Sunday, January 29, 2012

Be the Vendor (Not the Applicant) in the Job Interview (Sale!)

It's a point-of-view game-changer:  are you an applicant in a job interview, or a vendor?  I've witnessed the paradigm-shift as I've coached two talented professionals over the last month.  It's like watching the switch flip back to the authentic human capital offering.

Approaching a job interview as an applicant forces you into the frame of supplicant. Beggar. When you approach the interview in the sad context that the hiring authority is doing you a favor by talking to you, you're just another dancer in the Chorus Line, murmuring the meaningless mantra of "God, I hope I get it."  Oh, you'll get it all right.  Rejected, with that attitude.  You're starting out one-down from the hiring authority, in the supplicant's unmistakable veil of fear.  Fear of rejection; fear of not being able paying your bills, fear of (insert your worst fear).  In this fearful stance of the supplicant, the hiring authority has you at hello.  You're trapped, you're at their mercy and you did to yourself.  Don't get me wrong;  the "What Does He Want from Me, What Should I Try to Be" mantra is not necessarily the recipe for disaster:  supplicants are hired every day.  The hiring authorities who need that kind of control need that kind of applicant who surrenders their personal power for a paycheck.

It doesn't have to be that way.  You control this interview conversation more than you know.

This interesting switch dwells in all of us:  it's just a matter of being open to its possibility and creativity.   In coaching the First Professional, who had not been on an interview in several years and who with real anxiety asked me to put together a top-10 list of the toughest interview questions and answers to expect, I did something unexpected.  "Don't approach this as an applicant," I coached.  "If instead in this meeting you were the vendor providing these services on an outsourced basis for this customer, tell me why you're the vendor they should choose."  The Professional's fear evaporated, and the sparkle returned to their eyes:  the switch was turned on and they instantly empowered themselves.  They proceeded to knock my socks off with their proposal and their energetic self-possession.  They did the same with their new employer the next day.  They were head-and-shoulders above the other candidates in their expertise and self-confidence, who I'm sure were merely supplicants.

It's not just a matter of the supplicant answering the employer's questions correctly:  the real conversation is the subject-matter expert (SME) vendor meeting / exceeding the potential customer's needs.  And as my daddy taught me:  when the customer is doing most of the talking, and is selling you on them and their organization, the signs are positive that you can ask for the order (job), and close the sale.

I saw the switch turned on again today with the second Professional.  While their current employment situation is a bit sketchy due to economic forces, they have several potential "customers" interested in their services next.  The pressure is off, there's no veil of fear, they don't have just one potential customer.  As they engage in their initial customer conversation this week, they can be completely present, authentic and centered as the talented SME Vendor they are, exploring the potential possibilities together with the customer of working together, rather than stoop to some bizarre and hellish personal version of Quiz Show.

May the week ahead present innovative proposals and produce fruitful new partnerships for us all.


  1. Great post! Being the person who can solve the company's problems is a position of power!

    1. Debra, thank you for writing this post. I really appreciate the thought here, certainly a challenging of traditional mindset. I would just add that even with a change in mindset in the interview process, there still needs to be passion and preparation. Any process that matches up a solution to a need (sales process) is more a matter of qualification than persuasion. Your technique here, allows for a more direct path to qualifying a potential match and avoids the desperation that normally leads to rejection....thanks again for this beautifully written post.

    2. David, thanks very much for your kind and thoughtful feedback. I completely agree: the passion and preparation to identify and then to meet / exceed the customer's needs is key to maximizing the potential for success.

    3. Connie, thanks for the feedback; and nothing beats personal power in a discussion with a decision-maker!