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How Selling and Improv Improve Interviewing

Interviewing is like selling.  Instead of persuading a customer to use your product or service, you are convincing a recruiter your skills, interests and interpersonal fit are right for the open position.  So, even if you will not interview for sales positions, I argue that you are selling when you are interviewing.  This is why when I recently read the article “On the Job: The Best Sales Pitches are About Listening” http://usat.ly/JVTIOC in USA Today, I saw a lot of relevance to interviewing.

Here are some highlights of the article and how they relate to interview tips:

1.  “People get defensive when they detect the pitch. They feel like something is being forced on them,” says Steve Yastrow, author of the upcoming Ditch the Pitch:  The Art of Improvised Persuasion.

Relevance to interviewing:  Recruiters don’t like canned, overly prepared or rehearsed answers.  Recruiters want to see authentic responses.  Be your smart self.  The article goes on to say, “Or if you’re trying to sell yourself to an employer during a job interview, that person automatically might reject what you’re saying.”

2.  “A better way to break down the resistance to a sales pitch is to use improvised conversations instead.”

Relevance to interviewing:  Ever since I read the book To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink, I believe that successful interviewing is based on the candidate’s ability to improvise in the interview.  Improvising does not mean winging it, but rather taking what you know about your customer, the company’s or recruiter’s needs, and your product, you in the case of interviewing, and tailoring your answer to meet the need of your customer.

The article underscores this point with, “Using this method, your sales pitch becomes a conversation that focuses on the needs of the other person. Unlike a sales pitch, the other person is doing most of the talking, which automatically puts that person more at ease and not on guard against a sales push.”

3.  “Improvisation does not mean you don’t prepare or you just ‘wing it,’” he says.  “You’ve got to know your stuff and your business.”

Relevance to interviewing:  You still have to prepare.  I hear way too often from candidates that they are concerned about having their answers prepared because they do not want to sound like everyone else.  My answer is, “Yes, you will sound like everyone else if you just give your answer as it was prepared (the sales pitch), but if you improvise and tailor your answer, you will not.”  You have to have something to adjust off of and that is your preparation, and your prepared answers to the most common interview questions.

4.  “To become a better improvisational persuader, he suggests you need to be an active listener and ask questions to determine what a person cares about right now. You should show that you care then craft your pitch around how you can help solve a problem or achieve a goal for the person.”

Relevance to interviewing:  This is one of my mantras at our Conferences:  Get in the mindset of, “What problem can I solve for you today?”  Focus on the needs of the customer.  They are interviewing you because they have a problem, or problems.  Those problems are that they have an open position that needs to be filled and also a problem of leadership, meaning that they need someone who has the potential to move to higher levels of responsibility.  Stay focused on the needs of the recruiter, focus on their problems, and once you solve theirs, they can solve yours.

Joel Junker