Know that it’s not about you. That’s it. That is the one single most important thing you can do to improve your job interview results. Yet so few understand that. Most of you think people interviewing you for jobs care about you and your strengths, motivations and fit. They don’t. They care about what you can do for them. If you keep this in mind and think, speak, and act in ways that can solve your interviewer’s problems, your chances of getting hired for the right job go up exponentially.

Let’s get practical about this. [Note this is adapted from a piece I wrote on job search tips. Click here to request a free copy.]

Start with key things to understand about the opportunity – what they need/seek:

MISSION: Why the role exists – the problem to solve or opportunity to create value. The main activities in the role. 

VISION: Picture of success – what the solution looks like.

STRENGTHS (Per Gallup’s Buckingham & Clifton):


  • Talent: Innate, naturally occurring preferences.
  • Knowledge: Acquired through learning.
  • Skills: Acquired through practice.


MOTIVATION (personal high concept): People who do well in this job love to…

FIT: Alignment between individuals’ behavioral, relationship, attitudinal, values, and work environment preferences and the organizational culture. 

Research the company (5Cs: Customers, Collaborators, Capabilities, Competitors, and Conditions) and interviewers before interviews – especially relationships and style. Look at their social media feeds.

Since there are only three interview questions (ever), prepare answers in advance and bridge to them per my earlier article on Acing The Only Three True Job Interview Questions:


  1. Can you do the job? Three SiTuation/Action/Results (STAR) examples that highlight your strengths in the areas most important to them re their key challenges and sources of pride.
  2. Will you love the job? Position the role in terms of your motivation – what you value and enjoy.
  3. Can we tolerate working with you? Position the organization in terms of fit with you across behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values, work environment.


Now let’s put some more flesh on that skeleton.

If you start with the premise that job interviews are not about you; but instead are about what you can do for them, you probably want to adopt the 90-10 rule. Full disclosure: most people disagree with this idea. And I respect their right to be wrong.

Many marketers were trained to generate 60-40 winners. If they could demonstrate that their product was preferred 60-40 in blind tests of taste or performance, they would make the sale.

The trouble is that 60-40 winners have to tend towards the mean to get most people to prefer them in most situations.

A better approach is to find the 90-10 losers. Instead of pushing things that 60% of people slightly prefer, push the things that 90% of people don’t want anything to do with and 10% of people can’t live without.

The application to a job search is that the candidates that are generally acceptable for most situations will come in 2nd place 60% of the time. Don’t be those candidates. Be the candidate that comes in dead last 90% of the time and gets the job 10% of the time.

This gets us right back to job interviews not being about you. Don’t be the one with the general strengths, motivation and fit to do the job. Be the one with the most specifically applicable strengths, motivation, and fit to solve the most important problems the interviewer faces.

This is a scary approach. You must truly put the interviewer’s needs first and yourself second. This means helping them figure out when you are not the best candidate. You’re going to rule yourself out for most attractive opportunities. And then you’ll be the only possible candidate for the absolute right opportunities.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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