What do my competitors have that I don’t?
For those of you about to embark on a job interview, in seeking job promotion interview answers, you’ve no doubt noticed the endless supply of how-to books, informational websites, prep courses, and advice articles. Of course, there’s a reason for this endless supply: endless demand. And what fuels this endless demand? Simply put: stress.
Going for a job interview is probably one of the most stressful experiences as you make your way up the corporate ladder - whether inside or outside your current organization. And to try to combat this stress, everyone’s on the hunt for the magic formula that will lead them to the right job promotion interview answers. But even if you’re sure you’ve discovered the “right” way to approach an interview, does this mean you’ll beat out the other candidates?
Based on my 35 years of experience, the answer is an absolute “no”. And it’s not because you didn’t find the right how-to book or didn’t follow the prep course instructions correctly. It’s because you didn’t answer these three crucial questions:
What do my competitors have that I don’t?
What do I have that my competitors don’t?
What added value can I bring to the organization?
Let’s examine each of these.
1. What do my competitors have that I don’t?
Whenever I ask a manager about to apply for a new job to find out what advantages their competitors have over them, I’m often met with the same response: “How should I know? I don’t even know who else is applying.” But that’s no excuse. Even in cases where you’re completely in the dark, you can always make one assumption: there are candidates out there that meet the job requirements in areas where you don’t. So armed with this assumption, your best bet is to first make a list of these areas. Once you have a list, see if you can brainstorm examples where you might partially meet some of the requirements. Remember, “partially” is better than “none” and will still make a case for your candidacy, especially when the organization takes into consideration other advantages your bring to the table.
I’ll give you an example. You read in a job ad that at least five years of experience are needed in a certain area, yet you have only three years. You can assume that most (if not all) of your fellow applicants will have at least five years of experience. In this case, the best plan of action would be to demonstrate that your three years were jam packed with the exact kind of experience needed for the job at hand - so much that they’ve prepared you specifically for this new role. If you frame your three years in this way, they will be seen as an advantage over the others who might have five years of experience - but not necessarily as relevant as yours.
2. What do I have that my competitors don’t?
I hope you haven’t put away the list you prepared while answering the first question. Now, it’s time to examine your qualities that might actually exceed the job requirements - positioning you above your fellow applicants. I call these qualities “surplus points”. Surplus points have to be kept close to your chest and revealed only as needed. Too much waving around of surplus points will flag you as overqualified and unsuitable for the job at hand. Instead, surplus points should be framed as extensions of the job’s core requirements.
For example, a job ad requires retail experience in a certain area such as supermarkets. You have this experience but you also have experience in wholesale. Such a surplus point should be communicated as an extension of the retail experience required by the organization. In other words, you don’t want to overwhelm the interviewer by touting that you can take on both retail and wholesale markets. Instead, you want to illustrate how your understanding of the wholesale markets will assist you in dealing with the retail markets - something other candidates can’t necessarily offer.
3. What added value can I bring to the organization?
Added value in this context means something that you bring to the job that’s not required by the company - but is of specific value to the company. This might sound a lot like the surplus points above, but added value is different. First of all, as I said before, surplus points run the risk of flagging overqualification. Added value, however, is always positive and is usually communicated as specific knowledge the organization would be happy to have. Therefore, your added value should be communicated in a way that results in a pleasant surprise for the interviewer - and sets you leagues above the other candidates.
For example, you might know that the organization is currently trying to penetrate a specific market you know well. In fact, you have the knowledge to help the organization form its strategy, custom its product or service, and identifying key competitors. This is the added value you could bring to the organization that others cannot offer. It should be made clear in the interview, though brought up within the context of the organization’s current challenges in the new market. And don’t forget to include concrete evidence of your knowledge in that market.
The head of the pack
If you focus on any of the three questions above - or a combination of more than one - you’ll find yourself at the head of the pack when the organization shortlists the leading candidates. As you have seen, it takes some effort to answer these questions, but the payoff will be worth it.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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