Twice this week, our firm had two excellent candidates who could do a very good job for the firms we referred them to and the jobs they were interviewing for. Unfortunately… and despite our warnings… both candidates went into the interview selling what I call, all galactic, all world, “I can do anything and everything” … both of these candidates have been in various jobs from frontline to vice presidents (even though they were still frontline producers) at smaller organizations… they had a number of very different kinds of jobs for short periods of time in a number of different kinds of companies and it was obvious they were very self-conscious about having too many jobs and careers, at least for the last few years, that were, kind of, all over the boards.
In spite of the fact that they were very good, solid candidates, they were so self-conscious about their various jobs with various companies, that even when we got them the interviews, instead of going in and selling one or two specific skills and one portion of their background that would have been most important to the organizations we referred them to, they tried to sell every skill in every job they ever had.
They never really focused on the specifics of the position the hiring authority was looking to fill. When they were asked, “What kind of position are you looking for?” they tried to answer the question with every possible answer that could be given. Their answer went something like this, “Wow, when I was at ABC company, I was a frontline producer doing XYZ. When I was at the previous company, I was a manager doing LMN. When I was at a previous company, I was the vice president of customer service leading a whole group of people. I can do just about anything and I have done just about everything.”
Instead of focusing on, “What is the most important experience or background you are looking for in the position you’re trying to fill?” They tried to “shotgun” their experience basically saying, “I can do anything, just give me the job.”
In trying to sell themselves, they grossly oversold, communicating that they could do everything and anything… they just need to be hired.
When our clients drill down on their experience, both of them still tried to answer just about every question with, “I can do that!”
The lesson is that in spite of the number of jobs, titles and duties you might have had in the past, a good candidate cannot come across as, “I can do everything, just hire me.”
Both candidates insisted that the reason they answered the questions this way is that they didn’t want to eliminate themselves for not being able to do any aspect of the job. It comes from insecurity and nervousness. The key is to analyze exactly what the hiring authority is looking for and sell your primary skills that relate to what they want. Everything else becomes secondary.