If you’re going to be a candidate or need to sell an idea, here’s a technique that I’ve found to be immensely helpful.

Have a mental triangle of three key points (with several examples) that you want the decision-maker to remember about you when you leave. What makes you different from the other candidates? Without using the specific words of your triangle, rotate between those three points as often as possible by telling a corresponding story/example to drive them home. Very often, you have latitude in answering a question. A wise communications leader once told me that in media interviews, you don’t have to answer the question that is asked; you can redirect with an answer to a different question. The same advice applies to interviews or sales pitches.

Using a mental triangle accomplishes three things:

  • It helps you clarify your strengths and prepares you to highlight them with the use of examples
  • It provides consistency in your messaging when you interview with multiple groups/people
  • It buys you that extra precious few seconds after you are asked a question because your mind has already narrowed down the information you’re going to use as your answer

As an example, if I was applying for a teaching job, my three points would be — I am:  Current, Engaging, Relevant. For my first answer, I could share how I modify my syllabus each term to take current events into account with my lessons and assignments (Current). For the second answer, I’d talk about the different ways I Incorporate group activities and exercises in each class (Engaging), and when I rotated my third answer,” I’d share how I utilize case format instead of a textbook to make the material more applicable to students’ work lives (Relevant).

And then I would keep rotating with each question, using different examples for Current, Engaging and Relevant — never really using those “triangle words” outright, but communicating them nonetheless through examples.

The same premise applies for weaknesses – EVERY strength has a downside if you use it too much. What’s the downside of your strengths? You can share that and still maintain the rotation between your three key points. Take your triangle and flip it with examples of where you’ve been challenged – but learned from it. If you share the downside of your strengths as weaknesses/where you need to grow/lessons learned, it still conveys your strength.

You can see an illustration here of how this would play out.

Interviews or sales pitches are stressful situations but if you do your homework and prepare your three key points with examples, you’ll have that mental edge that allows you to shine. What’s your unique combination of three?

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