The 1 Adjustment You Can Make to Start Nailing Your Interviews

career coaching career counseling career search cover letter how to write a resume interview prep interviewing tips interviews job search job search interviews job search mindset job search routine leadership tech leader power lunch Feb 18, 2021

Transcript of the video:

Hey everyone, we have reached the top of the hour, so I'm gonna dive into today's tech leader power lunch. Thanks for joining if you're joining live or if you're watching the replay. Today we are going to focus on the number one adjustment to start nailing your interviews. I'm really excited to share this with you.


  • Quick Intro
  • A Word of Caution
  • The #1 Mistake Most Interviewees Make
  • 3 examples of the Most Common Interview Mistake
  • The 6 Steps to Implement This Adjustment

We're going, in terms of an agenda, I'll give you a quick intro if we haven't met yet. I'm going to give you a word of caution before I dive in case, you might be thinking something I don't want you to be thinking that's not productive. Then we'll dive into the number one mistake most people interviewees make. We'll talk about three examples of that most common mistake, and then I'll give you the six steps to implement that adjustment I'm going to share with you and what it is obviously.

So with that, if we haven't met yet. My name is Melisa Liberman. I am a former tech executive. I helped build a SaaS software company from the ground up to a quarter of a billion dollar exit. And for the last eight years, I focused on running my own business as a career coach helping tech leaders really get the math, the fulfillment and the value out of their own careers like I have in mind. And so for some of you who hear this every week, I love sharing also a little known fact, this week's little known fact is I left corporate to move to Hawaii for my husband's job that was eight years ago. And that's what pushed me out of corporate and into entrepreneurship.

So with that, let's dive into today's topic.

Before I Begin, A Caution

Here's the word of caution. Before I begin, let me tell you, if you're thinking about these are very common things I hear.

  • “I'm great at interviewing after I get my foot in the door.”
  • “Interviewing is one of my strengths.”
  • “I'm doing really well with my interviews. I've just haven't received an offer yet, because of some unique circumstance because of COVID because an internal candidate took my job. And I had no chance because someone else had the perfect experience. And I was just a close second.”

If you're thinking I'll have one of these things, some of these things, all of these things. I just want to caution you that I hear this all the time, some form of one of these and to be honest with you 99 times out of 100 unless you're a unicorn or a blue bird. This assessment is inaccurate. There's a reason you're not getting an offer.

Caution – This is for EVERYONE

I'm going to be super direct with you. Because that's the only way I fly. And because that's the only way you benefit from this. Like, I'm telling you now people tell me that stuff all the time. And then when we do a mock interview, or I look at even their interview prep, like, you know, send me what you would want to say in for a certain question or whatever answer to a certain question. I find things so anything ranging from:

  • a minor tweak that could make all the difference from them, finishing second place,
  • to a complete overhaul needed.

I've got clients that are Microsoft executives, and Amazon executives and startup leaders, and like all different types of walks of life, from sales to professional services to operations. And, and I'm telling you, across the board, people are not as self-aware, as they are as they could be. And it's preventing them from making progress in this area. So, I give you this word of caution, so that you take a step back and it clear the deck and think about what I'm going to share with you from that perspective, that we all have room for improvement, that perhaps listening to what I have to offer you today might make that tiny adjustment that you need to start landing an offer instead of being a bridesmaid. So with that being said, hopefully you have an open mind about what I'm going to say to you, and you and can really take away something from this process today.

The #1 Mistake Most People Make With Their Interviews

So with that, the number one mistake most people make in their interviews, is that they're not focusing on the other person, the hiring decision maker, they're focusing on themselves.

And you might be thinking like, what, what in the hell are you talking about? Melisa, is an interview of me to explain my backgrounds to describe how I could fit this role really, really well. Like what are you talking about? This, you might be thinking this is my chance to sell them on me? Why would I focus on them? Right? What is this event? And what does this even mean? What are you talking about?

What I mean by this is when you're focusing on you in the interview, you're choosing examples, and the style of communication, that's highlighting, even if it's subtly, even if it's subtly what you care about the topics where you feel the most confident, what you're assuming they want, what makes you feel acknowledged and fulfilled. And ultimately, you're falling into the trap of not highlighting the experience and the examples that they would most value.

It's just a subtle way of thinking about the interview, approaching the interview. And I'll tell you what this means here in a minute how to how to actually do it in a different mindset, so that you're really articulating to them what the value is that you can deliver for them how you'll make their life easier, and how ultimately, they should pay you six figures plus to do your job.

