I constantly encounter professionals (newbies and folks with lots of experience) who express anxiety when it comes to job interviews and being able to present themselves in a most favorable light. Part of the problem seems to be one of misplaced focus: on themselves. Of the 5 qualities I’ve observed in successful technical and marketing hires over 30 years, the ability to assume an attitude of working for yourself (i.e., a consultant’s attitude) is an important one to help frame the potential employee-hiring manager interaction. No one gets a paycheck out of the goodness of someone else’s heart–it’s about being able to solve problems and do the necessary work the position demands.
An achievement-focused résumé helps set the stage for potential successful interaction with those conducting interviews. While “duties and responsibilities” have their appropriate degree of importance on résumés, hiring managers want to more about what you accomplished than what did you do. It also helps when candidates ask probing questions about hiring manager expectations, concerns, project needs, etc.–much like a consultant would do for a potential client.
One question that I suggest candidates consider is: “What is your most pressing issue or project that I would be working on and how specifically can I contribute?” That forward-leaning question shows the hiring manager that you are tuned in to his or her objectives, and that your confidence in being the candidate of choice is clearly evident. The job interview is not the place or time to be meek or timid, but to express your confidence in your expertise and ability to contribute to the organization’s mission/vision–and to do so balanced with a high likeability factor (i.e., without arrogance).
Speaking from the former hiring manager’s perspective, what “sells” me on a candidate is his or her record of accomplishment and achievement as expressed on a résumé. I’m a believer in cover letters, and I strongly advocate in my seminars and individual coaching that candidates always include the cover letter as another document that attests to their expertise. Hiring managers will be sold on a candidate who can communicate (clearly and articulately) the future benefits of his or her expertise rather than the past features of their experience. The thing that sells a candidate is the value proposition; it’s the question a hiring manager asks in the form of: “Does this candidate have the demonstrated expertise and accomplishments that show he or she can regularly contribute to the higher strategic objectives of the organization?”
Getting hired is never about the candidate or the quality of the candidate’s “salesmanship”; it’s always about the hiring manager’s needs and concerns for the team, department, project, or company.