Martin brooks - the impacttologist

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How David Cameron’s ability to land the job of Prime Minister, could help you land your dream job.

At 10am on the day after the general election, I was invited by the BBC to do an interview explaining why I thought the public had just voted David Cameron Prime Minister. As an Impacttologist® I was asked; how he had performed better than Ed Miliband, what did Ed Miliband do wrong and how did their communication and impact skills lead to the result that was unfolding that morning?

Ed Miliband had interviewed for the job of Prime Minister quite well, but David Cameron had used a better range of well executed communication skills. This helped him perform better in his interviews, look like the better candidate to the electorate and gave him a better chance to land the job of Prime Minister.

I was curious about how I could translate the communication skills demonstrated by the party leaders into useable techniques I could share with my clients, enabling them to communicate with greater impact; particularly if there is the prospect of a new order, a promotion or even the possibility of a better job at stake?

These were the kind of questions still in my head when a delegate on a course I was running told me he was going for a promotion and was confident he was going to get the job. When I asked why he felt so confident, he talked about how his experience and skills were a good match for the role. He then smiled at me, drew himself confidently up to his full height and added that he also had a secret weapon up his sleeve. When I enquired what it was, he told me that he “interviewed very well” and was confident this would seal the deal for him.  

With my recent observations of the election in my mind I responded; “well that’s great, but what if somebody else with a similar background, experience and skill set, interviews just that little bit better than you?”

His jaw dropped open in shock and he almost dropped his coffee!  The reason for his shock was that he had never really considered the fact that being a very good interviewee may not be enough. Most likely he had good evidence in his past to support his confidence in his ability to win the interview panel over, but this wasn’t the point. The point is that an interview for a job is a highly competitive scenario; the person that lands the job will be the one with the best impact skills, which helps the interviewer make their decision to hire one person over the other candidates.

Interviewing “well” is not enough to land your next job - you have to make a “better” impact than every other candidate.

Helping people be more successful by making a greater “impact” in situations where they are selling a product, their company, (or in an interview) - themselves, is something I have been doing for over 13 years as a trainer, coach and Impacttologist. When preparing clients for an interview, I focus them on the one strategy they need to succeed, the one concept that needs to drive all their pre-interview preparation, the one idea that will give them the best possible chance of landing that job. The idea is simple in concept, but complex to confidently execute.    

Your outcome as an interviewee is to make the interviewer’s job easy; to make it easy for them to decide you are the best person for the job. If the interviewing panel is still considering other people after you have finished your interview, you have failed in this central strategy. You are still one of the people pursuing the job, but you have not emerged as the number one choice for the role.

Your central strategy in an interview is to help people’s decision to hire you to be any easy decision for them to make.

Here are my top three interview tips following the election campaigns. Use these techniques and learn from the mistakes of the party leaders, enabling you to make the best “impact” possible and maximise your chance of landing that job.

Tip one; Anticipate difficult questions.

In the first televised debate, both main party leaders had to handle tough opening questions from the legendary hard-hitting interviewer, Jeremy Paxman. David Cameron was completely blind-sided by Jeremey Paxman’s first question about food banks. He didn’t know how many there were in the UK, how many people were using them and how their use had rocketed during his first term as Prime Minister. Similarly, Ed Miliband couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give an upper limit on the number of people per year he would want to immigrate to the UK, despite Paxman asking him the same question a number of times.

Look at your CV critically and put yourself in the shoes of the most aggressive interviewer you can think of and think about the toughest question you could face. Then think of an even more difficult one. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to look at your CV and ask them to create a really tough question for you. Ask yourself these questions and record your answer on your smartphone and then critique your answer to see how you could be even more convincing under the pressure of some tough questioning.

Look at your body language, listen to your voice quality, think about the structure of what you are saying and the words you choose to express your thoughts and see where you could create a “better” overall impact whilst answering the questions. Then, to fine tune your skills, repeat the exercise until you are happy with your responses. Think of other, tougher questions and repeat the process until you are confident you have covered all potential job-threatening questions which will boost, not only your confidence, but also improve your chances of landing that job.  

Tip two; Make high levels of eye contact in crucial moments.  

Both the party leaders were held on their first difficult topic for approximately two minutes by Jeremy Paxman. Both leaders struggled to deal with the questions, but crucially David Cameron looked the more confident and credible. My closer examination of his behaviour revealed why. In those difficult first two minutes of the interview, Ed Miliband, broke eye contact 29 times. David Cameron by contrast only broke his eye contact 4 times – a huge difference.

Practice making strong eye contact when answering tough interview questions. Eye contact is also vital to secure that all-important confident first impression. Breaking eye contact a lot can be interpreted as a lack of belief in the answer you are giving, or make people doubt your truthfulness.   

Tip three; Know your weak spots and turn them to your advantage

It doesn’t matter how comprehensive your experience, skills and CV are – everyone has a weak spot. Everyone has something that isn’t an advantage; everyone has had some failure in their career. In fact, I prompt interviewers to ask candidates about their biggest career disaster deliberately, to see if they can turn that to their advantage. In any senior role, a skill employers want to see is an ability to learn from mistakes- quickly and comprehensively, so the mistake is not repeated and is learned from.

In his first televised appearance, David Cameron was blind-sided by Jeremey Paxman’s first question about food banks. He had however learned from this mistake and in a later debate, took this issue and turned it to his advantage. Whilst answering a completely different question, a member of the audience shouted out about food banks. Immediately David Cameron jumped on the issue and said that the best way for people not to have to use food banks was by having a job and his government had created almost two million jobs in his first term as Prime Minister. In a heartbeat he had taken an issue that had previously been a disadvantage and turned it to his advantage.

Doing this is an incredibly powerful tool and is an ideal opportunity to make a greater impact than everyone else applying for your job. However, it is a skill only used by a select few impactful people – become one of them. This skill could turn out to be the unique moment that makes you stand out from the rest of the candidates.

Think about Avis, the second largest car rental company behind Hertz. In the past Hertz have proudly boasted that they were the world’s largest car rental company. Avis decided to turn that disadvantage to their advantage by making their corporate slogan; “We try harder”. When Microsoft launched their new version of their tablet computer in 2014 they came up with a unique way of competing against the much more successful iPad, by turning Apple iPad owners into their potential new customers. They did this firstly with what I call a killer statistic. This was the research they used that indicated that 96% of all iPad owners also owned a lap top, whereas their tablet  was the first tablet that could “truly replace your laptop” – their advertising slogan for their tablet computer.  

What can you learn from these great examples from Avis, Microsoft and David Cameron? What disadvantage do you have lurking in your CV? How can you turn this disadvantage to become a positive pivotal moment in an interview that increases your chances of landing your job? Rather than hope to avoid it in your interview, plan and prepare how you can turn it into the reason the interview panel should pick you. Plan to talk about how much you have learned from the experience. In an instant you have shown humility, an ability to learn from past mistakes and think positively about an event – all attributes many employers are actively looking for.

Use these three tips to boost your confidence, impact and chances of landing that job at your next interview.

Just like I analysed and discussed the behaviours of the party political leaders as they pitched to the nation for the job of Prime Minister, I can analyse your behaviour to give you the feedback, coaching and skills to land that dream job. Contact me if you want to maximise your chances in your interview or pass this article to someone you know who has an interview coming up. They will thank you for it.  

Happy, impactful and successful interviewing,

Martin.