The typical recruiting process can include several meetings from Human Resources to regional managers and even with your future colleagues, and involves a barrage of questions strategically designed to pry as deeply into your life as legally possible.

In this case, knowing as much as possible about your competition would be an asset. But it’s highly unlikely that your potential employer is going to give you a copy of all the other candidates’ resumes so you know how to position yourself.

You cannot compare yourself to people you’ve never met, so how are you going to defend yourself when the interviewer hits you with difficult questions such as:

  • What can you offer our company that other candidates cannot?
  • What if I told you that you weren’t the most qualified person we’ve interviewed so far?, or
  • Why should we hire you?

If you think that justifying your advantage over an unknown candidate X will get you the job, then you are missing out on the most important differentiator of all. Consider, instead, that the above questions – as well as  every other question you can expect to answer in the recruiting process – can be fundamentally boiled down to just two key decisive questions:

  1. “Can I trust you?”
  2. “Are you somebody I want to spend 40+ hours/week living with for the unforeseeable future?

Can I trust you?

It’s your responsibility to be as well-informed and familiar with the hiring company’s culture and the job’s responsibilities as possible before your job interview, even if this means investing in an online crash course to learn the necessary skills or specific software needed to do the job; but even if you do walk into your interview without that knowledge or competence, if the employer trusts you, then the employer would still be open to hiring you, even if hiring you involves a little bit more training than ‘all the other qualified candidates they’ve interviewed so far.’

Fact is, that you were contacted for a job interview in the first is an indication that your Linkedin profile, resume and cover letter demonstrate at least the minimum skill-set and knowledge-base sufficient enough to appropriately do the job. That being said, it would be foolish of you NOT to assume that there are other, more ‘qualified’ candidates they are considering.

Consider now, that you will always be compared to candidates who are:

  • Younger
  • Smarter
  • Already trained on the company’s software and best practices
  • More appealing
  • More influential
  • Better connected
  • Willing to work longer hours
  • Willing to work for less pay

You simply can’t compete against this, and it would be irrational for you to even try; especially as you get older.

If the company you’re applying for has any respect for their long-term reputation and strategy, then the most decisive quality they really want to know about you is ‘are you someone we can entrust our hard-earned money and brand reputation to without second-guessing our judgment.’

Are you somebody I want to spend 40+ hours/week living with for the unforeseeable future?

We naturally gravitate towards people who are similar to ourselves and who we like being around – even if being around that person involves inconveniences such as having to completely rearranging our schedule or driving 50 miles out of our way.

HR’s responsibility is to attract and recruit people who are the best possible match for the job in question as well as the best fit for the company culture, however it’s quite rare that HR stumbles upon a ‘perfect’ candidate who simultaneously fulfills all formal job requirements and who everyone in the company will absolutely love and look forward to working with.

Reputable HR hire with the goal of balancing a candidate’s individual competence and productivity with their team’s productivity. Imagine it is your hiring decision and your reputation and money were on the line, would you hire a fully-qualified person who requires no additional training and would likely produce individual above average results, but has a personality or habit that would lower the team’s overall productivity, or would you invest a little extra time training a person whom the team both trusts and enjoys being around and working with?

The takeaway:

Remember, the fact that you were contacted for a job interview is an indication that you possess at least the minimum skill-set and knowledge-base sufficient enough to appropriately do the job. So rather than allowing the interviewer to focus on what you lack, it’s your responsibility to convince them that you are someone they’ll trust and look forward to sharing an office space with.

As you refresh your LinkedIn description and consider how you will approach your up-coming job interview, how can you answer the interviewer’s questions so that you demonstrate yourself as the most trust-worthy and likeable candidate they have interviewed so far while completely side-stepping having to defend yourself against ‘better’ candidates? Approach your next job interview this way, and suddenly all those supposed “younger, smarter, better connected and more appealing” candidates almost look inadequate, don’t they?