Challenger Sale meets Challenger Interview

My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying.

– Rodney Dangerfield


Finding your next job is not about luck.  It will require you to get out of your comfort zone and embrace selling techniques. Competition is stiff,   hiring processes are changing, unemployment remains high.   What can a job seeker do to increase their chances of success?


What if you could understand and apply the basic principles of the most successful sales people in the world?

Matthew Dixon, Brent Adamson, and their colleagues at Corporate Executive Board interviewed over 6000 top performing salespeople at a who’s who of leading corporations. They studied their techniques and remarkably found a common theme in their approach.  They then aggregated these findings into a book called The Challenger Sale.  The highly acclaimed book suggests that when it comes to selling complex, large-scale business-to-business solutions, there is a simple 1, 2, 3 steps that lead to superior results. It can be summed up simply as teach, tailor and take control. The best salespeople execute this without their prospect feeling like they just experienced a sales call.  The prospect felt, like the salesperson showed expertise and shared as well as educated the prospect.  The dialogue did not feel canned, but rather customized to the prospects business situation. The meeting probably also did not follow the prescriptive path the prospect originally felt it should, would or could.


Can this work in job interviewing?  Absolutely!


What if you entered your next interview with the following blueprint and executed it in a seemingly crisp, yet casual exchange?

1)      Teach – You begin by offering some macro trend data having to do with your prospect companies industry or something unique to the hiring department. As an example, if interviewing for a job in Human resources, you could share a statistic about HR outsourcing and/or some of the latest software automation trends.

2)      Tailor – Now tie the conversation back to explicit needs of the company or hiring manager.  You can do this by studying CEO statements in press releases, listening to recruiters describe the job goals or great discovery questions.  However, you should do pre-work.  You want this research completed prior to the interview.  This will allow you to customize your dialogue to be truly relevant to the hiring manager.

3)      Take Control – This may be the hardest part to execute. However, if you are properly prepared with meaningful insights that allow you to teach and tailor, taking control will happen naturally.

Imagine if you can begin the interview by taking out an article (preferably from a prominent media source) you recently read and tying it back to the job description, CEO’s strategy statement and the business challenge as outlined by the recruiter. With this simple technique, you have taught, tailored and taken control.  You are no longer competing against other interviewees trying to find a unique and powerful way to answer:

  • Tell me something unique about yourself?
  • Why are you leaving your job?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • What was your greatest business achievement?
  • What is your greatest weakness?

Let’s be honest, these questions are all listed on the Internet and there are actually websites providing great answers to these questions for folks to repurpose.

So how can a job candidate increase their chances of getting hired?  Differentiate yourself.  Do it the same way leading salespeople are beating their quota goals.  Teach, Tailor and Take Control.


The author, Ian Levine, is a leading speaker and blogger on advanced sales strategies and career branding.


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