He came late to the search. He had a nice background, respectable accomplishments and was persistent — he really wanted to be interviewed.
The only time I could meet him was 8 AM on a Saturday morning. I had a flight at 1 PM and he could take it or leave it. If this guy is really interested, I theorized, then he will accept. If not then I will have some much needed free time.
The candidate not only accepted, he made the cut. There were some other candidates who had a more impressive pedigree but he knocked the ball out of the park by relating relevant examples of performance and a few life stories that convinced me this guy was the real deal.
The ability to be prepared for an interview and to connect your value proposition with the needs of the client — something I have written about a lot of late — is so powerful. When a candidate does it, it is exciting.
Here are two stories I have heard in recent years that had an impact with clients
Give me an example of how your creativity improved the performance of the company.
The candidate told the story of a home infusion therapy company he ran. The corporate giants in the field had swept through town and captured a sizable share of the most profitable service lines. This agency was left fighting for the scraps on the infusion side with competing home health agencies. “We were a weak also-ran.”
As the General Manager he decided to change the model. He laid off his nurses, effectively getting out of the home care game. He rebranded the company as a wholesale pharmacy and marketed his services to the home care agencies who were his former competitors. Many became customers. Revenue increased from $134,000 annually to more than $750,000 in a year.
“I did not want this business to be irrelevant. That is not why they hired me. My dad always said that when you hit a wall and you think there is no way around, step back. Change the goal. Maybe the wall is irrelevant.”
This company formed strong sustainable relationships with home care agencies throughout the region because they focused on mutual success. The more they zeroed in on that approach, the more profitable the home infusion pharmacy became. “It was not that complicated, but you have to be willing to look at who you really are and where you should go, not where you thought you were going.”
Tell me about a time that a previous experience helped you succeed.
The candidate was a placekicker for his high school team. He was a bit of an oddity because he was one of the few, if not the only, players who did not use the soccer approach to kicking extra points or field goals. “I was taught as a straight-on kicker and that is all I knew when it came to field goals and extra points.” He shared time kicking with a teammate who used the more popular soccer approach.
He related that his father, a pastor who got him started kicking, and his subsequent coaches, all taught him that the secret to success was to stay focused regardless of how daunting the challenge or the cheering fans. Just focus on the task at hand — the football, and the goal posts.
“I was on a good team. We were undefeated over two seasons. We were playing in the championship game in terrible weather conditions. Torrential downpours and the fact that earlier in the day two other championship games had been played on the field made the conditions all but impossible” he explained. “We had pretty much dominated everyone we played all season but in this weather, we did not play our best game.”
With six seconds left, the game was tied. The coaches decided that a straight-on kicker would have more stability in the muddy conditions — less likely to slip when kicking — and so our candidate was sent into the game.
The noise level in the stadium was unbelievable, he said. The other team called a time out trying to get into his head. “I did what I had been taught to do — tune out the noise, ignore the other distractions, and focus on the ball and the goal posts.”
He kicked the winning field goal, from 31 yards out, and won the game.
Then he said, “But I didn’t win the game. The team won the game. Everyone had to do their job for me to do mine. That is what my dad and all my coaches always taught and I believed them. It is the way I approach leadership. You must be prepared, physically and mentally. You must stay focused and you must have confidence that you can do it, and that your colleagues will make it possible.”
These were not long answers. Both were succinct and both candidates tied them to the question asked.
They made an impression.
In more than 20 years of interviewing hundreds of candidates I have found that candidates will frequently make some off handed comment about an experience or an event in their lives that, if they had thought about it, could have strengthened their value proposition and made them a stronger candidate.
Think about your life and your experiences. I bet you can find more than one example that will enhance your career brand.