Job Interview Strategy: Mastering The Tailoring Method

By Mike Simpson

It seems like everyone is always searching for the elusive “job interview magic bullet” that will let them walk into a job interview and (with minimal effort) land the job of their dreams.

I’m not here to tell you in doesn’t exist. It does!

It’s called “get handed a job by billionaire Dad.”

No disrespect to the billionaire heiresses and heirs out there (because if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of that opportunity, by all means, take it!), but most of us don’t have a billionaire parent readily available.

And if you’re reading this article, my guess is that you don’t.

Joking aside, much like everything else in this world, you really get out of it what you put into it (and this is not meant to be a revelation).

Here’s the deal.

While a true “magic bullet for job interview supremacy” doesn’t really exist, there is one strategy that you can employ that will give you a leg up on nearly every competitor you face on your job search.

It’s called the Tailoring Method, and it is probably the biggest improvement you can make to your job interview arsenal.

What Is The Tailoring Method?

The tailoring method is essentially a way to customize your job search (and most importantly, your job interview!) to align exclusively with the specific company and position you are seeking.

Think of it this way. Most people will write up a cover letter, fill out their resume and make a bunch of copies of each one, simply changing the name of the company they are applying to and otherwise send carbon copies to every company.

In other words…

One cover letter. One resume. One job interview.

Multiple companies.

There is nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, some lucky people are still able to get job interviews and secure a position while doing exactly that.

However, companies are not all the same… they have unique characteristics. But more importantly, they have a unique set of needs, especially in terms of what they are looking for in a hire.

A quick example:

Company A and Company B both sell insurance and are looking to hire sales associates. Company A does most of their selling over the telephone, while Company B does most of their selling using software.

Because of this, Company A is looking for a sales rep that has advanced conversational skills and experience with closing deals in person, while Company B is looking for a sales rep that has experience with working with customer relationship management (CRM) software and advertising campaigns.

Can you see how it would be in your best interest to tweak your approach to ensure you are emphasizing the skills that each company puts the most value in?

Of the following, which sounds more effective to you:

    1. Creating one cover letter, resume and list of responses to interview questions for Company A and B or
    2. Creating unique cover letters, resumes and interview question responses for Company A and B based on the specific things the company is looking for?

I think the answer is obvious.

Adjusting Your Mindset

The Tailoring Method is focused on one important principal:

“It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

What this basically means, is that in order to execute the Tailoring Method properly you need to readjust the way you approach the process.

People today are consumed by “me culture”. Between Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social tools, a world has been created which reinforces the idea that everyone should stop what they are doing and “Look at me!!”

While it’s true that humans have never lived in a better era for self-promotion, this is actually a huge problem when it comes to job searching.

Why?

Because companies want to know what you can do for them, not what you can do for yourself.

The collective “we” – actually even more important than that, the company’s “us” – is the only thing that really matters in the world of revenues, stock prices and profits.

Every company, and by extension, every hiring manager, truly has only one question at the front of their mind, and that’s “What can you do for us?”

So knowing this, it becomes very important that you give them the answer to this question.

Enter the Tailoring Method.

The Tailoring Method is a tool for giving the companies exactly what they want.

By customizing every detail of your job search to the company you are applying to, you are able to position yourself as the person who will contribute the most to the company’s desired goal.

How To Use the Tailoring Method

So by now you can see why the Tailoring Method is so important and effective.

But how exactly does it work?

To get started, the most important element of the Tailoring Method is research.

1. Research

Since customization is the biggest feature of the Tailoring Method, it makes sense that you would have to spend some time researching both the company you are applying to and the position you are interviewing for.

Before the internet, this would have been a fairly simple exercise, consisting of looking up the industry in the encyclopedia and learning a little but about the history of the industry your company operates in, perhaps followed by calling your Uncle Al and asking him to put you in touch with his brother’s cousin’s friend who once new a guy ten years ago that worked for the company you’re applying to.

But today is a different story.

Thanks to the internet and the advent of social media, the large majority of companies today will have a collection of different web properties that they use for several different reasons.

These properties may include:

    • A company website
    • A Facebook page
    • An Instagram account
    • A YouTube Channel
    • A Twitter Feed
    • Any other similar properties

Most companies will use at least one of these, and a lot of companies will use them all! And they certainly don’t do it by accident.

