You know it’s summer when the blockbuster movies are out. As a candidate, the next time you go to the movies to escape the heat, consider that you and Hollywood screenwriters share something in common.
The need to pitch-and to do it well — to get a job.
Whether you are interviewing for a full-time position, contract work or a temporary placement in the GTA, or whether you are a writer in LA, you’re going to have to tell your story in a few short lines.
There is no exception. Even the co-writers of the much anticipated Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides had to prepare a good pitch. They caught the attention of decision-makers at Walt Disney Pictures with these two lines:
Captain Jack Sparrow goes searching for the fountain of youth. He finds it, but things don’t go well for him.
For anyone making a pitch, the key to remember is that less is more. The most powerful pitches give the listener one or two facts of interest.
A short summary makes it easy for the listener to grasp the key points, and remember and repeat these points to other influential people who weren’t at the interview.
But candidates and unsuccessful Hollywood writers often mistakenly believe they need to give a lot of back-story before getting to the point that matters.
They don’t. The Bagg Group recruiters always remind their candidates of the following fact: If you give too much detail, your listener will lose track of what you are saying, and become impatient for your story to end.
After 40 years of working with hiring managers at the best companies across the GTA, we know that interviewers typically groan when a candidate offers a long back-story to this standard question: Tell me how you resolved a difficult situation or challenge ?
It is natural to want to recount the details of the problem, but that backfires in two ways. Firstly, you are taking up valuable interview time that would be better spent discussing your strengths and contributions to the company. Secondly, the interviewer doesn’t care. They aren’t asking the question to learn of past headaches at other organizations. They simply want to know how you problem-solve.
Candidates referred by The Bagg Group are coached on how to answer the question. Here’s what we advise:
· Resume the difficult situation or challenge in a sentence or two. Don’t spend a lot of time setting up the situation and giving unnecessary information about who did what, and why.
· Prepare your answer ahead of time and keep it short. The problem was .. . I did x, y and z to resolve it.
· A focused answer keeps the listener’s attention focused. If the interviewer needs more information, they will ask you a specific question.
Think like a Hollywood writer.
If you think that you can’t boil down your story about a past problem and resolution into a few to-the-point sentences, consider this: Even longest, most complex Hollywood movie was once summed up in pitch of two or three lines. And that pitch is what got decision-makers to sit up and take notice. And it’s thanks to that pitch that the writers got the job and we get to enjoy the movie. Pass the popcorn.