|Posted by Jaxi West on November 12, 2010 at 3:13 PM|
Don’t Wait to Get the Job. Earn It!
~ Jaxi West
I am a firm believer, you should always strive to set yourself apart from others in any way you can, in almost everything you are doing or seeking to do. It makes life a lot more exhilarating and it makes you memorable.
And, it goes without saying, due to the historical number of individuals unemployed today, you absolutely need to distinguish yourself from the massive amount of applicants that are vying for the same job you are.
So amongst the numerous ways to do this on your resume, and how you build your Package You (get in touch to learn more about this), there is a unique way to do this in the interviewing process -no matter if it is a one or three level interviewing process. And this is flexible enough for you to do no matter what type of job, from a waiter to a management ‘Corporate America’ job.
1st: Start with your due diligence on the company. When I say this, don’t just read about the company. Read about the people who lead the company and find out what you can about them. Then, do some due diligence on their prime competitors. You don’t need to spend as much time on this, but this allows you to have a more intelligent conversation with the interviewee because it shows you know the ‘players’ - and their strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to offer an objective opinion on the competition, and possibly suggesting improvement for this company you are interviewing with - all which will impress the interviewee.
And don’t forget to do your due diligence on the industry itself (trade magazines) to get current with things such as: possible new regulations that might take place, pending incoming competition, new industry certification requirements, etc.
Phenomenal Source for Due Diligence: Nowadays, you are armed with more pertinent & timely information than what you use to be (ex: Dunn & Bradstreet), with all the social media platforms giving you a wealth of information about companies. Such as, what is that company doing for their social media strategy? How are they fairing in their interaction with the marketplace in general, and more importantly, with their customers? You can also learn a lot about what others think about the company and their products/services.
So take notes. If you think you would have replied to a customer complaint better or customer question better, jot it down, bring it with you to the interview. If you think they are going about their marketing strategy all wrong, tell them what you logically think.
Even if you aren’t an expert in this area, sometimes the experts have their head in the sand, and they don’t realize they are missing the opportunity to really grab their prospects. If you think their tweets are useless, tell them. Tell them you don’t follow them because you get no value from their messages. Believe me, they will appreciate this more than they would throw an ‘how dare you - you want a job with us’ attitude.
Doing wonders with information: Just as knowledge is not power unless you use it, information depreciates quickly because it’s almost always being replaced with more advanced or new information, especially in our fast paced 21st Century. But, you can boost the value of the information you have, if you use it strategically.
Here are a few examples of how you can use some of this due diligence: You researched the company and found out the owner brings his dog to the office daily and is constantly bringing rescue dogs back from lunch every month. He also donates an enormous amount to animal non profits and raises awareness about dogs that need rescuing (I recently researched this company out of FL, this is true).
Whether you interview with the owner or not, on the day of your interview, you send the owner an email (if they give it out on the website or the secretary is willing to give it on the phone) and in the subject line, you write: “Interviewing with your company today.” You either attach an article about a fundraiser event for dogs that you think he might want to know about or a new article posted that day on dogs from a different country (he is probably signed up for every dog article in the USA).
Or you go one step further, and you attach a receipt showing you donated a few dollars to a dog charity in support of his dedication to dogs. You also inform the owner in this email you did this because you would if you were an employee and you are confident this interview will prove your value, but you don’t want to forget to do this gesture in all your excitement of getting the job and getting to work, so you are just taking care of this now.
Or when you walk in for the interview, you leave a package for the owner (if you aren’t interviewing with the owner, if you are, you hand it to him) with a dog bone in it for the next stray dog he brings back from lunch with a note saying “I will bring one for xxdogname (owners’ dog name) on my first day here next week (or whenever the job is slated to start) You get the idea - you can do so many with this.
Please understand, these suggestions are not bribes. I am not about that. There is a big difference between genuine gestures or making creative effort and bribes. Bribe’s can be smelled miles away and there is usually little thought that goes into it, let alone little research. Gestures are appreciated and are usually transparent to the recipient in the amount of thought, effort or time put into it.
So by doing all or any of these, it shows: you paid attention to the owners love, that you too, like dogs, that you are already a team player, you are a contributor, and if you did purchase or donate something, that you are willing to put your money behind this company before they even issue you a paycheck. It also lets them know you would be an active participant in their corporate contribution/volunteer area.
A Sleuth Way to do your Research: Do your own Mystery Shopping of the company. As a former private investigator, I did this on occasion on the side, and I can tell you first hand, you can learn more about a company than the owner knows about their company if you engage in this!
What is Mystery Shopping? You “shop” this company but don’t let anyone know you are.
If they are the headquarters of a toy store, you shop the toy store. You pay attention to everything -cleanliness, shelves stocked, friendliness of the staff. You can go as far as purchasing a product (just donate it ) to see the entire process from walk in to walk out and how it flows, is their music playing and is it blaring or inappropriate, is the staff chewing gum when they are talking to you (you have to be proactive and ask a question), if you are waiting online forever, the care of how they bag your product - everything. If you want to test them more, purchase the product, then return in a week later and see how it’s handled.