These web properties each make up a vital part of a company’s brand, and the uniqueness of each property allows the company to tell a story about a different part of their history, mission statement, product offerings, corporate culture, or virtually any other detail they want to share.

Lucky for us, they also tend to share a lot of detail about the types of people that they hire!

As part of your research, you need to carefully go through each of these properties for each company you are applying/interviewing for and take notes of all of the relevant information.

But what exactly are we looking for?

2. Qualities

As we mentioned previously in the “Company A vs. Company B” example, every company will have a specific set of characteristics that they would like their employees to have.

What skills do they have?

What abilities do they have?

What specific knowledge do they have?

Here at The Interview Guys, we like to group all of these characteristics into one tidy term we call Qualities.

Examples of Qualities that can be found in your research might include:

    • Teamwork
    • Leadership
    • Multitasking
    • Technical writing
    • Coding
    • Innovation
    • Persistence

It is these Qualities that are absolutely KEY to the Tailoring Method. Because once you discover what these Qualities are, you can then begin to infuse them into each and every part of your job search (more on the “infusing” portion in a minute).

It is your mission to compile a list of Qualities that the company you are interviewing for (or applying to) puts the most amount of value into.

So you need to spend the time researching each one of your company’s web properties to try and pinpoint the common Qualities that their employees have.

So watch their YouTube videos.

Dig into the “Careers” section of their website.

Mine their Instagram feed to find some nuggets of their culture and work life.

You get the idea.

Once you have a list of Qualities that you feel confident are the most important to your company, you are ready to supercharge them and make them an effective part of your job search and interview.

3. Success Stories

Here’s a secret.

It’s not enough to just say that you’re a leader, or that you’re a good multitasker, or that you’re a visionary.

You need to have tangible, concrete examples from your past that clearly show you exemplifying these Qualities.

When discussing the Tailoring Method, we like to refer to these examples as Success Stories.

Success Stories are exactly what they sound like: stories from your past that resulted in a successful ending – or more importantly – stories from your past that support your claim that you possess the Qualities that your prospective company is looking for.

For example, if you want to show that you are an expert in working in a group dynamic, you need to reach into your past and offer an example of time that you excelled in a group project. And more importantly, you need to clearly quantify how the group was successful and what your contribution was.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking.

“Mike, I don’t have any work experience! Where am I going to find some Success Stories?”

It’s true, it is generally the best to have Success Stories from your work history, as hiring managers will be looking for work-based evidence that you have been successful.

But don’t worry. In the event that you don’t have Success Stories from your work history, you can still look back into your past and find examples of success that are relevant to the position you are interviewing for.

4. Combining The Two

You can now start to see the bones of the Tailoring Method.

The Tailoring Method is essentially the combination of the Qualities you discover in your research and the Success Stories you use to validate them.

These two features combined act as a powerful enhancer to each part of your job search portfolio, making the entire process more customized to the company you are interviewing with.

Understanding the importance of the Tailoring Method and its components is essential to the next step, which is where you actually put this method to use and start reaping the advantages.

Where to Use the Tailoring Method

The next step, and perhaps the most important, is how to actually utilize the Tailoring Method correctly.

There are a few key areas when it is best to use the Tailoring Method, and you need to be careful because there are slight differences in how to use each one.

Recall from the beginning of this article, that the Tailoring Method can be applied across your entire job search portfolio. Here are the three main components that you can improve by putting this strategy to good use.

1. For Cover Letters

Seeing as how your cover letter is your first introduction to your prospective employer, it is absolutely essential that you make the best possible impression you can.

This is where you establish your brand, what you bring to the table, and what can be expected of you moving forward through the interview process.

So what better time to start answering the question, “What can you do for us?”

But you’re not just going to answer that question, are you?

No, you’re going to answer the question, but you’re going to tailor your answer to the specific needs of the company.

That’s right, this is your first chance to sprinkle in the Qualities you discovered in your research. And yes, you still need to tie them in to a Success Story, albeit in a shorter form that you might later on in the interview process.

MIKE'S TIP: Don't get carried away with your Tailoring Method usage in the cover letter. The last thing you want is a three page letter that drones on about all of the Success Stories from your past in great detail. There will be time for this in your job interview. You just want to give the Hiring Manager a taste of what's to come, so pick 1-2 Qualities that are the most important and give short-form Success Story summaries to back up what you are saying.

