Selling the vision before selling yourself

We had this interesting correspondence from a reader this week and we think it is worth reproducing here. It might chime with some of you.

“I applied for a job in my current company – but in a completely different section. I was a 200-1 shot. There were at least three others in that section better positioned than me.

But, knew I could do a better job than any of the three who were in the frame.

Firstly, our sector is changing rapidly. Sales are falling. New ideas are required. The other three all offered the prospect of continuing in the same vein as always  – highly competent, professional but, ultimately, ‘same old, same old.’

I was coming from left of field.

I applied. I got called for interview: were my bosses just being polite? Did they not want to insult me by not giving me a shot at it? I really don’t think they saw me as a serious candidate.

But I did.

I prepared for the interview at two levels.

Level 1: Convince our employers they needed to be radical. They needed to stop a slowly-forming rot by completely changing the emphasis of the role.

Level 2: Convince them that when they changed tack, I was the solution.

It quickly became apparent to me that I needed to work much harder on Level 1. If I got Level 1 right, I was the only alternative.

But I had to tread warily on Level 1. You can’t tell your bosses they are leading the company off a cliff, can you?

Yet I had to lead them to a new awareness. If they judged the candidates on the long-standing criteria, I would be a comfortable last in the interview process.

It required deft footwork by me. I knew I had only 40 minutes or so to take them from their current criteria to a new one.

I decided to tackle it head-on. One of my first sentences in the interview was to say: “I know you are wondering why I’m even here. If I were you, I’d be wondering the same thing. At first glance, I’m a bizarre candidate for this role because I don’t have the experience that usually fills this job. But I honestly believe you need to consider a candidate like me for this position – if not me, then perhaps someone else like me. Things are changing and if we keep doing what we have always done, we will continue to see our sales fall.”

I let the silence linger. I could almost see the wheels turning in their heads. Before any of them could talk, I added: “So before we talk about me, I’d like to talk about my vision for this position. I realise you need to be convinced of that before you can seriously consider me for the role.”

I handed them an A4 page of bullet points I had prepared, and talked them through it. The beauty of the page was that it meant I didn’t have to remember it, and it could also remain in the room after I’d left.

By those simple acts, I had transformed the nature of the interview. I jolted them out of their cosiness. We talked philosophically and I went from a position of feeling under pressure to justify my presence at the interview to a point where we brainstormed the role.

Did I get the job?

Yes. I convinced them of the new criteria – I didn’t even have to sell myself. And I’m doing it now, and my fresh approach is paying dividends. This might help one of your readers somewhere.”

Sli Nua Careers offer CV writing, interview training, mock interview and career direction services at their offices in Galway, Dublin and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. They hold a free Online Interview Training Workshop every Wednesday evening (6.30-7.15pm). To register, visit