I wrote a post recently about the two things employers are really asking in an interview. 1. Will you add value? and 2. Are you a cultural fit?
I got good feedback, but a lot of people asked me, “How do I answer the first question of proving I can add value quickly?”
Well, now I’m revealing all my tricks. There are broadly only three ways you can convince me. If you have all three — great. You’re my unicorn. If you have one or two, you’re a good candidate and could very well land the job. If you have zero, better luck somewhere else.
Here’s how you can prove to me whether or not you can do the job.
1. You have relevant experience.
2. You’re whip smart.
3. You can hustle.
Experience is flexible. 2-5 years of experience plague every entry-level job description these days. For the most part — you can ignore it. If you’ve run social media for the chess club or hosted events at your college, that’s good — it’s applicable. Mine your experience — work or school — for tasks that seem closest to what you’ll have to do on this job. Add them to your resume and tell me about them in detail. But chances are, you’re not going to nail this one. There’s still always going to be someone more experienced. If you’re fresh out of college, it’s better to go with #2 or #3.
Whip-smart is also hard to prove, but not impossible. You’ve never done the job before, but maybe you’ve read up on everything there is to read up on about this job and this industry. Maybe you have a quick, smart answer for all of my questions, and maybe you have even harder questions to ask me. You have one shot to wow me. Most people won’t, and that’s OK. On to #3.
Hustle is the great equalizer. Even if you don’t have relevant experience and don’t wow me with your horsepower right off the bat — you’re still in the running if you can hustle, really hustle, and show that you’re going to work your ass off.
How do you show it? Maybe you volunteered to do a project in the field you’re trying to break into and brought it with you to your interview. Maybe you proactively interviewed people in my target market and brought me new insights on their needs. Maybe you volunteer to work for me for free for two weeks to prove yourself. If you make me believe your hustle, you’re more in the running than people who meet only #1 and #2.
You know you’re going to say in an interview that you can do the job. Just think about how you’re going to prove it. You don’t need to have it all, but you do need to have something.
And when in doubt, go with hustle.
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Josh Jarrett started his career with McKinsey as a business analyst. He has since led higher education innovation at the Gates Foundation, launched a tech startup in the bay area in the late 90’s, and most recently, co-founded Koru.