Now, you’re probably wondering how, exactly, you are supposed to sprinkle these Qualities into your cover letter.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

For a step-by-step guide to using the Tailoring Method in your cover letter, check out our article How To Write A Cover Letter. Not only do we teach you exactly how to implement the Tailoring Method on your cover letter, but we also provide examples that you can easily follow.

2. For Resumes

The second place you can apply the Tailoring Method to is your resume, and it is definitely one of the most effective.

Think about it.

A Hiring Manager posts a job on Monster.com, and usually gets a stack of about 100 resumes that she needs to go through. And it’s no secret that resumes aren’t exactly the most interesting reading going around. One after the other, single sheets of paper that all look and read exactly the same, over and over again.

The great thing about utilizing the Tailoring Method for your resume, as it allows you to pivot from having a boring, boilerplate collection of personal details, to giving the Hiring Manager a checklist of Qualities that they are looking for.

Rather than saying “Hey, look at me. I did this, I did that, I have these skills, blah blah blah,” you’re basically saying “I can do this for you, I can do that for you, I can do everything you need, so never mind these other 99 resumes.”

Ok, that is a slight simplification, but you catch my drift.

The most important part, however, is the execution. Because no matter how you shake it, resumes have a certain format that they need to follow, so you need to know exactly how to infuse your Qualities into the document without compromising the standard structure.

Luckily for you, we created an article called How to Make a Resume 101 that will guide you step-by-step through using the Tailoring Method to supercharge your resume.

3. For Answers to Interview Questions

And now for the most important and most effective place to implement the Tailoring Method… in your answers to tough interview questions.

Look, I’m not pointing any fingers here, but we all know that we’ve been guilty of walking into a job interview and winging it. And more often than not, getting the expected result, which is not getting the job.

But it makes sense! Not only is the job interview the first chance a company gets to size you up as a person (and how you might fit into the culture of the company), but it is also the first chance they get to see how you think and how you respond to a little adversity.

So if their first impression of you is “…well, ummmm, yeah…”, you’re pretty much sunk from the beginning.

So we can all agree that a little preparation goes a long way. That is your new standard.

But we’re not in the business of bare minimum, are we? Sure, preparing some answers is better than the alternative, but will it put you in a different league than your competitors? Not likely.

Which is why using the Tailoring Method in your interview answers is so important. You’ve reached the final stage, and the only thing standing between you and the job are the other people interviewing. So you need to get a leg up on the competition.

How?

Here’s how it works.

When the Hiring Manager asks you “What are your strengths?”, you’re not simply just going to list out your strengths.

You’re going to reach into your bag of tricks, pull out 1-2 of the Qualities that you discovered in your research, and sneakily put those at the top of the list.

But that’s not all. You’re also going to support your strength with a Success Story from your past.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you’re interviewing for a company that puts a lot of value in employees that are leaders.

Here’s how you would answer ‘Whats your greatest strength?” using the Tailoring Method:

I think my greatest strength is that I’m a natural leader, that doesn’t shy away from taking responsibility on my shoulders and delegating tasks to team members based on their strengths. In my last position as a software developer, I lead a team of three people that were able to improve our efficiency by an average of 3% per quarter when I implemented a new workflow strategy. The decision I made also lead to a boost in team morale as each person got to focus on what it was they did best.

If that answer doesn’t show leadership, I don’t know what does. And more importantly, since you knew going in based on your research that this company is obsessed with finding natural leaders, you’ve basically just given them their “employee catnip.”

The bottom line is, if your job interview is filled with these little carrots, it will be tough for the Hiring Manager to give the job to someone else. And this is what we want!

Now, I get that you might need a little more explanation and a few more examples of exactly how to implement the Tailoring Method into your interview answers, so we’ve created an entire article called Job Interview Questions and Answers 101 that will show you, in-depth, exactly how to do it.

Putting It All Together

By now you should be able to see what an effective advantage the Tailoring Method can be for your job search and job interview preparation.

The only thing left for you to do is to put it into action. If you have found a job you want to apply for, start doing your research now and make a list of the Qualities that the company demands its employees have.

Then go back over this article, and specifically, go through the articles for each stage of the interview process that we linked to.

I think you’ll find when you walk into the interview room that you’ll have a new-found confidence that you’ve never had!

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.