Of all the various sundry facets of the job search process, the item that has changed the least over the years, in my opinion, is interviewing. While new job-finding tools and technologies emerge constantly, and resumes have given up a lot of ground to social media sites as of late, there just really aren’t that many radically new approaches to the final step of the process — which involves sitting down with the employer and closing the deal.
Sure, there’s been a rise in the “behavioral” style of interviewing, perhaps, where companies ask you to give specific examples of your different strengths and capabilities, but this phenomenon has been around in some form or another for a great many years. Additionally, you might see more companies employing “loop” or “panel” interviews to vett their candidates, but again, I wouldn’t say this approach is terribly new, either.
One trend that DOES seem to be rising unusually fast, however, is the tendency for employers to ask for a “demonstration” of some kind in the interview. I’ve had at least several clients run into these situations recently, in fact, where instead of the normal “come in and we’ll ask you a bunch of questions” type of meeting, the employer instead asks them to arrive prepared to deliver a brief (usually 10-20 minute) presentation outlining their qualifications for the job.
Needless to say, many job hunters are freaked out by this type of request, especially those to whom public speaking isn’t a cozy and comfortable subject. But honestly, I think it’s a pretty effective way for companies to go about things. It demands that a candidate bring several important things to the party — motivation (to actually show up and give the presentation), confidence (in terms of how assertively they sell themselves), smarts (based on the specific content they choose), and communication skills (based on how well they structure and convey the material). All of these are important aspects of success in most professional occupations.
Additionally, such presentations should go a long way toward helping the employer differentiate between various candidates, because it puts the burden of proof on the job hunter to demonstrate why they’re special and might deserve the opportunity more than some other folks.
So all in all, I’m intrigued by this trend, and will be curious to see if it catches on even more. But for those readers of my blog who might be completely spooked by such a proposition, let me offer a simple outline you could potentially follow in cases where the employer asks for a presentation — but doesn’t give much direction about exactly what they’d like you to present.
1) Why am I interested in the job in question?
In this section, you’d provide 3-5 very specific bullets about what attracts you to the company and why the job seems like a good fit for you at this point in your career. This is a great time to not only bring in some research you’ve done on the organization, but also to highlight some interesting tidbits or insights you picked out of the job advertisement. Make sure, too, that you show that you’re highly interested in their job, not just any job you might stumble across.
2) How do my qualifications stack up to your requirements?
This should be a fairly straightforward one. Pinpoint their top 5-7 requirements and then speak to the credentials and experience you’d bring to each of their stated wants or needs.
3) What sets me apart?
In this section, try to “brand” yourself by pointing out some unique, unusual, or counterintuitive strengths that you would be able to bring to the role in question. For example, one of my recent clients is seeking to break into the Environmental Health & Safety field (a new career path) and has a Masters in Teaching. In this section, she might make the case that “education” is a huge part of getting workers at companies to comply with safety rules — and that given her advanced training in this area, she’ll be unusually effective at getting people to understand various rules and regulations, versus just trotting them out and expecting people to follow them blindly.
4) What can you expect from me?
This one is a bit of a wild card, but you could finish up your presentation by highlighting your core work values, outlining your top personality traits, and/or making a series of very concrete claims about how you’d approach the new job, if hired. For example, you might have a bullet that says “I’ll always be the last one out of the office” or “As a lifelong optimist, you’ll find that I bring a refreshingly can-do attitude to the workplace.” Or, if you’d be taking on a leadership role, you might showcase some important tenets of your leadership style, e.g. “Employees will always know where they stand with me; no hidden agendas.”
The key, on this latter item, is to leave the employer with some very authentic thoughts about who you are and what you’re about. Doing so will infuse the meeting with lots of sincerity and rapport, right at the end, leaving a positive lasting impression on the hiring commitee.
At any rate, these are just some general thoughts on the type of content you could assemble for such a situation. Definitely feel free to get more creative, if needed, or if the employer gives you some more specific direction about the types of thoughts and information to present.
Hope that helps if any of you encounter such situations. And remember, practice makes perfect. Once you’ve outlined your core talking points, make sure to practice the session several times with a timer or video recorder, both to improve your delivery and also ensure you can deliver it within the allotted time frame!