The Dreaded Interview

Positioning Yourself for Success

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Preparing for an interview is one of the most unnerving and confusing undertakings I can think of , and prefer not to reminisce about. Too many times in college, and even now, I've left an interview thinking, "I'm not getting this job." Though the reality of my performance doesn't always align with my perception, I learned over time how to better prepare myself for success.

My career counselors always told me to "understand their business" and "do the research." That's not as easy as it sounds, and applying what I learn about the company to my interview is a challenge. As a branding consultant, I help companies to do almost exactly the same thing. I understand their company, their audience, and their competition in order to position them for success. I also help them find the best way to communicate that position to be effective with their audience. The same principals apply to job interviews.

I'd like to take you through a basic framework to help you apply branding concepts to your personal brand and be more effective in your job or internship search. I'll create a hypothetical person and job to help bring the concept to life.

Person: College senior, finance major/communications minor
Job: Project manager at large investment bank

Step 1: Define your characteristics and audience drivers.

Personal characteristics:
Intelligent
Intuitive
Personable
Self-starting
Curious
Creative

Audience drivers:
Position qualifications
Detail oriented
Team player
Knowledge of industry
Self-starter
Organized
Ability to comprehend complex processes
Company culture
Passion for industry
Desire for success
Eye for efficiency
Best of the best
Innovative/ forward-thinking
Team players

Competitive attributes (other students):
Intelligent
Motivated
Internship experience

Step 2: Discover what you can offer.

Once you've listed all your attributes, put them on a chart. List every attribute listed above down the Y axis, and put yourself, your competition, and your potential employer on the X axis. Given your understanding of all three (mostly assumptions about what can be assumed competitive wise), put an X next to any attribute that each can credibly own. Once you have this complete, you'll be able to answer these questions:

How do my attributes compare with those necessary for my position and my company?

Which of those attributes can be more uniquely "owned" by me and not competitors?

Which of the attributes are "owned" by competitors are also necessary for me to "own" to stay competitive?

Step 3: Organize the most important attributes into a column that will inform how you talk about yourself with your potential employer.

What am I delivering to them?
How do I deliver on that ?
Why does it matter to them/ their business?

Our example might look something like this:

What am I delivering to them?
Intelligent
Self-starter
Detail oriented
Team player

How and I delivering on that ?
Intuitive
Curious
Creative
Ability to comprehend complex processes

Why does it matter to the company?
Passion for industry
Desire for success
Innovative/ forward-thinking
Best of the best

Final Statement:
"This company should hire me, because I am an intelligent, detail-oriented self starter who knows how to work across multiple teams. In my work I am intuitive, curious, creative, and have the ability to comprehend complex information. This will benefit my employer, because my passion for the industry drives me to make sure the business is successful and innovative so they will be seen as the best of the best."

That's it! This isn't going to get you a job, but it's going to help you understand what you need to communicate to a potential employer, and how it relates to their needs.

About the Author
David Trahan, Brand Strategy & Digital Experience Consultant @ Interbrand, is a 2009 graduate of Pace University.

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