I remember the interview that first landed me in a leadership position as if it were yesterday. Picture this: I’m 21 years old, stuck in a paid summer internship in a corporate office two months after my college graduation in the height of the Great Recession.
In short: I was not feeling my career path at the time, and opportunities seemed few and far between.
So you can imagine my delight when a chance encounter with a senior leader of the brand-new Obama Administration’s grassroots army, Organizing for America (OFA), had turned into landing an interview for State Director of Rhode Island – the state where I’d just spent 4 years getting my education.
The title would be a huge bump from “intern,” and I would be tasked with essentially building and managing an organization of volunteers from scratch.
It was a daunting task, but one I was chomping at the bit to try. I had no idea how I’d do it, but I knew if I could just land the job, I could figure out the rest as I went.
I wanted this so bad I was shaking with nerves and excitement as I paced back and forth in the kitchen of my summer sublet – a 2-bedroom apartment I shared with 3 other ambitious interns that summer. I was so geeked out, I retreated to my sublet to take the interview over my lunch break. I was doing jumping jacks to expel some of my pent-up energy when the phone finally rang.
Fortunately, I remembered the sage advice someone had once told me about standing up when taking an interview over the phone, because it really does change the entire way you sound. It makes you come across more self-assured even when you’re as nervous as I was that day. I’d practiced my pitch, prepared meticulously by learning all I could about the Regional Director interviewing me, and familiarized myself with the organization’s efforts.
Everything was going well in the interview, when I remembered a line my old public speaking professor had once taught me. The class was actually called, “Persuasive Communication,” and it was one of those life-changing courses that forever impacts the way you see the world. It was a 4-hour seminar, twice a week, that was so in-demand she had a waiting list that took years to get through, filling the class with mostly seniors on the cusp of entering the workforce. I, now, realize what a gift that truly was, because she armed us with the tools to advocate for yourself – or for anything for that matter, using the tried and true techniques of storytelling and persuasion that date back to Aristotle.
The line she’d taught us was a doozy, and it wasn’t to be used lightly. If delivered halfheartedly, you ran the risk of coming across as phony or flippant. But, if you really wanted the job – and in this case, I REALLY wanted it – it was the kind of line that seals the deal.
So, at the very end of the phone call, I thanked my interviewer for her time and said in the most stone-cold serious tone I could muster:
“If given the opportunity, I will not let you down.”
It felt, at the time, like such an over-the-top exclamation. I had to literally bite my fist afterwards to keep myself from babbling nervously with an apology or laughing out loud at myself. I think I might have even heard a chuckle on the other end of the phone, but it was well worth it, because that interview quickly turned into a formal offer, less than 24 hours later.
That line is one helluva a closer that not only landed me my first-ever “real” job out of college with a title jump that went from “Intern” to “State Director,” but I’ve since seen it work for countless others, including Brad in his most recent job search when he found his dream employer out here in Denver and was interviewing over the phone from DC.
Use it responsibly
Just remember: a line like that has great power, so use it responsibly. Don’t say it unless you mean it, but know that if you’re really willing to lay it all out there in an interview for your dream job, this is a line that you should absolutely put to work.
Practice saying it out loud without immediately laughing at yourself for bordering on cheesy, and it’ll help you deliver the line with the gravitas it needs when the time comes.
And, if you do put it to work – you better tell me how it goes!
Share your experience the comments of this episode below, or in the Bossed Up Courage Community on Facebook. I’d love to hear how this boss tip works for you!