Are you ready to do a job interview? Right now?
Most people answer, “No” to that question, citing the need to conduct research into the organisation and its surrounding sector before being ready to go in and really sell themselves.

Fair enough.

But what would happen if the CEO of a whizz-bang company you’d love to work for sat down next to you at a dinner party? How would you sell yourself then? He or she isn’t going to be impressed by your deep knowledge of the choke-points in the distribution channel or the implications of a new technology launched by a competitor. They’re going to be impressed by a switched-on mind, by a sense that you like to make a real contribution in your work, and by a memorable presence – in short, a person who knows themself, and knows what they can do.

We’re back in Elevator Sales Pitch country here – are you ready to pitch that idea you have for a movie, with no notice at all, when you find yourself standing beside Steven Spielberg for 60 seconds? In the “Please buy me” version of a short-notice interview pitch, it’s more about you and your energy than about any particular idea, but whatever the discussion turns to, it’s all about being ready to be the best version of yourself.

Why is this so difficult? It’s difficult because this is alien language – we do not speak these self-promoting words in any setting other than a job interview. As such, the language has to be dredged up, dusted off and practised if you need it to work for you. Most of us can talk with a fair degree of fluency about the tasks and day to day responsibilities of what we do. Where I see candidates falling down most often in interview is in talking about themselves, simply because they do not have vocabulary top-of-mind available to do so.

I advise clients to redress this in two ways:

  • Pick a handful of companies you would love to work for and start building a dossier on each of them. That way, if you are presented with an opportunity, whether formal or informal, you can have an intelligent and relevant discussion with a Player from any of those companies.
  • More importantly, start a dossier on yourself. Do a profiling exercise and convert that rather clinical language into good, conversational language. Grab and remember compliments – cluster them under different headings. Track your suggestions, contributions and accomplishments in your current role. Capture the language that people use when they talk about you. This is your script, and by that, I don’t mean some lump of text that you slavishly learn off; I mean it should become an embedded, internalised vocabulary that you can call upon with no notice.

Qualifications and relevant experience get your foot in the door, but no-one hires you on that basis. If they did, there would be no need to go beyond the written application stage. You get hired because of the intangibles – presence, style, likeability, potential team fit, manageability. How do you project those? Inevitably the answer to that is going to be subtly different every time you attempt it with a new person; all I will say is that you are unlikely to be consistently successful in those efforts if you are approaching it willy-nilly. You need to know yourself and what’s impressive and unimpressive about that self and you need to have fluent, credible vocabulary to talk about that self – and that vocabulary needs to be top-of-mind and tip-of-tongue.

Related Posts:
The elevator sales pitch
Counting down to an interview
Rehearsal and vocabulary