Qualifying: The 3 Meanings in Job Search

Anyone who has read a sales book or done sales training will be familiar with the term ‘Qualifying’. It is, however, one of those words that has a number of meanings, all of which are useful concepts that we can apply to the context of a job search and interviews.

1.    Qualifying the Prospect: This is a term from sales that means that the sales person wants to understand what the customer wants and needs from the product or service. At one level, this will be about what the customer wants, both logically and emotionally: a handbag will carry things whilst a handbag from a luxury brand will also have an emotional impact - it will give the customer a feeling. In the context of a job interview, it is useful if the candidate can ‘qualify’ the interviewer to understand what it is that they are looking for in the candidate that will get the job. The candidate will seek to understand the skills, experience and competencies that the employer thinks they need to get the job done. This understanding or ‘qualifying’ may start with a careful read of the job spec or listening to a brief that a recruiter may give you if one is involved in this process. Much more effective, however, is to ask the interviewer questions about the role, how it has come up, what the deliverables of the job are, the qualities they are looking for, etc. The interviewer may be open to this dialogue or may just want to ask you questions: read the room.

2.    Qualifying your Skills and Experiences: The second meaning of ‘qualifying’ is where you sell your skills to the interviewer. This is especially powerful if you are doing it in a way where you are highlighting a clear match between what you have identified as needs and wants, and what you bring to the table. It may, however, simply be in response to the questions being asked. In this meaning of the word, think of qualifying as selling. It is normal and natural that you qualify yourself during a job interview. Be aware that there is a shift in the power dynamic in play and in many ways you are almost in posture of supplication. This can be mitigated by taking a stance of collaboratively discussing where what you have to offer matches what the interviewer is looking for - a business like - nothing personal - interaction.

3.    Qualifying Yourself: The third meaning of ‘qualifying’, which I have often observed in social interactions, is where it has become personal. The person qualifying themselves is hoping for approval. Often they will say things that they hope will impress and will earn them respect or that they will be liked. They are almost saying: “Am I good enough?” This is a weak place to place yourself, especially in a job interview. After all, if the candidate is a highly competent and sought after professional, why would they behave like this? It smacks of neediness and desperation, which are not attractive qualities in a candidate because they point to lack of emotional strength. Therefore, proceed with caution!

Stephen Wright