Become the Last, Best Candidate for the Job

Interviewing for a job - one of the top 10 stress inducers. Why?

Fear, insecurity, and desperation often accompany the job search process even for those who are otherwise savvy and self-confident. To complicate the process, the more rejections the job-seeker receives, the worse this becomes. So what's the solution?

The solution lies in perspective.

STEP ONE - Shift your perspective!

When interviewing for a job, it's never about you. This can't be stressed strongly enough. It's about the employer. It's about what the employer needs and what problem the employer is faced with due to the vacancy in the position they're trying to fill. So, as a candidate, you need to shift perspective... stop thinking about yourself and the laundry list of tasks you performed in your last jobs. Stop thinking about being nervous or worried that you might not be good enough (or young enough, or any of the "enoughs"). Instead, before you ever get to the interview, begin your preparation for the process by asking yourself the following 4 questions:

• What made it possible for you to excel in your last job?

• What skills did it take to be able to perform your specific job duties?

• What problems does this particular employer need to solve?

• Based on your unique skills set, life experience, and personality how are you uniquely qualified to solve this particular employer's problem?

While there's much more to this process than what can be discussed in one article, this one change in your approach will have a profound impact on your ability to become the last, best candidate for the job. Preparing in this way will set you apart from other candidates and give you a great deal more control during the interview process.

Once you've shifted perspective and explored your uniqueness from the employer's point of view, the next step is to examine the job and the company.

STEP TWO - Do your homework!

First, find out as much as possible about both the job and the company before you get to the interview. Once you're in the interview, it is critical that you discover what the problem is that the employer needs to solve. Keep in mind that it's never simply about filling a position. By understanding the problem at hand, you can begin to demonstrate how YOU are uniquely suited to solve it. You then become a valuable part of the solution.

STEP THREE - Why do employers hire the people they do?

The next step in this process is figuring out what possible objections the employer may have to hiring you. The biggest objection I saw in my work with older adults in career transition was age. So let's focus on this one particular objection as a way of providing an example of how to prepare for overcoming any objections.

The first question to ask yourself is: Why do employers hire the people they do?

The answer to this ultimate question is so simple, so basic, that everyone misses it... including the employer. We're all human-but when we're interviewing for a job it's easy to forget. As human beings the simple fact is, we want to be surrounded by people we're comfortable with. So the simple answer to the ultimate question is: Employers hire people they like.

But what is it that can cause a person to like someone in the short space of an interview? Well, again, the simple answer is that we like people we're comfortable with and we're comfortable with people we feel we can trust, and we trust people we resonate with, people we relate to because we feel we understand them... and that they understand us.

Therefore, it's never just about whether you have the skills and are capable of doing the job. Of course you have the basic skills necessary to do the job or you wouldn't be applying. So your job as a candidate is to understand the job, the company and the culture well enough to build sufficient rapport so that the employer can "see" you doing the job, so that they "feel" comfortable that you'll be able to adapt and fit in.

And why is this true? Well, it's true because we're human and as such, the bottom line is:

• We all want to work with people we believe we can get along with.

• The employer is concerned about ALL of their employees and therefore wants to be sure any new person coming into the mix will fit in and not disrupt the team's cohesiveness.

• The employer is concerned about safety and whether the new person will behave in a responsible manner and not jeopardize the safety of others or the safety of merchandise or equipment.

• The employer also wants to feel confident that a new hire won't cost them money through carelessness or undesirable workplace activities.

STEP FOUR - Uncover and overcome objections!

Given the rationale behind why employers hire those they do, and staying with our choice to focus on age as an objection, why would an employer care if the next person they hire is over 35 or 45 or 55?

To answer that question, you have to figure out what the fear is behind the objection. What are the fears about older employees? There are typically 3 basic fears:

• MONEY. The employer may fear that an older candidate may want more money than what younger employees are already making.

• FIT. The employer may fear that an older candidate may not be able to fit in with and relate to younger employees.

• TECHNOLOGY. The employer may fear that an older candidate doesn't understand the latest technology being used in this job.

So how do you overcome these objections?

First, MONEY. Truly, money is just another "fit" issue. If an employer is paying current employees $20, then he can't pay you $40 for doing the same job. Chances are, if you've been in the field for more than 10 years you've probably been making maximum for your position. So when you apply for a new job you may have to take a pay cut. However, salary doesn't end there. It's important to look at all factors related to salary including benefits, work schedule, work environment, commute, and the possibility for career growth. Before you write off the job based simply on salary, ask yourself these 6 questions:

• If you take a lower salary, what are you giving up versus what are you getting?

• Are there ways you can you offset a lower income?

• Is it better strategically to be working than not working?

