You don’t know it yet, but you’re a Hollywood producer. I know about these things. A long time ago, before I became a freelance tech copy writer and career transition evangelist, I worked in the film and television business. I was a development executive, working with writer on stories that might become movies or TV shows. Little did I know, it was a great preparation for helping people tell their personal stories in a job search context.
Hiring a new employee and figuring out what movie to watch are actually similar processes, in human terms. We all crave stories that fulfill our needs. In both situations, we want to get hooked and become excited about the potential to experience something of value. Obviously, the end point is different – making a hire is not the same as eating popcorn for two hours. But, the thought process is comparable, especially at the job interview stage.
When you pitch a movie to a studio, the trick is to dangle an interesting concept, build some suspense and leave them wanting more. For example, when I pitched “The Stepford Husbands” to CBS, I said, “It’s the Stepford Wives, but now it’s the women who turn their husbands into robots…” The hook was dangled. I followed up with some plot intrigue, but I didn’t tell them how the story ended. That made the network ask me how it ended. That’s what you want. You want them leaning forward, asking for me. You’ve got them on the hook. A job interview should follow the same flow.
You go to a job interview. If you know something about the company (which you should), you can dangle your intriguing concept. Something specific like, “It seems you want to pursue a direct marketing strategy” – a hook they can nibble on. If they bite, you can tease with some follow up on how your experience aligns with this strategy. If you’re telling your story correctly, they’ll be leaning forward asking for more. At the very least, they’ll tell you what they want to hear from you – and you can retool your pitch based on their needs. This is how to be relevant.
The risk we face is being irrelevant. If you want to read an amazing insight into how this affects resumes, check out Todd Bavol’s post on Editing Yourself in his Adventures of the Job Search Ninja blog. Bavol notes, “Have you ever listened to someone telling a story, who rambled on and on, throwing in endless irrelevant details, until the point of the story got lost? Well, you shouldn’t make that mistake with your resume, either. At Integrity Staffing Solutions, we’ve seen some applicants include every last scrap of experience they’ve had in every field that they’ve ever worked in, so that they look like a jack of all trades, but a master of none (as the old saying goes). What these resume writers fail realize is that, in today’s tough job market, it’s not “good all-rounders” who are in short supply. Rather, employers are looking for people with highly defined skill sets and the experience to be able to hit the ground running.”
Bavol has it right. You can apply his approach to your in-person interview as well. The movie the hiring manager wants to watch is one in which you star in the story of attaining his or her personal objectives. You have to display the highly defined skill sets that work like those story hooks. If you present your relevant skills with a little suspense, they’ll be begging for more and you’ll be on your way to getting hired.