Executive Screen Test: Look the Part At Your Next Interview

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Landing a job often depends more on who people think you are than who you really are. Short term impressions are what hiring and buying decisions are made of. That means you need to look and sound like the cultural archetype of the job you're trying to land. Only time will reveal if the image you portray is authentic or just smoke and mirrors.

Here's the dilemma: Once you have the gig, it's time to show that you are for real, which is ultimately what you want anyway--credibility and respect for who you are, what you do, and how you do it. But how can you show you are real if you don't get the gig? The old catch-22 solved: do a good screen test and then go to work, in that order.A Hollywood screen test is all about whether or not an actor looks the part and will be believable in the role. An executive screen test works the same way. Getting the position is about convincing the person doing the hiring that you indeed look the part and will be believable in the role. In feature films, you only need to be believable for 110 minutes. On the job, the sustainability of your character will play out over time.

Part of your executive screen test is to land squarely in the hiring boss's comfort zone. If you want the job, you need to show up as someone they want in their club. Shallow, but true. Frequently, people want to hire a good hang more than they want competence and talent. Sometimes the competencies and talent they want are for the company softball team.

Don't get me wrong, the good hang thing will wear thin if you're neither competent nor can catch a fly ball. You'll start to slip out of the boss's comfort zone fast, in that case. Regardless, the first test you must pass is to join the club is whether or not you fit into your going-to-be boss's comfort zone. People spot things that make them uncomfortable as fast, if not faster, than the things that make them comfortable.

A television commercial currently on the air nails the executive screen test concept in 30 seconds. Here's the breakdown:

Young male job applicant sits in a corporate lobby with other male job applicants. From where he sits, the young male job applicant notices portraits on the wall of the past and present leaders of the company. All are all clean shaven, including their heads.

The young male job applicant has an epiphany, races to the newsstand in the lobby, purchases a Schick® Xtreme3® razor, does a Clark Kent identity change in the men's room, and goes off to sit in the corporate lobby clean shaven--including his head--when the clean shaven, shaved-head interviewer enters.

In a one-two punch, the young male job applicant looked the part and landed squarely in the comfort zone of the man who controlled what the young male job applicant wanted. From that point it was the newly-shaved young man's job to lose. We presume the other young male applicants and their fabulous hair went down for the count, while Mr. Clean got a wink of approval from a pretty secretary.

The Schick® Xtreme3® razor commercial might as well be a commercial for the executive screen test program I conduct to teach aspiring executives how important it is to present with confidence that conforms to the context of the culture where they want to succeed. Like likes like. Look the part, get the part. That's 80 percent of the battle.
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