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?

The decisive factor is opening, because this sets the frame for the entire exchange.

If the candidate ‘opens’ the interviewer, this completely reframes the demonstration of value, out of which the opportunity to close will develop.

Early in the interview, often immediately, the interviewer will ‘open’ the candidate. This typically involves a question relating to CV/job history/current role.

Something like:

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


'You’re currently at IBM...can you tell us something about what you're doing there and why you’re looking to move?'

Another possibility is a curved ball - something like:

'John, at IBM we receive countless job applications - tell me, what's so special about 'John Smith' - why should we offer you a job?'

What typically happens at this stage is that the candidate will start talking about themselves, i.e. telling not selling. In effect surrendering control of the dialogue to the interviewer.

However, if the candidate reciprocates, eliciting their reasons for recruiting and the key attributes required of the role, that will put a wholly different complexion on the demonstration of value/career history.

The key principle here is reciprocity: the opening question has to be congruent with the interviewer's 'opener'. No scripted response will suffice. This requires pure reciprocity in the moment.

And in client-facing and senior management roles the interview is likely to outweigh any other consideration. After all you're already qualified for the role on paper in virtue of being selected for interview in the first place.

To that extent the interview is the demonstration of value.

Even if the basic content of what you say remains pretty much the same, which it probably will, for the simple reason that it relates back to what the interviewer has said, it will have a different significance for them.

And that’s because as human beings we can’t help being more invested in our own words than other people’s. If what the candidate says about their career relates back to what the interviewer has just said, the interviewer cannot but attach greater value to it.

Otherwise the interviewer will be more inclined to pick holes in it, which puts the candidate on the back foot from the outset.

But if you're defining your abilites using the language and logic of the interviewer in the moment, that in itself will make them more receptive to what you say. You're also likely to uncover opportunities to win commitment / close.

And really that’s all the interview is about, at least for the candidate, to act on the feelings of the interviewer in the moment. You still have to close. But you can't properly close if you haven't properly opened.

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