistic. Don’t most people engage in communications with purpose? Isn’t this advice fairly common knowledge? Honestly, you kind of “had to be there” to fully grasp the many interesting nuances of Keith’s argument — but let me frame this advice in a way that I suspect many people out there, especially active job seekers reading this blog, can easily understand.
Let’s say you’ve got a big interview coming up tomorrow and are actively preparing for it. What “purpose” lies behind all of this preparation? What are you trying to achieve? What central theme ties all of this preparation together and will help make your communications with the employer cohesive in nature, versus just being a random batch of reactive responses regarding your work history?
If you’re thinking the purpose is simply “to get the job” I’m afraid that doesn’t quite cut it. Such an objective is too high-level to be useful and is also something that depends mostly on factors outside your control, making it fairly unsuitable as a key messaging objective. What if, instead, you centered your interviewing preparation efforts around achieving one of the following goals?
- To help the employer get to know the “real you” and your natural, authentic strengths
- To demonstrate the research you’ve done on the employer and how well you understand their business
- To highlight three top qualities you possess that you feel set up apart from your competition
- To uncover the key problems, challenges, and pain points the hiring manager is hoping to resolve
- To engage the interviewer, inspire them, and really make them think (per the article here)
Again, we’re not talking about just preparing one or two pat answers that touch on the items above, as most candidates do, but to truly gear your entire presentation toward accomplishing one of the above outcomes. Wouldn’t that give you a better sense of how to prepare? Wouldn’t that infuse your messaging with far greater direction? Wouldn’t having such a “purpose” in place unlock your creativity and allow you to make better decisions regarding your strategy, content, and approach?
While granted, this probably seems like an unorthodox way to go about things, I think it provides a useful framework that could help many people approach the interviewing process in a more proactive, organized, and engaging manner. So even if you just noodle the concept over as a thought experiment, ask yourself how your interview preparation efforts might be different if you focused them completely on achieving one of the above specific objectives — versus just responding, haphazardly, to whatever the employer happens to throw at you!