Four Words

Interviewing can be a difficult phase for many job seekers as employers are subjecting applicants to more rounds, interviewers, tests, case studies, presentations, etc. before extending an offer of employment. The vetting process has become a gauntlet that one must not only succeed but survive. With the added pressure, often one completes the interviewing process not confident that he/she made the best impression.  Should you have answered the strength question differently?  Should you have used a different innovation example? Did I leave the impression that I wanted to because I felt like my answers were all over the place?

A colleague shared story about a Harvard business school student who was asked by a professor to explain a case the class had been studying and for the student to share his conclusions.  The student had prepared and studied the case and when the time came, he rattled off everything he knew about the subject – everything.  The professor responded by telling the student that he was like a “monkey with a pistol.”  When I heard this, I could envision a monkey firing his gun randomly, with little chance of hitting the target, spraying bullets all over a firing range.  The professor was saying that the student had the tools to do the job (knowledge of the case) but was all over the place in his thoughts and conclusions.   So how does one ensure he/she is not a “monkey with a pistol” in an interview?

As you conduct your preparation for an upcoming interview, think of four words that describe your best attributes/skills for the job for which you are interviewing.  These words should be related to the needs of the position and employer – try go beyond generic terms (ie. hard-working, team player, people person) to position specific content.  To help you think of words that are unique to you, refer to an early post about “What Makes You Different?” During the interview, focus your answers to communicate these four terms in your examples.  You will find your answers begin to have themes and these themes are picked up by the employer – thus your communications are targeted and not random.

When you leave the room, the interviewer should be able to associate those four terms with your application, thus ensuring you are leaving the impression you want to leave as opposed to hope to leave.  Additionally, you will become more memorable as interviewers will be able to associate words/phrases/terms with your application. Having your personal four words and working them into the majority of your answers, you will avoid the “monkey with a pistol” scenario and stand a better chance of hitting the mark.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Branding, Career Management, Communications, Interview, Job Search and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Four Words

  1. Paul Murphy says:

    Great analogy – “monkey with a pistol” – I am so stealing that one! Your article reminds me of some of the basic tenets of selling. For example – monkey with a pistol = feature dumping. Great sales reps know that you have to earn the right to talk about your product. You do that by asking what the customer (interviewer) wants. Only when you are crystal clear on what the customer wants do you earn the right to start talking about what your product (you, in the case of an interview) can do – and the features and benefits you choose to highlight are directly linked to the customers’ expressed needs.

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