Look around the store and pretend you are the store owner. What would you do different? Do you think a different toy should be displayed in the front vs where it is? Do you think one of the toys that you would consider more ‘dangerous’ is too low on the shelf where a kid could grab it and possibly get hurt -should it be placed at a higher level - not in kid reach. Are the floors slippery or sticky? How about the bathrooms & the parking lot - clean or trash all over? Is there a light out anywhere outside in the parking lot or in the business name signage? Are employees huddled around talking about nothing when you walked by an aisle that looked like it had just been looted? These kinds of things.
Anything you notice, good or bad, any of your experience, good or bad, remember to bring it up in that interview. I bet you will be the only candidate to have recently walked in that store. It shows you care and really wanted to know about the most important part of that company - not the headquarters - but its store - where it gets its revenue and where there could be a lawsuit - it shows you are protective, savvy and already thinking like an employee
You can do mystery shopping with any company - whether they have a store front or not. Order something, return it. Call them up, see how that goes. How are you treated? If you are on hold, is the music horrible? Is there a constantly repeating message that is real annoying? Do they use UPS or Fed Ex?
See how long they take to respond to an inquiry email. Judge their automated email responses back to you: “we have just received your inquiry and will respond within 24 hours” is the most common. Could they take this opportunity to make a much more favorable impression upon the prospect or customer? Perhaps offer a reworded sentence or two highlighting something great about the company or displaying a customer testimonial or informing of an upcoming new product or service they are going to launch.
Call the company and ask to speak to the person that will be your boss. See how he answers the phone and how he responds to all this: if he answers, tell him you are looking forward to the interview and you wanted to say hello and that you have thought of a few ideas for the company you are looking forward to sharing with him and you wanted to know if it would be okay to present them in the interview.
Find out the hours he works. If they say he is in before everyone else- then you will know a lot right away about that boss: he is hardworking or has so much to do he can’t get it done in typical hours or he is unorganized or he likes to start work before the phones begin and everyone gets in.
Whatever the reason, it gives you more insight about this person, than just walking in for the interview and shaking his hand and meeting him for the first time. You have in essence already envisioned him at his desk early and working early and/hard, etc (but he doesn’t know this). There is something that comes with that. It’s a pre-familiarity that allows you to be a bit more comfortable with that person because in a sense, you feel you ‘know’ him a bit. This will help you be more relaxed in the interview, and it will lead to a better rapport without you even trying. You will be amazed.
The ideas are endless. By now, you should be thinking much more ‘out of the box’ in how you can use the due diligence you learn and where you should interject each observation point or suggestion in the interview.
Interview by Interview: It’s important to to feel the situation out and determine if you are going to interject these pieces of observation in your questions, or at the end of the interview, or you are going to be bold and take charge of the interview and start with sharing the information with them first. It is your comfort level on this and again, it also depends if this is a one interview process or three interview process. Usually a multi-interview process is a screening weed-out, so you wouldn’t even be talking with the boss you’d be working for in the first interview, so you might want to save your ‘brilliance’ for the boss only, not to the HR person. It is up to you.
This is also probably going to vary interview by interview, so don’t make it a rule with yourself that you are going to do this at the end each time, because that might not be the most opportune time to inject these knowledge bits.
2nd: Define on Paper: Define your goals for the job (top 3-5 goals) and also define how you want to grow in your job (top 1-2 aspects you wish to improve on or learn). Be one with the job. Pretend it’s yours already. Pretend they hired you already and you are only going in to finalize a few things and to give them this piece of paper that itemizes these particulars because they wanted to know them before you start.
You need to go into the interview presuming you have this job. If you do, that confidence will exude itself in a way that is unlike any other applicants confidence. You can have personal confidence and you can have confidence in your skills and experience, but it takes a much higher level of confidence to show this person you believe you are - without even knowing the other candidates’ background or experience - the best candidate for the job.
We all use to write this in our cover letters or thank you letters: “and that is why I believe I am the best candidate for this job.” Who hasn’t written that? So mean it! If you don’t believe you are the best, then you shouldn’t be interviewing in the first place. You are waisting their time, and you are waisting yours.
This is not arrogance, this is confidence. You reinforce this by handing them this piece of paper at the end of the interview.
The first set, your goals: tells them what you will strive to do for the company, the department you work in, the team you are on, etc. and also in your own work product (if you will be producing reports, etc). You are dedicating yourself to the company as if you are on day one, and it shows them you sat down and thought seriously about all aspects of this job, you have a good understanding of what you will be doing, and how your work comes into play in relation to the bigger company picture.
The second set, your growth: tells them what you expect back from them and shows you are smart enough to know this is a two way street - you are providing them your skills and talent, but you need something from them besides a paycheck. It also shows you are growth oriented & want to constantly improve. What you have done here is verified a lot.
