Shakespeare’s Macbeth is, in part, a story about how the ghosts of our pasts drive our futures. The title character is given a prophecy by three witches. They may or may not be real. Macbeth sets about to make this prophecy come true by killing Duncan, the king of Scotland, and Banquo, Macbeth’s rival.
The murders are accomplished; the prophecy is fulfilled. Macbeth arranges a lavish feast to celebrate his triumph.
As he enters the banquet hall, Macbeth spots the ghost of Banquo staring at him. No one in the room but Macbeth sees the ghost.
At first, Macbeth tries to ignore the ghost. Then he gets distracted by it. Finally, Macbeth is consumed by the ghost. He runs screaming out of the banquet hall.
Because the guests never see the apparition, Macbeth’s behavior seems irrational to them.
Banquo’s Ghost and Your Professional Life
Now, let’s examine how Banquo’s ghost impacts your professional life. You are about to walk into an interview room with a mission: secure an agreement that will benefit you.
You only see one person in the room.
You are mistaken.
Like Macbeth’s guests at the feast, you are unable to see the ghost that haunts the decision-maker.
Your task is to conjure up that ghost. You can easily do so by asking a variation of a simple question:
- “Who is the best person you ever hired in a job like this, whether it was at this company or another company?”
- “Who is the best attorney you ever worked with for an issue like this?”
- “Who is the best psychologist you ever worked with?”
- “Who is the best consultant you ever worked with?”
Asking this kind of question does two things for you: It moves the conversation to a positive theme, and it allows you to align yourself with the ghost.
Most interviews tend to focus on negative issues: Here is what is wrong. Are you the person who can help fix this mess?
You do not want a negative tone of conversation to dominate your time with the interviewer. You want to be associated with positive events.
The positive stories in your life are not as valuable to the decision-maker as the positive stories in the decision-maker’s life. Use this to your advantage.
By conjuring up the image of the ghost, you change the tenor of the interview to a more positive one for the decision-maker.
Let’s assume the ghost’s name is Morgan. You can now follow up with this question: “What was it that Morgan did that was so special?”
Now that you have the ghost’s name and the ghost’s special attributes, you are prepared to align yourself with that ghost: “If I can summarize what I heard you say, Morgan was special because she looked at the entire business first from your perspective rather than peeking out at the world through the functional view demanded of her by the job description. Is that correct? I hope we get to the step of you checking my references. Please ask them about how I approach problems. I think you will find that Morgan and I have a similar approach.”
After the meeting, you want to alert your references to talk about you in ways that will confirm your statements at the meeting!
Aligning With the Ghost
Like Macbeth’s guests in the banquet hall, your competitors are also unaware of the ghost in the interview room. As a result, your competitors will be evaluated by the decision-maker in relation to one another: “Of the three people I met, I would rank them in the following order,” the interviewer will say.
But you knew there was a ghost in the room. You conjured up the ghost. You got the name of the ghost, and you aligned yourself with the ghost. In achieving this, you moved the conversation away from a negative tone to a positive tone. You are now going to be thought of as “Morgan-like.” You will, therefore, be in a unique category by yourself.
When you go to an interview, you are engaged in a marketing effort. In any marketing exercise, product differentiation is the goal. This simple technique will help you
achieve that goal.
This article was adapted from Navigating the Waterfall: Your Job Search and Career Management Guide, produced by Stybel, Peabody & Associates, an Arbora Global Company.