It is easy to lose our personal brand when heading into an interview. We often focus on saying all the right things when answering questions that are asked of us and forget to state our top selling points.
As associate director for the Career and Professional Development Center and a Professional Development Seminar (PDS) instructor at Nichols College, I make it a mission to share with students and alumni how they can stand out in the interview process.
Standing out doesn’t just mean using nice paper for your professional documents, coming prepared with meaningful questions, and doing your research in advance on the position and employer. It also means identifying and selling your personal brand.
After a recommendation from Nichols College Associate Dean Luanne Westerling and reading portions of the book 60 Seconds and You’re Hired! by Robin Ryan, I became hooked on the idea of encouraging students to create a “5 Point Agenda” prior to heading into every single interview. When discussing 5 Point Agendas, Ryan states, “This is a method by which you can focus your interview on your strengths and get the employer to listen. You select your five most marketable points and repeatedly illustrate these points throughout the interview process. Repetition and reiteration of your strengths helps the employer remember how you will meet the needs of the company.”
Here at Nichols, each student is required to take four, one-credit courses on career and professional development in the PDS program. Our signature PDS program covers myriad topics such as self-assessment, resume writing, cover letters, interviewing, salary negotiation, personal branding, and so much more. Last semester, every junior-year PDS student was asked to create a 5 Point Agenda, which was worth 10 percent of their final grade. Much like Ryan’s book, students were asked to take a look at their selected full-time job description (as each student undergoes an in-class mock interview) and come up with the following:
Five main points they wanted to share during their interview. These points primarily came from the job description.
An example of how they showcased each of their five main points. Most students used academics, professional work experience, athletics, volunteering, and campus involvement.
A script (two or three sentences maximum) of how they planned to share these main points, examples and most importantly, how they planned to relate it to the job at hand.
Almost every single student submitted this assignment, and the results were phenomenal—not only because of what I read for their submissions, but also because the quality of their mock interviews (this is something I hold every single semester in my classes) was much higher than ever before. More importantly, my students got a chance to share more about their personal brand in their interview by using this structured approach. A few students even took the time to mention on their course evaluations that this was a major takeaway from their semester and a technique they plan to use in the future when preparing for their interviews.
Whether you are headed into your next internship, job, or graduate school interview, the “5 Point Agenda” technique is something I would highly recommend when preparing for your next big interview. By creating five points based on the job description, you are automatically setting yourself apart from other candidates as you create employer/position-specific content. More importantly, this gives you a structured approach to identify and share key items relevant to your personal brand during the interview.
I recommend picking up a copy of 60 Seconds and You’re Hired! to brush up on a variety of other skills and to start working on your 5 Point Agenda for your next interview.
Author: Abby DePasquale is associate director for the Nichols College Career and Professional Development Center and a Professional Development Seminar (PDS) instructor at Nichols, in Dudley, Mass. Title: Associate Director of the Career and Professional Development CenterEmployer: Nichols CollegeEmail: Abby.DePasquale@nichols.edu