Example #1

So, let's take an interview question where you start off, you know, walk me through your background and how it relates to this job description, or tell me about yourself something like that.

Commonly, what I see people doing is making themselves a canned answer, making a canned answer that's answering sequentially kind of highlighting the work they've done that seems most impressive. Or maybe they take a different approach and give some highlights of their past and their present and what they want to do in the future. Those are two very common ways to answer that question.

However, what that is missing, is not anticipating or knowing and therefore tailoring your answer to what the interviewer would care about that particular interviewer. Not that you're being hired for a sales role. And you generally know the answer or not that you're being hired for a product manager role. And you know what people want when they hire product managers, I'm talking about knowing what that interviewer would care about.

Example #2

So let me give you another example. interview question: walk me through a project or initiative, think about it from the perspective of whatever roles you're applying to, that where you felt most successful and why.

And the common approach here when you're focusing on you is that you choose an example where you feel most excited and it feels super impressive. And then you're kind of assuming with the hiring manager wants based on the job description, but you're not really understanding what the interview requirements are, or their pain points are what they care about.

So, I have a client who came to me and she started giving me some of her standard answers. And we started realizing like, okay, so let me so very specifically, she's a customer success executive, she is really proud of her ability to farm right to grow accounts, to increase revenue, because of the relationship she's built, and that kind of thing. However, she went in, we were prepping for an interview with a sales executive, right, so it'd be her peer, she was thinking, before she went into the interview, I'm in it, you know, all of these great examples about her results or outcomes that she had previously delivered for that for farming, right for increasing revenue, and building out on a customer increasing that customers footprint.

She quickly realized, because of some of these techniques, that interviewer, the sales VP, would be very threatened by all of those kinds of examples, that generally we all agree that increasing revenue is a fabulous thing that and even generally, typically, people in a customer success role at that level has some kind of revenue number attached to them.

And for her because of her background, and the experience that she had, it was really impressive. She wanted to show off in demonstrate those results. But she also realized, I'm going to go in this and vet out the situation, because sometimes sales owns upselling, right? They own the farming, they own that revenue number. And so instead of falling into the trap of being super, super proud of what she'd accomplished, and demonstrating all of that, and then completely turning off the interviewer. Because he had was threatened by it. She knew how to pivot, and to focus on a different priority, a different project and initiative, that was a success that wasn't going to threaten that particular interviewer. Hopefully, that gives you a good example of what I'm talking about here.

Example #3

We often get this question, right? Tell me about an unsuccessful project or an unsuccessful sales deal or an unsuccessful initiative, and why was it unsuccessful and what you took away?

The common approach is number one, like seize up a little right? Oh shit, what am I going to say, even though you've been practicing it? And then you try to give an answer that seems really harmless. And sometimes you might not take ownership and you kind of direct the issues to other people and circumstances. But at the end of the day, you not knowing what that interviewer cares about most and where they really are emphasizing what they need out of you. And from you, you might have you, it's very likely that you choose an example that ends up raising red flags or risk, even though you recognize why it was unsuccessful, and what you would do differently next time. If you know what they care about, it's so much easier to choose a scenario where it feels very neutral to them. Or it's kind of you know, it doesn't raise a red flag. It's just innocuous, right.

So that gives some really good examples of how this kind of comes into play when you're in the middle of an interview.

And let me just give you one more example here on number three. So, another client came to me and said she was so proud of this concept that she had created her three leadership principles. And she was almost going into this she was you know, had noticed that she was going into interviews, almost just trying to find like a crack in the process to just explain all these leadership principles and how proud she was of them. And just make sure that that interviewer could hear her talk about that those leadership principles. And she just was positive, you know that no matter who heard them, they would really give her a leg up. And so when before we started working together, she was taking this approach where she was going into to these interviewers, and really just listening for that, you know, for that opening to bring up these leadership principles, or just waiting for a question to be asked where she could, you know, talk about like an unsuccessful project and how these leadership principles were born out of that, and how that's her new approach going forward. The leadership principles did not mesh with what the leadership style of the interviewer is. And it happened to her multiple times. So even though she was so proud of them, and ultimately, she could very easily and effectively implement them how she landed the job, it was turning off the interviewers, because she was just offering information that they weren't, they didn't care about. And so it was causing red flags that were unnecessary.

Common Thread?

