Most people find that selling yourself in an interview is not an easy thing to do.
Chuck has been trying to get into XYZ Company for a while now. It is one of his target companies. He is doing the right networking things. He saw an advertisement for an Application Engineer, tracked down the person he suspected was the hiring manager. We will call him Tony. Chuck found an introduction to Tony from someone he knows, then connected with Tony on LinkedIn.
After a few exchanges of email, it seems Tony was not the hiring manager. But they got along well enough. Tony sent Chuck’s resume to HR. A Talent Acquisition person from HR contacted Chuck and said she liked his background and would Chuck be interested in this other position as a Product Manager.
So far so good. Except Chuck has never been a Product Manager. He is a skilled and experienced Engineer who has done a variety of product related jobs but not something called a Product Manager.
But it is Monday and the phone screen is on Wednesday. Chuck’s question: How to prepare for an interview for a job he never held before?
Has this ever happened to you?
If you can open your mind to the possibilities then there are plenty of ways that your past experience can be effectively employed in something a little bit different. In Chuck’s case, a product manager in a technical product is all about the voice of the customer in how products are designed and distributed. He can do that. The Talent Acquisition person at XYZ Company can see that too.
Let’s explore Chuck’s question a little. Here are the four steps I suggested to Chuck to prepare for this interview. It all starts with the stories that demonstrate that he can do this job.
- Take apart the job description. What are the most important elements of this job, the “critical success factors” or the ways the person in this job will be successful. You don’t have to be an expert to know this. Just apply your business / engineering / customer relationship experience to what you read in the job description. Think about it this way, if you were the boss, how would you know if the person holding this job was successful?
Stand back from the details and think critically about what you would think is most important. Here are some important points I see:
- Voice of the customer
- Research to facilitate product development plans
- Maximize overall product line performance by getting everyone to work together – lots of emphasis on cross functional get-along.
- Market research to understand what customers want (VOC) and what is out there in the marketplace or not
- Figuring out how to get those new products out to people who can sell them to customers – again with the cross functional relationship stuff
- Write those important factors down. Next to each factor, to make a list of the experiences you have had that demonstrate you can achieve this factor. These are your stories.
- Prepare the stories you want to use. Each story should have a beginning, middle, an end, and “what I learned”. Make sure you can tell each story in about a minute so you have to edit them down. The purpose of the story is to use the story to show what you can do. You are not bragging; you are just telling a story about a real situation that you handled.
- Prepare for the interview. What are the 3 points you want the interviewer to know about you? Figure out how you will get those points out in the discussion. Every story should support those points. All those stories and points should support the important factors.
If you don’t believe you can do the job, you won’t be able to convince anyone else. The trick to any interview and particularly Chuck’s situation is to know exactly what the interviewer wants and have a story or two or ten to bring home the point that you can do what they want.
To give you a head start, we are offering you The Interview Doctor’s Job Requirements Comparison List.
Get your copy of this simple comparison cheat sheet to prepare your own evidence that you can do the job.