I think it was Dennis Miller who said he has a rare case of ADD/OCD. He says he is afflicted with constantly changing what he is obsessed about. :)
Hmmmm maybe all of us suffer from this……
Every week I get to hear how people intend to improve their live, pursue new careers, and search for their next resume filler. I can now predict what what most people say. Not sure where this downloaded verbiage comes from, but the vast majority utter a pablum of memorized (read non-authentic words) about their future. These words inevitably and inexorably sabotage their chances to achieve their goals. Let me explain.
I was recently interviewed by a executive coaching site to provide some advice to their subscribers. One of the questions was:
What three interview questions are the most effective?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why are you leaving or left your last job?
- How will this job advance your longer term career goal?
I try to get to the candidate's story–the story of goals, passion, and self reflection. The true story, not the half truths of a resume–but the inner thoughts and persona of the candidate.
Intuitively we know that the job of a candidate is to differentiate oneself. It is the ultimate marketing challenge of telling the interviewer/employer what sets you apart from the sea of "qualified" humans who seek the same spot. Right?
Here are the typical and predictable and yes, you guessed it, worst answers to my questions:
- Why do you want this job? I love what (employer name) does. Seems like a place I could make a difference. Really looking for a place to grow.
- Why are you leaving or left your last job? My current position/place of employment limits my mobility. I am looking for new opportunities where I will have more mobility and opportunity.
- How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Eventually I want to head my own/division/company/non-profit and I see this position as helping me achieve this.
Why do we spend so much time and energy demonstrating why we are like everyone else? Why is our pitch– our story, our marketing materials–resume and cover letter, and our approach to interviews like every other candidate?!!
Laziness, apathy, perhaps ADD/OCD and our rush to act, play leading roles in this regression to the mean. We want quick solutions–so we plug in generic phrases and ideas to to keep the engine of progress going–even if the result is mediocrity.
Not sure how these oft repeated answers get embedded in our brains and process but I have seen this pattern over and over again. Reading these answers you get a distinct idea that "this job" is not the focus of this conversation. You learn little about the person. Everything in these answers speaks to the future–what the candidate will need to advance. No attention is paid to learning and contributing to "this job". No expression of awareness of what the candidate needs to advance in their career–in other words what they hope to achieve/gain to lighten their intended path.
- Why do you want this job? How does this job align with your purpose? Everyone wants to "make a difference and a place to grow". What are your personal reasons to work here?
- Why are you leaving or left your last job? This is a delicate and important question that needs to be addressed. Layoff is an answer that requires details. Dissatisfaction with the job, the growth, the purpose need attention and inform the question above. Lack of prep on this question demonstrates lack of readiness to move on.
- How will this job advance your longer term career goal? Another softball question that tees up your chance to solidify your answers above. This is the space you use to talk about how you expect to grow, what opportunities that you found lacking in your previous job you hope to uncover here, and what areas you hope to hone, refine and master to become more confident. In other words, "How will this job challenge you?" Is this merely a stepping stone. This is not the place to say, "I want to be the head of (employer)." Or some other ambiguous ambitious sounding words about becoming the head of something. Often "this job" will probably not lead to this goal (even if you believed your own answer) raising serious doubts about your understanding of "this job" and your attention span for "this job."
Cover letters, interviewing, networking, mentoring, answering questions, and telling your story are more about vulnerability and authenticity than regurgitating your quals and resume.
Otherwise your auto-pilot average answers to the questions unwittingly sabotage your candidacy.
Get compulsive and obsessive about your story–your real story. Invest time into it and develop the words that convey your ideas and your candidacy. Let your greatness, goodness and needs shine!
Thanks for reading. John