“The Shark Tank” and Your Job Interview!

I began watching “The Shark Tank” on ABC last year and it quickly became one of my favorite TV shows. It’s fascinating, and instructional, to watch people pitch their business ideas to the potential investors in the hopes of gaining venture capital to get their business off the ground or expanding more rapidly.

The investors on the panel for the show consider putting up their own money for ideas or business plans they think may be viable. They ask questions and probe the veracity of what they’re being told to determine if it may be a good deal for them or not.

The investors can be brutal in their questioning and comments as they figure out if a business idea is worthwhile or not. Although it may not be quite as intense, a job interview really is the same process. The potential investor / employer wants to clearly understand how you might provide their required ROI (Return on Investment) as they decide to hire you or not.

What can be learned from the show? A lot!

~ Know your facts! Many of the people that come on the show get torn down because they didn’t come prepared with the facts and figures necessary to make their business case. They may not know the true cost of producing an item, the size of the market they are entering, or other key components to understanding the value or profit they may be able to generate. In those cases the investors often make clear the harsh reality that the person isn’t ready to do this business. If they don’t know the facts, they can’t speak credibly about the potential.

Likewise in an interview, if you can’t effectively articulate the facts of your previous related experience and how that can bring value to your new employer, they will likely move on to the person that can. It’s not likely that they will give you the feedback like the investors in the show do. They will just make the mental note, probably politely go on with the interview, but not be interested in taking the process further.

It’s critical to know your facts well. Be able to give examples of related situations you’ve encountered in your previous roles, and articulate how that can be a benefit in this new position. At least one of the people competing with you for the position is likely to be able to do this well. In order to win, you have to be prepared.

~ Show the value! Many of the people on the show come in with a unique or interesting idea or concept. However, if they can’t find buyers, it’s simply a curiosity, not a business. Similarly, you may have great skills you’ve developed over the years. However, if you can’t show how they can be used to fill the need in the job you’re interviewing for, you will not be given an offer.

As you walk through a store, and maybe see something new that seems interesting, you’re not going to buy it unless you can clearly see how you would use it, get benefit, or get enjoyment out of it. You have to see the value! In the same way, an employer must clearly see the value you will bring to fill the need THEY have before they will move forward. Too often, people spend a great deal of time in their interviews describing skills or strengths that are irrelevant to the job at hand. The employer may see that your skills can be of worth to someone, but unless they see how it fills their own needs or wants they will not proceed.

~ Show your passion… professionally! Often, on the show they have someone that doesn’t really have a great product or business idea, and they don’t get the money. However, throughout their presentation and questions they exhibited a great deal of sincere passion for what they were doing. It was clear that they fully believed in their idea and in themselves and that they were going to be resilient regardless of the outcome of the show. Although they didn’t get the funding, often they came very close to getting a yes based on the passion alone. Other times, someone with a good idea tipped the scales heavily in their favor and got the funding because they showed that passion as well.

In a job interview as well, someone that shows a sincere interest and desire in the job and the company can sway the process toward them. It’s important to maintain a professional demeanor and not become overly emotional, however, it’s often not the most technically qualified person that gets a job, but the one that shows a real passion and enthusiasm for it.

On the show, as in interviews… most people don’t prepare enough to make sure they present their information and themselves in the best way possible. Preparation is critical! In the job market today, you are competing with more people than ever for each job. Out of the greater numbers, there will usually be someone that is truly well prepared, and that person often gets the offer.

Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics basketball star from many years ago used to say that he had never had much natural talent for the game. However, he decided he could do what most other players wouldn’t do. He would out-practice them. If most of the other players in the league took 100 practice shots per week… he would take 1,000. That’s how he became a hall-of-fame caliber player.

In your job search, you may not have the perfect job history or skills. However, you can be the most prepared for each interview. Write out your answers in advance. Practice them. Practice them some more. Improve them, and practice them some more. Preparation and passion will get you closer to your next career role!


Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives and writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search.

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