In an interview you want people to remember how you think, not your features.

“Your goal in an interview is to help the people in the room recognize your potential and then remember it. Why? So when the decision-makers, both the ones you’ve met and the ones you haven’t, get together to choose who will GET the job, they’re confident with why they’re choosing you.”

I just got off the phone with a client. He’s interviewing for a job in his field and wanted some thoughts on his approach. He was excited he’d had a call back from an online application as, in his opinion, the opportunity was a stretch for him. Hence the discussion.

What you should know about Thomas is he’s very bright. He’s got a great attitude and is known for stepping in to help out wherever he’s needed, even if the responsibility isn’t in his job description. And when it comes to fellow scientists, he knows how to get them rallied around an initiative. He speaks both the language of the business he’s in and the artists (the scientists) that work there.

When I drilled him on his interview answers, they all spoke to his past, what he’d done. And yes, these are technically correct answers; I think they’re missing the opportunity—an opportunity to teach the audience about the Future You making yourself both recognizable and memorable. When I shared this idea with Thomas, the light went off. He’s going to crush it in his interview. He may or may not get it, but at the very least, the hiring team won’t forget him.

I thought I’d walk you through the strategy conversation we had. You might not be looking for a job right now, but I’m sure you’re trying to help someone understand the value of saying yes to the Future You. As always, I’m talking about this on the LIVE! Show, “Future You = Your potential. Have you made it easy to recognize?” if you are curious to learn more. Or if you can’t make March 12th, 2021, you can also find it the following week on our YouTube channel.
Here, however, are some thought starters for today.

1. Diagnose the job description. In Thomas’s case, I told him to look at the job description and identify the thinking words and phrases. For example: “2 years experience in X” is just a feature. If it’s a “must-have” feature, you won’t qualify for an interview. “Ability to navigate complex projects in Y.” is a thinking phrase. It doesn’t matter what “y” is; to solve it; you’re going to have to think. If you’ve managed to get to the interview stage, you’ve met the minimum requirements for features (your skills); what they’re trying to learn is who you are (how you might behave in specific scenarios) and how you think.

2. Be recognizable – Bridge your past to your potential. Thomas’s current job is similar to the one he’s interviewing. So going through his accomplishments in his current role and explaining how they might be beneficial to the new position should be relatively easy. Thomas, however, has had a summer job for the last several years in an unrelated industry. In this role, Thomas had to balance the books, deal with challenging customers, and all the skills needed in a customer-facing position. The job he’s interviewing for might not have general-public customers, but all jobs have some sort of customer they need to learn to satisfy. We talked about how he could say things like, “In role ‘x’ I had to navigate with customers’ needs. I did that by ….fill in good customer service skills here….I can imagine that in this position, the “customers” are ‘y’. ….” If Thomas were to just talk about his customer-facing skills without bridging to the new position, the hiring manager might not recognize his potential.

3. Be memorable – while you’re only having one meeting with one person, you have no idea how many other people the hiring manager might be meeting. Especially if Thomas is an untraditional candidate, the hiring manager will need to remember “why Thomas” over everyone else. We forget that the hiring manager is not always the only decision-maker. I’ve frequently explained to the management team, colleagues, and team members why I’ve decided about one candidate over another. And while each candidate’s resume was one of the tools to do so, it wasn’t what I shared. My usual justification? “I’m making an offer to ‘X’ because I believe they understand how to solve ‘Y’ problem in the Future. I believe in their potential.” As a hiring manager, I was able to do that because the candidate made it easy for me to recognize and remember their potential.

I said it last week when I talked about how we shouldn’t evaluate talent like they’re a part of a machine. The same concepts apply to the candidates. The job description might look like it’s asking for a bunch of features, but it’s your brilliant thinking brain working on tomorrow’s problems they need.

My advice.

1. Learn what makes the Future You uniquely awesome.
2. Learn how to teach others about the Future You.
3. Make sure the Future You is recognizable.
4. Make sure the Future You is memorable.
5. Start telling people.

Don’t do this, and people will make up their own narratives about who you are and your potential.

You should own the story of your potential.