I’m a total sucker for candy. A few weeks ago a pack of “Mystery Flavor” gum caught my eye. Of course I bought it. It actually doesn’t taste too bad; it’s kind of a mix of every sweet berry flavor. But here’s the interesting part, whenever I offer it to anyone, they nearly always refuse. “Mystery flavor? No, ew. No way.” Even after I explain it’s a “fruity mix” and not a horrible prank, still no takers.
So even though it’s easy enough to rid yourself of a piece of gum you do not like; people are not willing to take the risk of being surprised and disappointed. Even for a piece of gum.
Think of this the next time you go on an interview. I talk to a few dozen folks every week that are looking for employment and I am always surprised at how many people are “Mystery Gum.”
Mystery Gum candidates say:
“I’m willing to do any job.”
“I’d work for any company.”
“I don’t have a specialty; I’m just a hard worker.”
Mystery Gum candidates are friendly and nice and often make good conversation. But if there is anything to learn from gum it’s that we’d like to know specifically what we’re getting, especially when it comes to a new employee. When I’m interviewing a Mystery Gum candidate, it’s hard for me to understand the value they bring to the role.
I realize the job market is tough and candidates are desperate for employment, but specialists are more likely to get jobs than generalists, just as I’m more likely to want some minty gum on my way to a meeting (breath freshener) and some fruity gum after a meal (pretend dessert).
So the next time you have an interview think about your strengths and specialties and do research on the position so you can talk frankly about the value you can add to the company. A little preparation will ensure you don’t wind up surprising someone with your variety of berry flavors when they thought they were getting spearmint.
Here are four steps to move out of “mystery gum” territory:
1. For each job you’ve had, write down the specific accomplishments you had in that role. Did you increase sales? Did you cut costs? How did you exceed expectations?
2. Fill in the blank: People call me when they need ________________.
3. Think about the sum of your experience. What are you uniquely qualified to do?
4. Look at the job description, what jumps out at you? What are things that you think you could achieve in this position?