How to Get A Job Workshop
In the previous installment of this special How to Get A Job series we discussed how to get the inside track on the job you want. This requires connecting with the hiring manager’s circle of friends — people who can educate you and introduce you for a substantive, 10-15 minute talk with the manager. Now you need a mini-business plan using The 4 Questions™. — Nick
Make a mini-business plan: The 4 Questions™
So, what do you do in that brief talk with the manager? (This also works in a regular job interview, if you can take control.)
Outline your business plan for the job
Your objective must be to show the hiring manager you are worth interviewing at length. You much show (hint?) that you have a plan to do the job. It really is a mini-business plan. Your contacts to this point should have prepared you to demonstrate you’re there to talk more about the work than about yourself. Your brief talk must reveal that you can answer YES to what I call The 4 Questions™. You must leave the manager wanting more.
Please note that in the next section I’m giving you way more suggestions than would ever fit into a 15-minute talk! In fact, this should be more than enough to also structure a complete job interview later. (Some of the suggestions are realistic only for a full interview.) Choose what you think will work best for you — for the preliminary brief chat or the interview — then bend and shape it to suit your needs.
The 4 Questions™
In my experience, unless someone works out at least partial answers to The 4 Questions in advance, they have no business in a chat or in a job interview with a hiring manager. At least this much is necessary to make you stand out and to make you worth talking with.
1. Do I understand what the work is?
You should be prepared to discuss one or two problems and challenges the manager (or company) is facing. This is what you’ve gleaned from your new contacts! Consider it the minimum ante for your encounter. Even if your understanding is not very deep, you can diplomatically ask the manager what they’d expect a new hire to tackle, fix, improve, make better or otherwise bring to the team.
Another way to address this is to start a dialogue about what are the deliverables the manager expects. In other words, if you were hired, what would you plan to get done in the 1st month on the job, the 3rd month, the 6th 12th, 18th month, and at 2 years?
2. Can I do the work?
Your discussions with the people that got you into this brief talk should have prepared you for this question. Before your talk with the manager, you should have examined your enormous quiver of skills and abilities — but do not overwhelm the manager with your entire quiver! From these, you must thoughtfully select just a few specific “arrows” and demonstrate how you would use them to do the work the manager needs done. (Do not go on about all your “arrows!”) Briefly discuss these and ask the manager for feedback.
3. Can I do the work the way the company wants it done?
This is a matter of work ethic and style. Again, your preparatory discussions should have told you a lot about the company’s and manager’s approach to work. You should be able to say something about how you will fit into the culture (whatever that word really means!). There’s nothing wrong with asking the manager what qualities other successful employees share, and how they work together as a team. (A friend of mine asks Question 3 this way: Can you park your bike pointing the way everyone else does?)
4. Can I do the work profitably?
“Profit” can mean many things: More money, higher customer satisfaction, lower costs, higher revenues, more efficiency, and so on. What we’re really getting at is, will you deliver more than you cost? Can you estimate the added value you can bring to the job?
There is of course no way to state a “correct” number, simply because you don’t have all the information you need to make this estimate! (Few managers could do this for their own jobs!) The secret to Question 4 is that it lends itself to a discussion. Ask the manager how the job contributes — or could contribute — directly to the department’s or company’s profits or success. Job candidates I’ve coached have wowed managers who have never encountered an applicant who so clearly shows they’ve thought hard about the bottom line — as much as they’re thinking about getting a job! Addressing this question is not about having a “right” answer. It’s about being able to “show your work” and defend your approach and conclusions. It’s about you and the manager rolling up your sleeves to figure this out.
The 4 Questions™ break the script
Perhaps the most fatal flaw about job interviews is that they’re devoid of back-and-forth about the work. I find that when a candidate helps a manager talk about the work that needs to be done, job interviews are dramatically more productive. As we discussed in the last column, we’re breaking the hiring script and creating an edge. The candidate that is prepared to talk shop stands apart.
If you suspect that answering The 4 Questions™ is also a good script for a full job interview, you’re absolutely right. In fact, some of what I suggest in the four questions above works better in a job interview than in the brief chat with the manager. Turn your job interview into a demonstration! I call this doing the job to win the job.
Never do this presumptuously. Ask the hiring manager (Never attempt this with HR!) for permission to present a mini-business plan for how you would approach the job if you were hired. Then pull out a tablet or ask the manager’s permission to go up to the whiteboard to draw an outline.
Your mini-business plan for the job interview
Lay out your plan. Keep it brief! I think it’s far better to actually sketch this out than to merely talk about it. Clearly, this is based on The 4 Questions, too.
- You understand the job. In just 3 or 4 bullet points, briefly outline your understanding of the work to be done: What are the outcomes (goals or deliverables) the manager wants? Coax the manager to help you get it right!
- You know how to do the work… List the tasks necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. This is your map, or plan, for doing the job. Then back it up. Explain how you’ll apply 3 or 4 of your specific skills appropriately. (Work this out well in advance!)
- …the way the manager wants it done. Query the manager about how the team’s style and culture contributes to (or interferes with!) getting the work done. This is a discussion that can give you insight on how to handle the rest of your interview!
- You can do the job profitably. This is the fun and risky part! Draw a line beneath your presentation so far, and write a number in dollars — your estimate of what you think you can contribute to the bottom line. (You must do your estimate in advance.) The number almost doesn’t matter! Explaining how you arrived at it, and the ensuing discussion, is what matters! It shows a smart manager that you’re not there just for a paycheck. You’re thinking about the company’s bigger picture, and you have at least attempted to tackle the bottom line.
I poll managers about how they’d respond to a job candidate who showed up with a mini-business plan like this. The answer is always the same: “Are you kidding? I’d be shocked and stunned and ready to talk!”
This works only if you choose targets carefully!
Remember our discussion about why there aren’t 400 jobs out there for you? There is no way you could perform like this for 400, or 100, or even 10 jobs! You must choose your target employers, managers and jobs with care. As you work out what you want to say to a manager, whether for a short get-to-know-you chat or for a real job interview, I think you will grasp why I say If you can’t pull this off, you have no business meeting with a busy manager!
What makes you a truly worthy job candidate? How would you apply The 4 Questions™ to get in the door and stand out in an interview? What is the minimum ante — or preparation — to warrant a meeting with a hiring manager? Does it seem to you that most job interviews fail to yield offers because the candidate isn’t ready “to do the job in the interview?” (Ah, that’s a loaded question!)