by Tad Mayer

Imagine you are interviewing candidates for an open position. In your role it’s important to you to improve your department and leave a legacy of having developed a new area of business for your company. Those aspirations are not part of the job description and a candidate figures them out from reading a recent article about you. During the interview, s/he first describes your interests, and then shows that s/he can help you achieve them because of his or her previous experience. Would s/he stand out to you?

To distinguish yourself, figure out the interviewer’s interests: needs, motivations, and aspirations—what’s important to them. Why? So that you can demonstrate how you can help him or her meet them (in addition to the items in the job description). Don’t assume that the job description includes all of the hiring manager’s needs—s/he probably didn’t write it! It reflects important information, but not the whole story.

What are interests? They are the needs behind what we choose to do—why we do it. For instance, I am a career coach, and some of my interests are to improve people’s professional prospects and fulfillment, continually learn and utilize best coaching practices, work with people one-on-one, etc. When I meet people and they mention that they can help me do any of these more effectively, I am hooked!

How do you uncover interest, confirm them, and demonstrate how you can help the interviewer meet them? You can find them by looking at LinkedIn, the company bio, interviews, articles or blogs s/he has written, and asking people you meet who know him or her. Look beyond the experience and accomplishments to what makes the interviewer tick. Sometimes it’s easy. The profile might say, “Giving back is important to me. My volunteer work includes…” S/he has explained that giving back is an interest, and tells you about his or her volunteer work.

Sometimes, it’s not that clear. For instance, “Initiated program that served as a catalyst for bringing together separate city organizations in support of a single organization and mission to promote the city as an international business center; persuaded leaders to relinquish ‘turf’ and collaborate for the first time.” What interests do you see? What I pick up as important to him or her is starting something new, collaboration and working together, and improved results. You may see more.

What do you say in the interview? If you were interviewing with the person represented by the second example above, you could say something like “From what I read online, it looks like starting something new, collaborating and working together, and improving the outcome from those efforts is important to you. I would love to explain how I could help you do that, but first I would like to check-in with you to make sure I’ve got it right. How does what I said match up with what’s important to you?” [Discuss their interests.] “May I take some time to demonstrate how I may be able to help you achieve those things?”

So, for your next interview, find those interests and demonstrate that you can help the interviewer achieve them. He or she will develop an interest in hiring you.

TADTad Mayer is a co-author of Own the Job Hunt (due out in 2017), as well as a negotiation consultant, mediator, facilitator, trainer, and coach. He recently taught as an Adjunct Professor of negotiation at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. You can reach him at