Want to Get Hired? Demonstrate Your Skill, Will and Fit

I saw an interview with Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of Bluemercury, a beauty products and spa services retailer, the other day.

She said that she is “the queen of the seven minute interview.”  In these brief interviews she is looking for three things — skill, will and fit.

She has this to say about skill. “It’s important that someone takes ownership of a project that they did.  You can tell based on how they talk about it — whether they did it, or whether it was just something going on in their organization.”

She says that, “Will is about hunger…If you’re hungry to get somewhere, that means you want to learn.  And if you want to learn, you can do any job.

Finally, there’s fit.  She runs a small company, so she looks for people who can make things happen and are comfortable with ambiguity.

There is some great generalizable career advice here.

Let’s talk about skill.  You have to be able to demonstrate that your accomplishments in an interview.  That’s why I suggest that you learn to tell S.T.A.R.T. stories about your accomplishments.  Here’s how to tell a good S.T.A.R.T. story.

  1. Describe a Situation with which you were faced, or a Task you were assigned. (S/T)
  2. Describe the Action you took. (A)
  3. Describe the positive Result. (R)
  4. Highlight what you learned; your Takeaway from the experience. (T)

Put together a set of these S.T.A.R.T. stories that you are prepared to discuss in an interview.

Now lets’ look at will.  I like what Marla Beck has to say about lifelong learning.  I agree that it is a great way to demonstrate your will.  Another way to demonstrate your will is to tell S.T.A.R.T. stories about failures and setbacks.  Follow the same four steps as above, but tell the story of a time you failed.  The second T — the takeaway — is the most important here.  It’s OK to fail if you learn something and come back stronger.  That’s how a S.T.A.R.T. story can help you demonstrate will.

Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, uses the term “grit” to describe what Marla Beck calls “will.”  Professor Duckworth describes grit as “perseverance and passion for long term goals.

Finally, there’s fit.  Because she runs a small company where things change rapidly, Marla Beck looks for generalists and people comfortable with ambiguity.  Other hiring managers may look for people who want to fit into an existing stable system.  Regardless, the important career success point here is that you have to do research a company where you’re interviewing thoroughly.  You need to learn what kind of person does well there.  You also need to decide if you would fit well in that type of organization.

I never did really well in large bureaucratic organizations — they weren’t my style.  I spent the fist 15 years of my career in them, because I wanted to get some experience before I headed out on my own as a consultant and coach.  I do better in a free flowing environment. If I were to look to join another company, I would look for a small company in a rapidly changing environment.  That’s where I would fit best.

In what kind of company do you fit best?

If you want to interview well, you have to do a good job of demonstrating your skill, will and fit.  All three are important.

Your career mentor,


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