After coaching hundreds of clients on the finer points of competitive interviewing, and the importance of emphasizing one’s own talents while subtly undermining the strengths of the competition, I’m very grateful that one of my current clients — Laura, you know who you are! — finally made me aware of the phrase that professional salespeople have used for years to describe this technique.  When I was going through this part of the interviewing preparation process, she said “Oh, you’re suggesting that I should FUD my competition to death!  Is that what you mean?”

One puzzled stare later, she clarified things by telling me that this handy little acronym stood for spreading Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about one’s competition in the sales process.  This term, apparently, was a significant part of the legendary sales training offered by IBM, and I’ll echo Big Blue by saying that “fudding” someone is exactly what a serious candidate should also do, whenever possible, in an interview situation.  In essence, the bottom-line agenda of any interviewee should be to get the employer to acknowledge the importance of his or her top credentials, while at the same time minimizing the importance of the relevant qualifications other candidates likely have in abundance.

Once you get the hang of this technique, it’s becomes a subtle yet powerful tool you can weave into your interview efforts to give yourself an edge.  Here are a few quick examples of how this might sound:

• Situation: Candidate Interviewing for Non-Profit Position (but probably the youngest candidate)
• FUD Factor: “Wouldn’t you agree, Mr. or Ms. Employer, that the ideal hire for this job would be somebody who can not only command the respect of older donors and board members, but also be young enough to relate to the Generation Y and Millennial demographic, and get people in these age groups engaged, since they represent the future funding and volunteer lifeblood of the organization?”

• Situation: Candidate Interviewing for Sales Job (without any formal sales experience)
• FUD Factor:
“While I may not have as much experience as some of the other people you’re talking with, Mr. or Ms. Employer, this may not actually be a bad thing.  With me, you’d not only get somebody who is extremely motivated to prove himself, but somebody who also has no bad habits you’d have to break.  You’d get to train me in the exact sales approach you feel is most successful in your business, instead of inheriting somebody who is just ‘coasting’ or who is accustomed to selling in a totally different way.”

• Situation: Candidate Interviewing for Financial Analyst Job (but overqualified)
• FUD Factor: “While I realize that I appear slightly overqualified, on paper, since I’ve formerly worked in a controller capacity, there’s really no cause for concern since I’ve done a lot of soul-searching in recent months and have firmly concluded that I want to get back in a hands-on role, working with numbers, as opposed to holding a management post.  So unlike other candidates, I wouldn’t be looking to climb the ladder beyond this job and you wouldn’t have to worry at all about retention issues.  And yet, you’d still have the benefit of an experienced manager on board, which might be handy when you go on vacation or need somebody who can step in and take the reins on an interim basis when you’re not available.”

See how it works?  This approach represents the ultimate in interview strategy since it’s designed to tilt the playing field in your favor — and get the employer to agree that your capabilities are the right ones for the job, while other candidates are nothing more than land mines, loose cannons, and question marks who should best be avoided.  So try some fudding, yourself, and see if boosts your success rate!