The Golden Rule of Interviewing

You probably know the old saying – he who has the gold makes the rules!

But, with interviewing, there is another golden rule, one that can affect your ability to get the job you want.  Managers will hire anyone when they believe the person will create more value than they cost.  No matter what other questions you get asked during an interview, you must make sure to answer the most important questions – HOW WILL YOU ADD VALUE TO OUR COMPANY?

This question may seem obvious, but I think you may be surprised at how rarely it appears in interviews.  Nowadays, companies use a wide range of selection methods including interviews, simulations, sample tasks, personality instruments, and even testing.  During the interview, companies often seek a wide range of information – knowledge, behavior, experiences, style, and cultural fit.  However, they rarely ask that simple, direct question about value creation.

Sometimes, my clients will ask me to participate in their selection process for certain strategic roles.  Whenever I interview someone, especially for a strategic role, I expect that person to come prepared with a viewpoint on how they could add value to the organization.  Unfortunately, I am usually surprised that I have to be the one to raise the issue and (more often than not) I find the person unprepared to answer this most important question.

To be prepared for your next interview, make sure to follow these three simple steps.

  1. Identify the organization’s strategic issues – Sometimes you can do this prep before the interview, and sometimes you will need to uncover this information with your interview questions.  In either case, look for the compelling issue that will get the interviewer’s attention – emerging industry challenges, new regulatory requirements, new competitors, disruptive technology, or pressures to reduce operating costs.  Find the issue that strikes a nerve because, if you can do something to address that issue, you’re a long way to getting a job.
  2. Identify specifically what you can do about that issue – Once you find the issue, the next step is to determine what you can help the company do about it.  Do you have distinctive and relevant skills?  Do you specific experience with analyzing and solving this type of problem?  Do you understand the technology that is creating the disruption?  Whatever your contribution, you must be able to define the specific connection between your capability and some better outcome for the company.
  3. Be prepared to describe your value claim – This may be the most difficult part of the prep.  It’s not enough to see how you can add value.  You must also be able to describe your value, and often to people who don’t share your knowledge and viewpoint (like the HR person).  The best advice here is prepare to explain your claim as if the person (1) knows nothing, (2) tests everything, and (3) accepts only what they’ve tested.  Best bets here are DON’T use jargon, DON’T use obscure or technical knowledge, DO offer examples, and DO anticipate and offer potential questions or concerns.

If you make sure to follow this golden rule of interview, you will significantly increase your chances of getting a job where you can succeed, contribute, and also have a lot of fun.