• Can you parlay this job into a better, higher paying one?

• If you sense some flexibility, is there a way you can prove you're worth more than what's being offered?

• If you were to take this job at the lower salary, could you cause it to evolve into something slightly new and different that would be even more valuable to the employer-something for which you could negotiate a higher salary?

Next, let's tackle the question of FIT. Before going into an interview, if you think age might be an objection, you must ask yourself these 3 questions:

• How well do you relate to younger employees?

• What have you learned from working with younger employees?

• What have younger employees learned from working with you?

Remember, every company has a culture that is the result of the mix of all the employees and the management. If you can't fit in, that culture is disrupted. If you harbor resentment toward younger employees for any reason, that resentment will be communicated in your attitudes, verbal communication and body language. No matter how hard you use your intellect to try to create age-friendly responses to interview questions, your true feelings will somehow show. Once again, you must do some soul searching. You must find a place within yourself that can understand the true value of a multi-age environment. In my experience, some tangible benefits of blending ages in the workplace include:

• Blending older workers with younger often results in an improved overall work ethic.

• Blending older and younger workers can even out work flow (slow and steady balances quick and energetic).

• Blending older and younger often results in balance-each picks up something from the other which balances the strengths and weakness of both.

• Age differences can be used effectively to enhance performance, work flow, and efficiency when each capitalizes on their strengths.

• Blending ages causes both to expand their outlook/perspective.

• This ultimately benefits the customer as well as the employer.

Finally, TECHNOLOGY. Let's face it. If you're over 30, you're probably at a disadvantage as far as technology is concerned. But maybe not. Just how important is technology in the specific job you're applying for? If it is very important, you MUST accept and embrace it if you want to continue in the field. No amount of kicking and screaming will change it.

Think about warehouse workers. In the past this was considered strictly a manual labor job. Now, warehouse workers have to know how to use sophisticated, computerized inventory technology. Not only that, but many of the tasks associated with warehouse work have become automated so human workers may have to understand how to stock, pull, load and unload safely and efficiently as well as how to operate complex robotic equipment. Technology is everywhere. So you must do whatever it takes to learn that technology to the best of your ability.

Once you've assessed just how important technology is and have gained an understanding of how it fits into the overall scheme of the company and your job, find out how it complements your unique skills and vice versa.

For example in my current job, I use a computerized process for placing orders for customized merchandise. Even though I was twice the age of one of the other individuals I work with, when we first incorporated this next technology, I learned how to use it more quickly and more effectively.

Why? Well, it certainly wasn't because I am any kind of a computer wiz. It was simply because I understood the order process from a manual perspective. The younger person didn't. The manual procedures I'd been accustomed to taught me how to create a system where nothing falls through the cracks and where everything can be double checked, verified and tracked. So thanks to my unique perspective as an older worker we created a computerized system that did the same. My age and experience became a unique benefit.

So the solution:

• Figure out what your strengths are and how your strengths can enhance the application of the technology you'll be using.

• Understand your unique relationship to the technology in order to overcome the employer's possible perception of your potential inadequacy.

STEP FIVE - Some final words of advice

1. Dispel the employer's fear and you have overcome the employer's objection. It's never really about the objection, it's about the employer's fear behind it.

2. Build trust (which also dispels fear) by allowing the employer to see who you really are. Be yourself, but be your best self, the self that is specifically relevant to this job.

3. Don't use canned phrases and interview jargon. Genuinely listen to what the interviewer is saying. Pay close attention and use the information you are gleaning to determine how you respond, what information to present, and what questions you ask. Never waste time repeating empty answers you've found in some how-to book.

4. Know going into the interview exactly what you want the employer to know about you. Make sure you give them this information in a way they understand and can relate to. It's your responsibility to make sure the interviewer knows what they need to know about you. The interviewer may be good at probing for information or they may not. But it doesn't matter. You have control of what the interviewer learns about you. Never expect the interviewer to pull information from you... because they may not bother.

5. Know why you are uniquely qualified for this particular job. Soul search and spend time figuring out exactly what your value is within the context of this specific job in this specific company. Then practice painting a verbal picture of YOU doing this job, of YOU as the solution.

6. Finally, be observant. Know as much about this company and the job as you can before going in, then enhance this knowledge through careful observation. Talk to the receptionist before your interview while you're waiting to be called in. It never hurts to be nice to the first people you meet, and the receptionist is usually the first one. Observe activity. See what you can pick up about the company's culture, the climate, the energy, the work flow. Then build this into your interview.

If you follow these suggestions, you will set yourself apart from the other candidates. With just these few tips and tools, you can indeed become:

The Last, Best Candidate for the Job!

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