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by Joe Turner, the "Job Search Guy" | May 15, 2009


Are you currently interviewing for a better job?  Try watching American Idol.  Chances are you not only already watch this popular singing competition from Fox but you've already picked your favorite, either Kris Allen or Adam Lambert, to win it all in the final competition.


Love it or hate it, American Idol is a good metaphor for life. If you're currently in a job interview mode, you could learn a lot by watching this show.


Branding Versus the "Best" Candidate


American Idol sometimes feels like some weird group interview where each candidate makes his or her case to four fickle interviewers and is either advanced or "let go."  Aside from the constant reminder that this is a "singing competition," we all know it's more than that.  It's about that elusive quality called a "total package."  Ditto the job interview, and here's the reason why all job interviewees should take heed of what happens on Idol.  This is about a process called differentiation.  


Some candidates understand this early, while a few just get lucky.  Too often, we'll see a very weak singer retained while a much stronger performer gets cut.  Some may call this an injustice, but not so. The "total package effect" came into play.  A singer won more votes, not for their singing ability, but because their "brand" differentiated them from the pack.  No one else is like them by a long shot and that brand triggers visibility, memorability and VOTES.


The moral of the story: You don't have to be the best singer, just the most remembered decent singer. Same for the job interview.  You don't have to be the best candidate with the top skills. You DO have to find a way to be the most remembered, employable candidate. 


This leads us to the second important lesson of American Idol:


Know Who You Are


On Idol, almost everyone who begins the show is a decent singer. Those who know who they are early in the show always enjoy a huge advantage over those who haven't a clue, even though they may be better singers.  Those who understand this principle include Chris Daughtry, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks, to mention three.  Sorry, but none of them is a "great" singer. They DID know their strengths and they stayed with them, often maddeningly. But look where they are now.  They know who they are, what they do best and they never stray from that path.


This is not about finding and molding raw talent, it's about finding and marketing talent that's already well-branded.  The interview process is much the same. The branding should occur long before you walk into the interview. Too many job hunters try to get through the interview by merely giving the "right" answers.  The real issue is they haven't a clue who they really are or what they bring to a company.  As a job hunter, you must define your strengths and hone a message (your Unique Selling Proposition).  This is called branding.  Branding is a process that clearly defines who you are and what benefit you bring to an employer.  If you can't do that, then please watch American Idol. You'll see the fate that awaits the next fallen Idol who failed to learn this message in the singing world.


As a recruiter, Joe Turner spent 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers.  The author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked and Paycheck 911, Joe also hosts his weekly Job Search Guy Radio Show on as well as other locations. You'll find free tips and advice on landing a job in this tough economy at:


Filed Under: Interviewing