As a candidate you are only as desirable as the potential you project during the interview process. Because this first impression is truly the definitive factor that determines whether you will or will not receive the job offer, there is (understandably) significant pressure on job seekers to show off their potential without over-doing it.
In other words, you need to interview like a rock star without the arrogance that could turn off a prospective employer. In order to strike this balance, every job seeker needs to develop a way of talking about their unique value in a way that balances this tension.
To achieve this balance, job seekers must: Go from Vague to Concrete (to leave no doubt about your potential), Craft a “Purpose Profile” (to reveal your upside) and Get In Front of Your Challenges (to show humility and hunger to improve).
Go from Vague to Concrete
One of the most important qualities to demonstrate to a prospective employer is the capacity to name the specific skills, competencies, and contributions you will make to the team and greater organization. Unfortunately, most of us speak in vague terms about what we bring to the table. In order to stand out, consider the shifts in the following statements that go from vague and abstract to concrete and specific:
- “I am a good people person.” … “I take time to build rapport with the people I work with. This allows me to customize my approach to every interaction. This little bit of fore-thinking helps me avoid stepping on toes and in the end I am more persuasive.”
- “I like to solve big problems.” … “My hand goes up when volunteers are needed for tough jobs. I thrive on the challenge, but more than that I am capable of taking a big-picture view and then breaking it down into manageable pieces.”
- “I am an excellent communicator.” … “I understand that communication is so much more than the words I say and the way I listen to others. I always take time to read the room in order to adjust my interactions in a way that gets something productive done. When the tone is crisis-driven, I center myself and project a serious, but confident presence. When things are light, I join in so people know they can relate to me.”
Using these three examples as a guide, consider your own skills and attributes and translate them from vague statements into concrete deliverables that your prospective employee can truly believe in.
Craft Your Purpose Profile
Now that you have a concrete way of describing your talent, you need to tell a story about how you will compliment the team. When well-crafted, a Purpose Profile can be a source of inspiration and discipline for you to stay focused on what matters most at work and signal your contribution to the organization.
Consider the following sample Purpose Profiles, which reflect some productive combinations of roles and value-added contributions that high-potential candidates possess. Notice how the key words and simple statements “paint a picture” of the value that you can deliver:
- “I’m a Catalyst…I make things happen when others often cannot. I think in innovative ways and use my actions to jumpstart progress when resistance to change builds. Whether it is a subtle insight or concrete planning, I gain respect from my colleagues and use it to push ideas forward.”
- “I’m a Systems Builder…I see the big picture, as well as the details required to put productive systems in place. I try to understand what it takes to get great work done and I anticipate the mix of resources and capacity needed to produce high-quality outcomes that match top priorities.
- “I’m a Storyteller…I get people to understand and believe in something bigger than themselves. I have a way of getting people on the same page by describing current scenarios and possible futures that help others understand complex ideas, as well as the connections between people and resources required to make new initiatives likely to succeed.
Using these three examples as a starting place, consider a few words that anchor your Purpose Profile and show off the unique capabilities that you bring to the table.
Get In Front of Your Challenges
Now that you are really starting to look like a high-potential candidate, it is important to avoid over-doing it. The way to continue showing off your upside, while simultaneously showing a hunger to grow, is to get in front of your challenges.
This means naming specific issues that you are aware of and prepared to address. Using the same examples of the Purpose Profiles above, imagine describing a few meaningful challenges that are consistent with your capabilities and show a desire to grow as a professional:
- (Catalyst) Occasionally I can get distracted from priorities so I constantly focus on re-setting my goals. At times I can be impatient with too much structure that slows things down, so I have to remember to ask the right questions and “go slow to go fast.”
- (Systems Builder) Sometimes I can get caught up in the minutiae of getting things done, which blocks my view of changing conditions. I have to stay focused on what’s happening and avoid black/white thinking that gets me stuck when creative problem solving is needed.
- (Storyteller) Sometimes I get captured by the intensity of the vision, which causes me to overreach. I need to stay grounded and communicate clearly, so that I can emphasize the nuances and variations of a story without confusing people.
Following these strategies – and taking the time to develop your own unique version of each one – can help every job seeker manage the significant pressure to show off their potential without over-doing it. This way you can interview like a rock star without the unnecessary arrogance and baggage that could potentially cloud your potential.