So, with all of that, those three examples and where I started with the number one mistake, the common thread here is that when you're taking this approach, you don't know what they really want. Like, why are they hiring the on-the-job description. And as a result, you're guessing as to as you as you describe your experience and hoping it resonates with them. And I know you do a lot of prep, I talked to so many of you, you do hours of prep. I'm not saying that you're not putting in the work, because I know that you are. But what I'm saying is you're missing a really important. Most people are anyway, unless you're the unicorn we talked about at the beginning, most people are missing that very important element. It's like, you know, all of us here are technologists by heart, we always start with requirements in our jobs, right? We start with if we're in sales, we start with the prospects requirements, if we're in, in, in product management, we start with the customers requirements, if we're in professional services, we start with the customer, you know, what does the customer want to implement, and the requirements and we never take them on a piece of paper, and like a job description and just start implementing right. We ask questions we dig in, we try to figure out like, what is the intent of this requirement? What is it? What are they really trying to accomplish? Is there another way to accomplish what they're looking for? So, if we use that same model, in our interviews, that's when we start creating answers, and examples that really resonate with the interviewer. Because, as I love this, this quote, my old CEO used to say all the time, in fact, we have this huge banner in our office, we hope is not a strategy, we can't hope that we just give a great answer that resonates with hiring manager, we need to be able to do more than that.


The 6 Step Process to Focus The Interview ON THEM

And so now I'm going to share with you the six step process to get to the place where you're focusing the interview on them, and not on you.

  1. Identify WHY they are hiring (hint: not because they’re stretched too thin, backfill)

So, number one, out of the six steps, figure out why they're hiring. And we talked a little bit about this last week as it relates to, you know, updating your resume and tailoring it. Why are they hiring? It's not honestly, no one ever paid anyone because they were stretched too thin. I know we hear that arm stretched too thin, there's too much work to do. But guess what, they have a choice, they can either not do the work or they can pay you to do the work. Why are they paying someone to do the work? It's not because they're stretched too thin? What is the reason why they would pay someone to do this work? Another common thing, oh, it's just a backfill. Again, they don't have to backfill anyone. Why are they backfilling? What is the business goal? And what why would they be paying you six figures or more to accomplish this role? What outcomes are they wanting? So with this step, and some of you might be saying, well, that's really hard. I can't even talk to this person before I interview them, right? Yeah, it is hard. But you're finishing second place, and you're not even going through the full interview process. So, this is the time to get creative and fight. And this helps you stand up and above the crowd.

So, I'm not telling you that this is simple. But in order for you to stand above and beyond all the other people who are interviewing, especially the internal candidates who have this, some of this knowledge, this is going to take a little bit of sleuthing, and I'll tell you how to do that.

So, you can conduct informational interviews. It doesn't have to be with the hiring manager. It would be great if it was right. Doesn't have to be the recruiter. That would be great. If it was you can be with peers or if you're in customer success. You could talk to the state you know, the state sales VP, like find a creative way to talk to people in the organization that you're targeting? and get information from them. Why are they hiring for this position? What are the problems are trying to solve? What kind of outcomes would really be a homerun if this person accomplish them? What matters to that hiring manager?

Next, you could do networking like similarly, right networking, go find your existing contacts, who works at the company where you want to work and talk to them. They don't have to work in the same organization or department. Go talk to them and find out like, what's the corporate philosophy right now? What is the 22nd? Half of 2020? vision, you know, focus? Is it revenue? Or is it you know, protecting the client base that they already have? Or is it getting ready to ramp up to scale next year? Like what is it? What are they trying to accomplish? Get creative to find the answers, make new contacts, I've had clients who literally have made a new found the company they really want to work for made, you know, reached out, found a peer, you know, someone that could be their peers, they didn't realize that at the time, that person was super gracious talk to them for 20 minutes ended up actually submitting the resume for them, and gave them my client invaluable information about why are they are they trying to fill this position. So then when my client went to interview, she knew exactly how to communicate to the hiring decision makers, she wasn't just throwing shit out there and hoping that it matched up to what they were looking for research the company go out and look at press releases go out and look at if it's a public company that reports like go figure out where the focus is, are so that you can fine tune your answers and tailor them to exactly what it is they're trying to accomplish by hiring you.

