small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

small change 


Ciarán Fenton

How small changes in your behaviour will have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow

That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 1 small change: seven principles

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

small change

Seven principles

Principle 2

Organisations are more likely to hire you if

  • you’re the least risky
  • not, necessarily, the best


Blog 21  small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

yoru three-step interview plan

Step 3  Close the gap between the buyer’s objections and “a deal”

Having established, accurately, your buyer’s needs and demonstrated, rather than asserted, your ability to meet those needs and in doing so surfaced the gap between the buyer’s objections and “a deal”, the next step is to close “the gap”.

And, I repeat, there is always a gap. If they say they’re isn’t they’re lying.

Here’s how to close the gap using this imaginary dialogue:

You: “As I understand it, you need a, b & c and I have, hopefully, demonstrated how I can meet those needs, so if 10 is I’m hired and zero is I’m not, where am I on that scale now, taking the other candidates into account?”

Them: “You’re at about seven”. [They almost always say seven if you’re in with a chance.]

You: “How do I close the gap between seven and ten? What is it about my pitch that has you still concerned that I may not be the best on the list?

Them: “Well, you say you have international experience but you have only led one team outside of the UK, and that was in Amsterdam. That’s not precisely “global leadership” stuff, is it? Other candidates have led teams on all five continents.”

You: “Oh. I see, so international experience is a deal-breaker then, is it?”

Them: “No, we knew the extent of your international experience from your CV of course, but when it comes to deciding on a short-list – it’s tricky because there’s often just a Rizla between the finalists – and, you know, we have to base our decision on something”.

You: ” I see. So you feel I could do the job despite my narrow international experience, which I acknowledge – [nb. always accept their take on you; don’t push back unless they are factually wrong and to a material extent]  – which means that the other candidates with extensive global leadership experience may be weak in areas I’m strong – is that fair? [This is a “closed question” – Yes or No. Don’t use these unless you know the answer in advance]

Them: “Yes”

You: “So, if you could be persuaded that the risk associated with appointing me with my narrow international experience is less than the risk of appointing my nearest rival on the list with extensive international experience but weaker than me on another criterion you would choose me?”

Them; “Potentially. There are other factors, of course…”

You ” Ok, so let me deal with the international experience issue first: what for you [an open question] is the most essential quality required of a global leader in your organisation?”

Them: “For us, it’s about the ability to lead, motivate, and manage a team remotely using mainly video because we keep tight control on travel costs and in any event, we are very ESG  conscious, and our carbon footprint is top of mind.”

You: “I understand. So if I could demonstrate that I could learn to lead in that manner, my score would increase beyond seven?”

Them: “Well, potentially…” [That’s code for “definitely”]

You: “Ok. Over three years in my last role I managed high volume supplier and client relationships, not dissimilar to managing teams I hope you agree, across the world. We also had restricted travel budgets and an ESG agenda. In addition, if you call my former boss, she will confirm that I was thrown in at the deep end with these key relationships and learned quickly how to deal with the tricky issues associated with managing remote relationships on video, which both sides can find very frustrating.” [You are now back into a demonstration loop because the need is clear]. Is there anything else? [Always ask another question before making a statement].

Them; “No, that’s our main concern.”

You: “Do you feel I have addressed your main concern enough to nudge my score above seven towards a ten? [Closed question]

Them: “Yes”

You: “Is there anything else?” [Open question]

Them: “Well, there’s always personality issues…” [This is the elephant in the room. Do they like you or not?]

You: “What kind of personality are you looking for?”

And, so, off you go around the open question/demonstration/closed question cycle.


Over the years clients who have the courage to use this process said that this process works but it can be difficult to work up the courage to do so.

WARNING: Obviously, you must read the room and if you feel that a dim view will be taken of your taking such a proactive approach don’t do it. If so, however, you should consider whether these are people you want to work with if they can’t operate on a high EQ basis.

Those of my clients who didn’t ask the question for whatever reason and didn’t make the short-list never knew why not, except of course if I called the headhunter to ask. Bizarrely, the headhunters would tell me the truth knowing that I would tell my client. Frequently headhunters would give me different feedback to the feedback they gave my client.

Recently when pithing my own services to a consultancy I had to eat my own dog food and I asked the “zero – 10” question. My heart rate soared as I waited for the answer. “Four,” they said! I thought I was going to faint. That’s not what I was expecting.

But I was glad I asked. It turned out that their view of leadership consulting and mine was very different. We were not right for each other.

And that’s what you are doing, in summary:

Looking, in an adult fashion, for a win-win, or not.

And if not, move on.

Ciarán Fenton









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