Interview = Client Meeting + Consultative Selling

Beyond Reaction

Don’t come away feeling like you weren’t able to show your best. Treat the interview as you would potentially approach a client meeting, cold-call or sales pitch. Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and what you want to demonstrate to the interviewer that will make them want your product, you.

As a recruitment consultant coaching and guiding experienced professionals for interviews with the Big 4 especially, I would often tell them not to rely on being asked the right questions but rather react accordingly and aim to have two or three main examples or anecdotes or selling points that you want to leave the interviewer with knowing regardless, so that the dreaded feeling of ‘yeh it went ok, but I’m not sure if I really had a chance to impress them’ is averted.

Indeed, sometimes the sentiment post interview is so indistinct and inconclusive that feedback from a candidate struggles to get beyond ‘it went ok, yeh it was fine, it went ok’. At least even a ‘it was a grilling, I was really under pressure and I’m not sure it went so good’ is preferable to the devastating mediocrity of ‘ok’.

Too many times I’ve had this feedback and indeed felt this myself after interviews where things have progressed smoothly enough and there were no big cock-ups or faux-pas yet there is a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction that persists. Maybe it’s because the interviewer didn’t ask challenging or sufficiently probing questions or perhaps because one’s answers were too narrow and lacked depth.

Especially within consulting and arguably more towards the higher end of recruitment, interviews are often about sussing people out, understanding how they work and what kind of person they are and whether they will fit in and be a real ‘value-add proposition’. [This was a favoured stock phrase of a colleague of mine].

It is not enough to be responsive; act with initiative

You almost need to treat the interview as a client meeting and the interviewer as a potential client (minus the flip-chart or powerpoint). This means three things:

  1. that you’ve researched the company and know exactly what competencies and attitudes they’re looking for; if you have spoken to contacts or employees, then you may also know what really impresses them
  2. you have compiled examples from your experience that emphatically demonstrate these sought-after qualities
  3. you know exactly what your strongest areas are, relevant to the competencies and whittled down to 2-4 points, that you will aim to communicate during the meeting

Eg. I list my strengths as: building strong relationships; communication; team-work and problem solving. So when a question like, what can you bring to the company, or what are your strengths comes up, that’s an ideal place to tick some very important boxes easily.

In order to sell well, don’t be afraid to regurgitate your in-depth knowledge of the company in preparation for the delivery of a relevant and precise competency answer. This is ideal for questions around why you want to work for xyz or why consulting etc. Sometimes a client needs to be reminded about what they want or what they’ve said on their website so that when you give it to them it’s all the more pertinent. For example: from my research into xyz it’s clear that you place a keen emphasis on client relationships and this is something I’ve greatly enjoyed in my previous roles where I’ve delivered to various stakeholders and built relationships with a diverse array of people at all levels, therefore this is an extremely appealing aspect etc etc.

Finally, NEVER go into an interview or an answer half-heartedly. You need to sell passionately because PASSION SELLS. And above all, be confident and KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SELLING.

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