And ultimately, and I, most people want to avoid the last piece of advice I'm going to give you, but it can be a game changer. Ask the interviewer - JOHN asks you tell me a little bit about yourself. And you say, john, thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today. I can't wait to describe what I do. And have this dialogue with you today. I would love to know why you're hiring for this role. So, I can direct my answers in the in the most meaningful way to you know, have the best use of your time. Here is simple, right? Unless they're combative, and want you know, do that what I said answer the question, don't ask me a question. 19 times out of 20 has been at my experience, they're excited to tell you why they're hired want to hire someone they want you to they want to explain it to you that people love talking about themselves. How do I, a hiring manager like oh, you can't believe the situation I'm in right now. I'm behind on my revenue numbers. And this is my only way of catching up. Or I've got clients that are  leaving, and I've got to figure out how to retain them. That kind of information is invaluable for you to be able to pick and choose what examples you're going to share with them, and how you're going to tailor the details of your answers to fit their requirements. Right? We're gathering the requirements. And then we're tailoring our solution, which is the answers in our interview questions to what the requirements are. You do this all day long as, as a technology professional, just apply it to your interviewing.

  1. Plan out your answers, focused on their requirements, what they care about

Next, plan out your answers that are focused on their requirements, what they care about. So, this looks like one of two things. Either you get the information upfront, and then you can plan out your answers very specifically to you know, step one that we just talked about the informational interviewing and that kind of thing. Or the other option that you have in this case, if you haven't been able to get that due diligence upfront. It's just to sit down and brainstorm. What could someone care about in this situation? Why are they hiring me? Why is this role open? What could possibly their goal be? And then just start making some educated guesses so that when you do get into the interview, and have that chance to have a dialogue with a hiring manager, you have a few options for yourself as to which direction you want to take and you know, you've done this job, right, you know what the possible issues are? And so, you just have to kind of figure out what would my strategy be if it's this or if it's that or if it's. That's right, and map it out.

  1. Anticipate their objections and weave in to proactively address them

Next, anticipate also what their objections might be about you. What might they not what might not be sold on. And then try to weave proactively into what you're saying to address them. These are the types of techniques that I help my clients with, as we do mock interviewing is really like getting that into that detail. So that you're able to get every example that you want to possibly share with a interviewer and focus in on their requirements. And then what could they might what might they be objecting to? And how do I proactively address that?

  1. Practice!

Here's what I see. We write out so a lot of us will brainstorm out like, Okay, if I'm asked this question, here's what I'm going say, and write it out on a piece of paper or type it. But they don't actually say it out loud. Or they might say it out loud. But they don't actually review that. And so, what that looks like is, in the best case scenario is that you literally make yourself a zoom account, if you don't have one and record yourself, as if you were on a video interview, and practice like, Okay, I'm going to be asked about what's my most successful project, and I'm going to in the end, I'm going to ask the hiring manager what he cares about. And I already did some due diligence against this, you know, this client, and I think one of the two answers will be that either they need to increase revenue, or, you know, address customer reference ability or some kind of employee retention thing. So, I've kind of got three angles, I'm going to take, if it's angle one, I'm going to say this, if it's angle two, I'm going to say that if it's angle three, I'm going to say that, and then you're practicing it out loud, and you're watching it back, which is never fun. But do it anyway, so that you can really see how you come across. And if there are areas where you hesitate, because you're not 100% sold on your own answer. Those are the things that you want to identify and continue refining and improving.

  1. Create a “pre-game” routine to get you into the right zone before your interview 

Step five, is to create a pregame routine for yourself. So, you're in the right zone, so that you do feel confident with whatever direction or whatever requirements you might get from that interviewer.

  1. Evaluate after the interview

And then step number six, you're going to want to evaluate yourself after each interview. So, this is a process that I help my clients with, we go through and really look at what an action after action review, right? What lessons did you learn? And so, we go through a very specific process. But for you as you're implementing what I'm giving you today, like look at this, just like as if you had ended a project, what would your lesson learned, process be? And how do you want to continuously improve as you go? And how do you capture the information, those requirements that you've gathered from one interviewer, so you can build upon that in the next interview.

So, those are the six steps to implement so that you fully understand the requirements as you're going into an interview cycle and can address and direct your answers more surgically than just the broad blanket approach that most people take.


Learn Where Independent Consultants (Like You) Find New Clients


  • The ebook will give you the inspiration you need to create an endless pipeline of clients.
  • Find a business development approach that resonates with you, so can actually enjoy your marketing and sales process
  • You'll be surprised at how easy some of the methods to find and land new clients can be.