In a competitive job market, your goal as a candidate is to make your message stick. The stickiness factor as defined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, is the quality that compels someone to pay close and sustained attention to an idea, concept or product.
How can you do this when you are under pressure in a stressful situation? The SUCCES model developed by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Made To Stick, can readily be applied to interviews. Let’s take a closer look…
S – Simple
U – Unexpected
C – Concrete
C – Credibility
E – Emotion
S – Stories
Can you describe yourself in one sentence? Here are some examples:
“I am a hands-on product manager, skilled in moving concepts from product delivery to market success.”
“I am a brain-friendly instructional designer who incorporates the latest neuroscience research on how people learn.”
“I am an entrepreneur with experience establishing, funding and growing start-up biotech companies.”
Making your message stick requires that you get and keep someone’s attention. Peaking someone’s interest by making them curious or by surprising them is an effective way to differentiate your message. A few years ago, one of my clients was trying to make a career change. With two degrees in classical archeology, she wanted to work in business; a difficult transition, to say the least! One day, I asked her what some of her favorite hobbies were. She mentioned that she loved collecting baseball cards, but her reasons had nothing to do with player statistics or trading cards. She was as fascinated with player photos as she was with carvings of people on ancient pottery. Why? The answer is that both allowed her to imagine what motivated people. Fast forward, she is now a successful market researcher. Imagine if she described herself as archeologist turned market researcher? Wouldn’t you be curious as to how she became the Indiana Jones of market research?
If you are a project manager responsible for delivering projects on time, within budget, explaining that you do this regularly is not concrete. What if instead you said, “managed a process improvement team that reduced the turnaround time required to collect and analyze field data by 200%.” Which of these explanations would you remember? On an interview remember that the person conducting the interview may not know what you know, especially if you have expertise in a technical area. Cut the jargon and talk about your accomplishments in business terms; how much you saved or earned for the company.
For years on end we’ve heard the statistics of how many people die annually from ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Yet, ALS research has been underfunded for years. In 2012, the ALS Organization raised $12M. Enter the Ice Bucket Challenge. Videos of people pouring buckets of ice over their heads to raise awareness about this dreaded disease, resulting in donations in excess of $40M. That’s about as simple, concrete and credible as you can get.
How do we make people care about our message? In one word – emotion. In short, the most direct way to gain emotional buy-in is WIFY or “what’s in it for you.” Rather than talk about your skills and accomplishments, explain how you can apply your experience to solve problems for a potential employer.
Stories are the next best thing to being there. “Stories are like flight simulators for the brain,” say Chip and Dan Heath. There is nothing stickier. The most memorable job candidates engage the listener in personal stories, a potent way of demonstrating that if you’ve overcome an obstacle, achieved success or motivated a team, you can do it again.