One of the most commonly given pieces of advice to job seekers is to "sell yourself" during the interview process. However, this may not be the best way to go if you want the best shot at landing the job. Selling yourself by bragging or pushing your accomplishments onto the hiring manager can come off as disingenuous and obnoxious. Try the following method instead.
Probe for Pain
The "Probe-for-Pain" interview approach is recommended by Forbes contributor Liz Ryan. The idea is to ask probing questions in an attempt to uncover the company's specific problems--problems you can help solve. Using thoughtful questions to demonstrate your expertise is more effective than using canned interview responses to highlight your accomplishments and experience. This approach is best used during the interview with the actual hiring manager, as a front-line recruiter or HR screener will not be as knowledgeable or responsive about the company's specific problems.
The Art of Subtlety
When using this approach during the interview, subtlety is key. You can't expect for the hiring manager to completely open up to you, a relative unknown, about the company's issues and concerns. Therefore, direct questions can be off-putting. Instead, conduct thorough research prior to the interview in order to gauge the company's primary needs. Get clues from the job description, company website and current press releases or news articles. Consider what the company needs most in a new hire. If you possess these skills or attributes, focus on highlighting those.
Ask the Right Questions
It's important to ask the right questions during the interview. Before you dive in, make sure you've answered the hiring manager's questions first, to the best of your ability. Ask if it's okay to ask a few questions before proceeding. You need information about the company's immediate and long-term needs so that you can position yourself as the best person for the role. Asking for more clarification on the position's responsibilities and expectations can help you get there.
Benefits of This Approach
One of the key benefits to using this approach during the interview is you get to have a real conversation with the hiring manager. Let's face it: interviews can be uncomfortable. Many hiring managers loathe having to read from a script of questions, so getting to answer a few questions from candidates lets them off the hook. Moreover, you're asking questions about the company's problems and how best to solve them, topics that are of interest to most hiring managers.
Using the "probe-for-pain" approach during the interview can yield far better results than simply bragging about yourself and your accomplishments. By engaging the hiring manager with the right questions, the interview becomes more of a two-way conversation where you can still highlight your relevant skills and abilities. You end up selling yourself in a more natural and appropriate way.
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