I’ve often said that you have to sell yourself during a job interview. The hiring manager is the customer, and you are the “product.” That’s a fairly simple concept. But it’s incomplete says Kevin Kermes of Career Attraction.

Imagine that Joe is a salesperson at the local Toyota dealer. The Toyota Tundra has just been named Truck of the Year. The truck has been advertised constantly on TV and in the newspaper. It’s the dealership’s best-selling vehicle. There’s a special promotion going on that ends today, and if Joe sells one more vehicle before closing time, he’ll meet his sales goal and receive a nice bonus. But the dealership closes in 20 minutes, so he has little hope of doing that. Then Joe sees a guy drive in, park his 10-year-old pickup truck, get out and walk over to look at a new Tundra. “Looks like I’m going to get that bonus after all!” Joe thinks as he rushes over to greet him.

Joe: “Hi. Welcome to City Toyota. I’m Joe.”

Customer: “Hello.”

Joe: “That’s a beautiful truck, isn’t it?”

Customer: “Yep, sure is.”

Joe: “Did you know it was just named Truck of the Year?”

Customer: “Yep.”

Then Joe proceeds to tell the customer all about the Tundra’s outstanding qualities, it’s features and benefits, and it’s amazing value. He talks about it for several minutes, being sure to leave no detail out, and finally concludes with, “This is absolutely the best truck you can buy. Don’t you agree?”

Customer: “Yep. It’s the best truck I’ve ever seen.”

Joe: “Great!”

Joe notices the lights are being turned off and the manager is at the door ready to lock up, so he says, “It’s closing time, but I can ask the manager to stay so we can get you in that truck tonight. Shall we go write it up?”

To Joe’s dismay, the customer says “Nope,” turns away and starts walking back toward his truck.

Joe follows him and says, “Wait! There’s still time. You can drive a new Tundra home tonight!”

The customer keeps walking and gets in his truck.

Joe: “I’ll knock two thousand dollars off the price right now. No one else has gotten a deal like that on a new Tundra. What do you say?”

The customer starts the engine and just before driving away, says to Joe, “I came in to buy a Prius.”

Here’s the key that most job candidates miss: you need to know what the customer wants before you can sell it to him.

The problem is that job candidates THINK they know what the customer wants. After all, they’re responding to an advertisement (job announcement) that spells it all out, right?

Yes… and no.

Imagine a manager tells his HR department to hire him a new administrative assistant. Everyone-the HR person who creates the job announcement, the job applicants who respond, and even the manager himself as he conducts the interviews-thinks the manager wants someone who can screen his calls, prepare his correspondence, schedule his appointments, record minutes of his meetings, make his travel arrangements, file his paperwork, etc., all in a competent, friendly, and professional manner.

Each question during the job interview is designed to determine how closely the candidates match those qualifications and expectations. The candidates respond to those questions by talking about their skills and experience as they try to sell themselves.

The more prepared candidates talk in terms of “benefits” in addition to “features.” For example: “I have 10 years of experience recording meeting minutes.” (Feature) “I’m familiar with what’s required, won’t need to be trained, and can have accurate minutes posted within 30 minutes of the meeting’s end.” (Benefits). They’ll also talk about accomplishments, not just responsibilities. For example: “In my last job I was responsible for handling the administrative needs of six people.” (Responsibility) “I created a prioritization system to ensure all six individual’s needs were met in a timely manner, and I never missed a deadline.” (Accomplishments)

Only one candidate, Mary, does something different. She wraps up her answer to the interviewer’s opening question (“Tell me about yourself”) with a question of her own:

“How can I help you by solving your problems and making your job easier?”

This question takes the manager by surprise. He responds half-jokingly by replying, “Make our customers stop complaining, and give me three more hours in every day so I have time to do everything I need to get done!”

Mary then asks more questions, such as “What do most customers complain about?” and “What do you feel are your biggest time wasters?” She listens carefully to the answers, asks follow-up questions to draw out more details… and achieves two very important goals:

(1) She shows the hiring manager that she’s genuinely interested.

(2) She gets the manager to reveal the real “product” he needs and wants, and is thus able to position herself as that perfect product.

The manager didn’t want an “administrative assistant.” He wanted a problem-solver who could make his life easier. Knowing this, Mary answered every question during the interview in a way that showed she understood, would be able to solve his problems, and could make his life easier. In other words, she was exactly what this customer wanted to “buy.”

Remember Joe? If his first question when greeting the customer had been, “How can I help you today?” he would’ve earned that bonus. His mistake was focusing on what HE wanted instead of what the customer wanted.

That’s the biggest and most common mistake job candidates make.

By being genuinely interested in solving the hiring manager’s problems, you will more effectively sell yourself as the product he really wants-and get the job!

For more information go to http://www.careerattraction.com/biggest-job-interview-mistake/

Go to www.TADPGS.com, click on the “Looking for People” tab, then view “Veterans Solutions” to see more for information on our Veterans Solutions for Employers. Please feel free to join our LinkedIn group, Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies at http://linkd.in/Sg346w. If you have specific questions about hiring veterans or the incentives for doing so, contact me at [email protected].