Even if you’ve got the gift of gab, and tend to approach the interview process like a seasoned pro, there’s still a phenomenon that can end up costing you an outstanding job offer or two from time to time. When all is said and done, many (if not most) companies these days often end up having a crisis of faith at the 11th hour of the interviewing process where they will question whether to hire the “candidate they like best” or the “candidate with the most relevant experience” — since in many cases these days, the individuals represented by these statements aren’t always one and the same person!
For people changing job roles or industries to any substantial degree, this last-minute risk analysis (aka “CYA Strategy”) on the employer’s part can become an extremely frustrating roadblock. One minute you’re the chosen one, and the next minute, the company tells you that you’ve finished second to another candidate, internal or external, whose credentials are just a tad more familiar and conventional.
The best defense against this occurrence? Nip it in the bud by showcasing your experience, ideas, and enthusiasm whenever possible in written format, instead of just talking about them. As a case in point, one of our clients (who has given me permission to share his story) recently reported landing a great new sales opportunity with an emerging Internet firm, even though he didn’t have any direct experience in the specific service sector the company represents. The secret to his success? After making it through the first two rounds of screening interviews, he took everything he had learned about the company — and its needs — and created a “30/60/90-Day Action Plan” document that explained exactly how he’d go about landing the company some lucrative new accounts, if hired.
In his own words: “It really impressed the Regional Manager when I brought it with me to my interview with him. I think it put me over the edge as a candidate who they liked, but who they had some worries about, given that I didn’t have specific industry experience. This showed them I would come prepared and had a plan of what needed to be done to get going quickly.”
Offering this kind of “proof” in the interview process can therefore be a very useful technique for many job hunters, especially those who sense a particular opportunity might be slipping away — or who realize, going in, that they’re something of a dark horse. Proactively providing a written idea outline or proposed work plan changes the game and offers the interviewer a whole new dimension of credibility around your credentials. So we’d encourage you to think hard about whether this approach might apply in your own situation and might be able to tip the scales in your favor occasionally, if and when needed. And if you need yet another reason to consider this strategy, consider that your competitors might already be engaging in this practice and using it, themselves, to get a leg up on you!
On a final related note, my client’s story reminded me of a fairly famous blog posting where author Guy Kawasaki describes a similar “show vs. tell” scenario and how it made all the difference in the world in the hiring process for a job he was seeking to fill. If you’d like to give this article a quick read, click here, and make sure to read the “Apply Really Well” section!