In the April 21, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader shares a success story. How did he win the job?
Question (actually a success story)
I’ve been following you and your advice since about 1999, and it has helped me numerous times to land jobs. I’d like to share an Ask The Headhunter success story.
I’d been pursuing a technology sales position for a year in 2018-2019 with a former co-worker of mine who is now a manager. We worked together at another company a decade ago, covering different lines of business, so we knew each other well. Finally, last summer he had an opening, said to apply, then we’d talk. He suggested we speak by phone since we knew each other well; no need for me to drive 45 minutes across town.
I suggested we meet in person instead. I reserved a conference room at a co-working space with a huge whiteboard. I re-read your book, Ask The Headhunter: Reinventing The Interview to Win the Job [out of print] and a couple of your Answer Kits once again (Fearless Job Hunting and How Can I Change Careers?), and I mapped out how I was going to succeed at this job — by “doing the job” in the interview.
I presented my approach to how I would do the job “by the book” and when I got done, the manager was taking pictures of the whiteboard to capture my plan. He offered me the position right there, provided a second interview with his manager went well. It did, and I’ve been with them for 6 months now. It is going well.
This story is a long way of saying thank you again for making my career searches so successful. You’ve been a fantastic “internet mentor” to me and many other people, and you have have done a great service to help people understand how the whole job search process works.
The employment process would be so much more efficient if candidates and hiring managers used your approach. It does take effort and time to do it your way, but it is much more rewarding and predictable than applying for a thousand jobs online.
Please feel free to publish my success story and share it with the ATH community. I’d be honored. If it gives just one person hope and motivation in these challenging times, I’m glad to help.
When family and friends are out of work or looking to switch, I tell them to go to you to learn the facts of job hunting. There’s no better way.
Keep well and keep doing what you are doing.
John, your success story made my day! I think you absolutely did the right thing by insisting on an in-person interview so you could fully show how you’d do the job — something that required a good deal of preparation. Most job applicants try to make their interviews easier, not harder. They’re making a huge mistake.You literally put yourself to work in your interview. Because few managers know how to ask, it’s up to savvy job hunters to prove they can do the work.
What’s behind the success story
The outcome of your meeting says it all: An on-the-spot offer is evidence that your extra effort was worth it, even with the contingency of a follow-up interview with the next-level manager.
- Selected a company he really wanted to work for and studied it.
- Selected a manager who knows his skills. (John could have spent the year educating and cultivating a manager he didn’t already know.)
- Did not rely on job-board postings.
- Did his homework and figured out what problems he could solve for the manager.
- Avoided a phone interview of low information value.
- Insisted on a meeting where he could prove his value.
- Prepared a mini-business plan for the job.
- Presented his plan on the whiteboard to be judged.
- “Did the job” in the interview to win the job.
How many of these steps have you tried? Please share in the Comments below!
I think the real story goes much deeper. The manager, like most managers, clearly didn’t expect a complete whiteboard presentation. Like most managers, all he wanted was a phone call and some standard Q&A. But that’s not enough to assess whether a candidate can do a job. And that’s why most job interviews don’t result in job offers. (See How To Hire: 8 stunning tips.)
A great resume is not enough. Nor are excellent credentials, personal referrals, or great answers to the top 10 behavioral interview questions.
The real story is that you commandeered the interview for the manager’s benefit (and for your own benefit, of course). You made your interview harder, which clearly shocked him. You made sure to answer the question he wasn’t going to ask: Can you do the job?
The approach you took reveals the profound weakness in the typical interview process managers rely on. (See Peter Cappelli’s Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong.) Interviewers should always ask a job candidate to explain and show how they’ll do the job — right there in the interview!
Choose jobs worth the work
You did the job to win the job. Imagine if every job applicant did that.
First of all, there would be fewer job interviews because no one is going to prepare like you did for every job they find on the job boards. It’s impossible. There’s not enough time in the day, much less motivation!
This one simple fact eludes job seekers and employers alike: To make your interview presentation worthy of being photographed (like yours was), you must choose your target companies and jobs very carefully. Only a select few jobs are worth the hard work it takes to do that kind of presentation — or why apply for them at all?
Your experience also demonstrates that the right job can take upwards of a year to find and land. You cultivated the manager and the opportunity for at least that long. Some might suggest that you landed this job easily because the hiring manager is an old friend. But that would be nonsense, because if that were the critical factor, you’d have had a job at that company two years ago. Nothing about what you did was easy, including exercising patience.
More is not better
If job seekers took your approach as their standard, they would select employers and jobs much more carefully and thoughtfully. Only a few jobs are worth that kind of effort and preparation – and those are the only jobs people should pursue to begin with! The whole employment process would change because applying to more jobs is not better. Likewise, employers should not recruit and interview using the popular fire-hose approach to getting candidates — because collecting more candidates is not better.
The message your story delivers is powerful: Pursue the right job and be ready to deliver your plan to do it. (This approach to interviewing is outlined in The New Interview. For a detailed discussion, please see Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6: The Interview: Be the Profitable Hire, pp. 12-13, “A killer interview strategy.”)
My highest compliments, John. If anything you learned from Ask The Headhunter helped, I’m glad! Thank you for your very kind words and for your permission to share your success story.
Have you ever “done the job” in the interview to win the job? How did you go about it? Did it work? Did you ever take control of a job interview from the manager? If you’re a manager, how do you determine whether an applicant can really do the job?