Book Review: Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job, by Eric P. Kramer. 2011. Independence, KY: Course Technology PTR. 320 pages. Paperback. $19.99. ISBN: 1435459741.
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Addressing an audience of job-seekers, Eric Kramer cites the availability of some 3,000 books on job interviewing. Still, candidates are unprepared, he says. Worse, interviewing resources regurgitate tired information, failing to present any new concepts. Kramer proposes an “active interviewing” approach, “treating the interview as a sales call and developing a sales presentation.”
Kramer’s premise is that job interviews — for myriad reasons — are “broken.” Both employers and job-seekers are responsible for the problems with interviews. Kramer chooses to address the candidate’s role in fixing the disrepair of interviews. “Job interviews are broken,” he writes, “but you can repair yours.”
To fix their part of the broken interviewing system, Kramer asserts, job-seekers need to think of themselves as service providers, communicate their brand, sell results, tout benefits rather than features, distinguish themselves, ask powerful questions, and de-emphasize interviewer questions (given that the number and variety of questions that can be asked is vast, and thus difficult to prepare for).
Hence, Kramer spends several chapters detailing the concept of interview as sales call, focusing on the sales process, the sales-call concept, and sales skills. By the fifth chapter, he proposes the interview presentation as the ideal sales-call scenario for job-seekers.
Subsequent chapters provide presentation building blocks — personal branding, understanding and aligning the job-seeker’s background to job requirements, as well as knowing value-adds, personal success factors, and one’s significant selling proposition. Chapters dedicated to delivering the presentation focus on telling stories, making a case for being hired, asking questions, and presenting with impact. The body of the book closes with advanced interviewing tips. A comprehensive appendix offers presentation samples and a detailed worksheet.
Here are the top 5 things I learned from Active Interviewing:
- Interviews are broken, but applicants can help fix them. Kramer’s detailed analysis of the “brokenness” of job interviewing is refreshing and useful because it arms job-seekers with tools to overcome these issues. Interviews, Kramer contends, are too randomly evaluated and too subjective. Interviewers are poorly trained and work from weakly crafted job descriptions. Interviews fail to provide an environment that enables interviewees to demonstrate their best assets; they are also one-dimensional — verbal only — and dissimilar to real-world work situations. Across the board, candidates, too, make plenty of mistakes in their approach to interviews. They focus too much on preparing for interview questions, fail to ask powerful questions of interviewers, and sell their features instead of benefits, to name a few issues. Kramer’s approach is to guide interviewees in taking charge of interviews.
- Stories told in interviews should have a plot, theme, and dramatic tension. As I do in my own book, Tell Me About Yourself, Kramer advises candidates to tell success stories in interviews. Kramer says the listener of a story in a job interview — the interviewer — should be able to say “This is a story about —–” upon listening to an interviewee’s story, Kramer says, and be able to identify the skill, accomplishment, trait, strength, or other qualification talked about. Because Kramer is a fan of dramatic tension as a way to engage listeners in the job-seeker’s story, he touts the inclusion of barriers in interviewees’ story formulas; thus, Situation -> Barriers -> Action -> Result.
- Interviewees need to give themselves sufficient credit for team accomplishments. The author emphasizes an important concern about interview stories — a caution against “too much team,” noting that “being a good team member or leader is a critical skill in today’s companies. However, the company is not hiring your team; it is hiring you.” Job-seekers should give themselves sufficient credit when describing a team accomplishment and make their role clear.
- It’s not that hard to brainstorm accomplishment stories. Kramer’s list of “Success-Story Memory Joggers,” comprises concise prompts that help job-seekers recall their achievements so they can craft stories about them. A few samples:
- Tell a story of how you’ve done more with fewer resources.
- Tell how you increased efficiency.
- Describe how you saved money for an employer.
- The art of asking questions of interviewers is a critical business skill. By actually defining a “good interviewing question,” the author provides a rubric by which to compose questions. “A good interview question,” Kramer writes, “displays in-depth knowledge of the industry, the company, or the position, and relates to performing the job.” Example: “Your Website mentions the company’s dedication to the ongoing development of its employees. Please tell me what training and development are available for a person in this position.”
Final Thoughts on Active Interviewing
The greatest strength of Active Interviewing is its comprehensiveness. Kramer leaves no detail unattended to in his quest to teach candidates to develop interview sales presentations. The appendix alone, with its worksheet and samples, justifies the price of the book. Kramer’s grasp of storytelling as the most effective way for job-seekers to present their accomplishments will benefit readers. Remarkably, Kramer guarantees that candidates using his Active Interviewing approach will be prepared for interviews, have an excellent interview presentation at the ready, exhibit less anxiety and more confidence in interviews, and feel proud at the end of each interview. The copious, detailed guidance in the book suggest this guarantee will pan out for readers who follow the outlined steps.
For additional information, see also our Guide to Job Interviewing Resources and Tools.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.