interview mastery

Any sales process can be broken down into three basic elements: Opening - Demonstrating Value - Closing.

What does this mean in the context of a job interview?


A key moment is opening as this sets the frame for the ongoing dialogue.


At the outset the interviewer will ‘open’ the candidate with a question relating to CV/current role.

Something like:

‘Could you just take us through your CV John, starting with your current role?’




‘You’re currently at Microsoft…can you tell us something about what you’re doing there and why you’re looking to move?

Another typical opener:

‘John, at Google we receive countless job applications – tell me, what’s so special about ‘John Smith’ – why should we offer you a job?


The interviewer’s opener is the cue for the candidate to talk about themselves, instantly surrendering ‘frame’ to the interviewer.


Interviewer frame:


‘You want to work for us, show us what you’ve got and maybe you’re in with a chance…

Merely answering the question only reinforces the interviewer’s perceived dominance or ‘frame control’, given they already ‘own’ the frame by default being in their own office in a scenario where you’re willingly putting yourself before their judgement.

But the purpose of the interview for the candidate is to show their own value. Which means ‘owning’ the frame.

In the context of a job interview the CV is  nothing but a pretext to ‘open’ the candidate.

From the candidate’s standpoint, and that’s all we’re concerned with here, the CV has already served its purpose: to get you in front of the decision maker aka ‘an interview’.

If an objective assessment of someone’s work record were the real issue, the opinions of former employers or colleagues could be sought, the interview would be a  rubber stamping exercise.

And, other factors being equal, that’s largely what the interview is in more specialist or technical roles.

In sales and senior management it’s the other way round: references are the formality.


Candidate frame:


I’m interested in the role but am here on my own terms, and being good at what I do, have other options.

Obviously this can’t be stated openly – self praise is no praise – only shown.

And thats all ‘frame control’ amounts to: showing up.

The key to ‘reframing’ is reciprocity.

When the candidate reciprocates rather than automatically submitting, eliciting reasons for recruiting or attributes of the role, that puts a very different complexion on the ‘demonstration of value’/career history.

Reciprocity means the candidate question being congruent with the interviewer’s ‘opener’.

This is pure reciprocity in the moment and In that sense ‘opening’ is no different to ‘closing’.

Remember, in client-facing and senior management roles the interview will outweigh any other consideration.

You’re already qualified for the job on paper in virtue of being selected for interview in the first place.

The interview itself is the demonstration of value.

In the very act of answering  our question they implicitly place us in their trust: opening themselves before us.

This is purely emotional and nothing to do with business as such.

Our normal reflexive responses aren’t on-hold just because we’re in a highly contrived business scenario.

I’m sometimes asked: ‘What if they refuse to answer your question?’

First, that’s the wrong attitude: if as a saleperson you shrink from asking a basic opening question, you’re in the wrong job.

But if for any reason someone wanted to turn the tables and put you on the spot, and it can happen in any sales situation, the great thing about a job interview unlike other sales scenarios is that you can immediately turn it to your advantage.

You can be totally transparent about your intent making it clear that you asked the opener because you’re structuring the interview as you would a sale.

The interview is a sale in that its sole purpose is to secure a job offer.

Of course you should be clear about your intent in any sale, but you wouldn’t normally discuss your sales or man-management technique with a client.

Whereas in a job interview ‘technique’ is integral to the value proposition. You want to be open about it.

If this is handled properly – lighthearted with firm intent – it’s a powerful reframe: laying the ground for the ‘close’.

(NB ‘Close’ here doesn’t mean getting a decision on the day which is not always feasible. It does mean asking about decision making criteria and your own place in them: how advanced are they in their decision making: how many candidates are yet to be interviewed? Asking such questions is more demonstrative of sales ability than anything you could tell them about yourself. Of course if it’s a first interview of a two stage process, then you’re closing for the second interview anyway and not for a job offer as such, and  can legitimately press harder for an instant decision.)


And now that they’ve enabled you to openly declare your intent the ‘close’ is a logical progression.

In effect they’ve ‘surrendered frame’ in that you are now explaining the purpose of the meeting in your terms, whereas a moment before you were supposed to be taking them through your CV on theirs.

They will already be seeing you in a different light compared with someone who didn’t open at all and just started talking about themselves – the overwhelming majority of candidates.

The typical candidate is concerned with giving the interviewer the right answers, i.e. what we imagine the interviewer wants to hear in order to be persuaded that we’re the best candidate.

The successful sales person is armed with the best questions.

This is why you have to approach the interview with your own purpose uppermost in your mind just as you would any meeting with a sales prospect.

The golden rule in any sales scenario is: two ears, one mouth.

Especially in the early stages where we want the client to be telling us their ‘pain’ or businees needs.

The basic strucure of the typical interviewer opening question could occur in any sales scenario.

The sales person’s job is to open and get the client talking, not to answer questions or be an  information source.

Even if a job interview isn’t exactly the same as a ‘sale’, that principle remains identical.

The key here is not to answer the opener on their terms but to reframe it in mutual terms.

The opening question might run directly from a welcome/intro.

You must reciprocate, i.e. express gratitude for being invited – you’ll want to do this anyway as it’s the perfect preface to your reciprocal opening question:

And thank you for inviting me – I’m delighted to have this opportunity…

and to go through my CV with you…

But before I start talking about myself can I ask you something?

Could you very briefly summarise for me the key attributes Google are looking for in a successful Chief Executive?”

Tone and dynamic count for more  than the actual words, though that’s a form of words I’ve used, with a little context variation, in sales situations countless times.

First, absorb their question slowly with agreeable head nodding, a kind of submissive gesture respectfully acknowledging the interviewer’s status as your host, rather than responding off the bat, and then ‘own’ the situation with a reciprocal question.

When the candidate then talks about their career and it relates back to what the interviewer has just said, the interviewer cannot but attach greater significance to it.

Otherwise if we simply start talking about ourselves with no pushback the interviewer will be more inclined to pick holes in what we say: putting us automatically on the back foot from the outset.

Defining your credentials in the language and logic of the interviewer in the moment will for that reason make them more receptive to what you say.

More importantly this assertion of ‘soft power’ will enhance your status in their eyes.

The interview is a kind of dress rehearsal: controlling the sales process is what sales professionals do.

Nothing you could tell an interviewer about your sales or management skills could count for more than how you actually perform in front of them.

In the end that’s all the interview is about, at least for the candidate, to actively influence the feelings of the interviewer in the moment.

You are not there to tell them about yourself. Your purpose is to win commitment in the service of securing a job offer.

Of course you still have to close. But you can’t properly close if you haven’t properly opened.

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