During the interview, the hiring manager’s job is to find the person among the group who has an extra edge, something uniquely beneficial they can bring to the company above and beyond the other candidates. And it’s that extra edge, that uniquely beneficial trait that ultimately wins the job.
So what makes you unique?
What extra benefit do you bring to the table?
Most job seekers don’t have an answer to this question. Or, if they do, it’s usually the same canned answer that everyone else is using. This is deadly in a tough market like the one you’re in today.
If you can’t clearly communicate the unique advantages you have to offer an employer in a powerful, compelling way – the odds are extremely good that you’re going to lose the position to someone who can.
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A lesson from Carole Martin, The Interview Coach on how to know what your interviewer is looking for.
You read through the job description and are feeling sure that this is the job for you.
You are technically qualified. The perfect match!You feel confident about getting the job.
But you don’t get the offer. What went wrong? You may have neglected to think about the “human factor” in the interview. You may have been taking some of these skills for granted, or are too modest to talk about them in an interview.
By changing your thinking – by thinking beyond the usual qualifications you have in the form of education and experience (knowledge-based skills)you will have a new view of other skills necessary to get the offer. These are the qualities that can make or break your chances in the interview. The skills that you may consider “soft skills.” Actually, they are not soft at all, they are the human factor (transferable skills and personal traits) required in any job.
If knowledge-based skills account for as much as 50 per cent or more of the essential job function; what accounts for the other 50 percent? The answer is your transferable skills, and personal traits. This is the 50 percent of the job requirement that could give you a chance; even if someone else is more qualified than you are.
This is the part of the interview that is more subjective. Unfortunately, this is where many candidates begin their spiral decent out the door.
Most job interviews last anywhere from an hour, or less; to an all-day or weekend event.
“How can someone get to know you in a one hour?” The answer is: “They really can’t.” This is why the person who sells him or herself best will be make the most memorable impression and will more than likely get the job offer. Your challenge is to be prepared to let the interviewer see who you are through your performance during the interview. This includes your ability to act and talk confidently about your past behavior, your accomplishments, and yourself.
The most important part of this category is to let the interviewer get to know the real you. When you hold back, they will not get a realistic picture of you and your personality. Try to remember that the interviewer is thinking: “Would I want to work with this person?”
People’s personalities vary, and for some people the idea of “telling it all” at the first meeting, feels very uncomfortable and dangerous. Others will tell too much and forget this is not a “date,” or opportunity to make a new best friend; it is a Job Interview.Do not underestimate your personality traits as a deal breaker when there are two or more, very qualified candidates.
That is not to say that if you are a quiet, reserved person that you should go into the interview cracking jokes. It is very important to be yourself.
Identifying Your Transferable Skills
By taking an inventory of your transferable skills you can determine some of the traits that you may have been neglecting to talk about in your interviews. We will refer to them as transferable skills because they are portable, meaning that you can take them with you to any job or industry.
Transferable Skills – Examples: communication, planning, time management, problem solving, customer service, teaching, coaching, creative, researching, selling, follow-through, resourcefulness, attention to detail, skilled with numbers, innovation.
When you are reading a job description or posting, you will notice that oncethe jobdescription moves beyond the qualifications of education and years of experience required, it begins to focus on the factors that are desired in a candidate. This is where you will recognize the value of your transferable skills.
Examples of words you would find on a job description are listed below along with the transferable skills it would take to do the job:
- The Job Description: Ability to communicate verbally; relate effectively with others(Your transferable skills and experiences: communication; ability to convince others; negotiation skills; conflict- resolution experience)
- The Job Description: Ability to organize, plan and prioritize (Your transferable skills and experiences: time management, attention to detail,follow-through; multi-tasking)
- The Job Description Requirement: Ability to relate effectively with others
(Your transferable skills and experiences: communication; listening skills; problem solving; trust)
- The Job Description Requirement: Ability to evaluate information and make
(Your transferable skills and experiences: ability to analyze; problem solving;analytical thinking)
- The Job Description Requirement: Initiative and motivation (Your transferable skills and experiences: steps forward and takes action; willing to do above and beyond; can-do attitude; makes things happen)
- The Job Description Requirement: Ability to adapt to changing situations
- The Job Description Requirement: Honesty and Integrity
(Your transferable skills and experiences: able to make difficult situations; does the right thing; uses good judgment; trustworthy)
(Your transferable skills and experiences: flexible; willing; good attitude; fits in; risk taker)
By focusing on the requirements of the job posting and then breaking it down to select your transferable skills, you may discover skills that you have been overlooking skills. These skills could make a difference in the way you sell yourself in a confident manner.
Identifying Personal Traits
Personal traits are the individual qualities that make you who you are. Are you outgoing and tend to jump right in? Or, do you take time to warm up before you let someone get to know you? Do you always think ahead and meet deadlines before they are due? Or, are you a last minute person who gets that rush when working against the clock to meet a deadline? This is not about what’s good or not good; it’s about you and your character. Some jobs fit one type of personality but would be absolutely boring to another person. The idea is to find the right person for the right job so that everyone wins.
Question: How Would You Describe Your Personality?
This is a straightforward question, but if you answer too hastily you may end up sounding like every other candidate. What makes you unique?
Don’t give the interviewer with the same tired, old answers everybody else gives. Try thinking of new ways to get your message across and sound enthusiastic about your personal traits. The following are some examples of boring,and then better answers to describe your personality:
Boring Answer:“I am a high energy person.”
This answer needs more detail and energy.
Better Answer: “I am a person who is energized by challenges and problems.”
Boring Answer:“I’m a hard worker.”
The most common phrase used in answering the question about strengths. No imagination.
Better Answer:“I do whatever it takes to get the job done; sometimes working 10 hour days.”
Boring Answer: “I am a quick learner.”
A very overused phrase that has lost its effectiveness.
Better Answer: “I can hit the ground running and come up to speed faster than anyone I know.”
Boring Answer: “I’m analytical.”
A lack luster answer, that doesn’t reveal much information.
Better Answer: “I’m known for my ability to analyze data and transform it into useful information.”
Describing your personality is somewhat like writing an advertisement for a product. In this case however, the product is YOU.
Think about why a customer would choose you as opposed to another product. What makes you unique? Are you the type of person who would fit into this organization? Your job is to convince your interviewer that you are that person by going beyond your knowledge-based skills and transferable skills, to include some of your personal traits.
The more specific your answers, the better your chances are of leaving a lasting impression. Interviewers talk to several candidates in a single day. What will make you a memorable candidate?
In today’s competitive job market it is important to take some time to think about how you could describe your personality in a way that will make you stand out. The buyer needs to be sold on your uniqueness and abilities. When you sound like everybody else, you look like everybody else. Distinguishing yourself from the pack will give you an edge. A little work before the interview will put some zip into your pitch.
Think beyond your left-brained technical side – your knowledge based skills. Think about who you are as a person, and then be “yourself.”