You didn’t just spit these great sounding positive attributes out in the beginning of the interview when asked about some of your strengths, and you just didn’t list them as bullet points on your resume because they sounded good. Now you are bringing those words (they hear all the time) to life in a new way - a solid commitment on paper. Plus, you are giving them this commitment before they asked and whether or not they were ever going to ask or not. This will speak volumes to any interviewer and you will outshine all the others. You will be remembered.
3rd: Ask the Hard Questions Back: Many believe that an interview is much more about the employer asking the questions and the prospect getting the chance at the end to answer ‘any questions you have for me’. But in fact it is not.
An interview is a conversation and it’s a dialogue. It’s not a grilling process where you get a chance to speak for 2 minutes only at the end. Your questions are equally as important as theirs, and sometimes we have to remind the old fashioned interviewers of this important point. You are interviewing them and evaluating them each step of the way, just as much as they are you interviewing and evaluating you. If you haven’t been, then start to. And if you think asking just one question is asking enough, then you better choose that question very carefully. If you don’t ask questions, you might regret this later.
I like to think of it this way: how can you not ask questions? This is where you will spend the majority of your waking hours every week for xx years. In many cases, jobs are like second marriages because you have a ‘family’, you spend so much time there, and it’s part of the source of your happiness, passion and also at times, stress.
So, I ask: “would you not ask the person you are going to live with and marry more than one question before you did?” No! So, I am sure you can think of at least one question or more than just a measly question to ask the interviewer, your potential boss. Again, keep in mind, you should gauge when and where to ask questions or how many to ask in each interview, but if it’s only a 1 interview process, ask away before you leave!
Now, when I say: Ask the Hard Questions Back, I mean ask things like: “If a team member and I have a significant personality clash and it’s affecting our work product, how will you handle that.”
“If I produce work product for you and it is not to your liking, what do you do?” Things you want to look for in their answer - they hand it back to you and tell you to do it right, or they tell you what they like about it and what they don’t and what they would prefer you focus on or clarify more. You can tell a lot in these 2 questions alone on how your days will go and what the overall tone of the department you are working in is about -how your boss runs it. You have to determine if these are things you are okay with just as much.
Other questions: “what is your preference of discipline?” Things to look for: they tell you on the spot (doesn’t make a difference if others are around), written notice is left on your chair or is emailed to you, or your brought into their office and they close the door and discuss with your privately, or they fire you instantly, etc.
Whatever questions that are most important to you fall under the Ask the Hard Questions Back category as well.
I always asked: “what happened with the person before me” if I am replacing a job and if it was a new job created or new company “do i have the freedom more or less to take this job and go about it any way I want within reason?” And I always asked: “what is your biggest ‘pet peeve’?” and “what are my red flags?”
If you have a chance to address any of your red flags once again perhaps in a different, more positive light, then do so. Please don’t be afraid to bring these up. Don’t think you are reminding them of your red flags. Believe me - they know them. They will see you are brave enough to bring them up to talk about them and they will admire and respect that.
It’s the Interviewer’s Turn: Don’t be afraid to ask them what their weakness is either. If there is going to be a trusted open relationship, they should share it. They asked you to reveal yours, why should this be a one-way street? Is this person an authoritarian? Or are they willing to show they are human (not without faults) and also willing to show they are a team player just as much as a boss? You mine as well find out now, because depending on your job and how closely you work with your boss, their weakness can affect your every day.
Be Considerate: Since this is a pretty daring/bold move, ask this question in a way that shows them you care -not because you want to have your ‘card’ should you need it. More importantly, let them know you will respect this area - this weakness and everything that it touches. Then, let them know you might be able to help them with it.
So, for example, the interviewer might say their weakness is: they are unorganized, or they save all emails until the end of day but then end up being in office until 7pm, or they are snappy when under pressure. Anything you can know that will help you formulate your decision about working with this potential boss, is better known upfront.
If they are hesitant to tell you - you can approach the question this way: “if I help you with your weakness, will you help me with mine?” Once they tell you, offer that help: “let’s be supportive and accountable to one another and eliminate these weaknesses once and for all!” I am sure no candidate has said that to them. Already, you are offering to help this boss beyond the scope of your work and leverage him as a professional. They will remember this gesture.
4th: You Aced The Interview! Finally, if you get the job, of course celebrate! But be sure your employer celebrates as well! Your employer should be equally thrilled and excited you are going to start - so send them a congratulations card & balloon too This is much better than a ‘thank you I am looking forward to starting’ letter. I bet you no one has ever done this. You’re just constantly reminding them how memorable you are and what a tremendous asset you will be to their company.
The Excited Interviewee: Not many are excited to interview - but maybe by now with all this new ammo, you will be! I love to get people charged up and passionate about all their endeavors, yes, even interviewing!
So put on your sleuth coat and have fun with what you can investigate, learn and use. Get fired up for your interview because it’s really, in essence, getting fired up about starting your first day on the job! Remember, you own that job because you made a memorable, unique impression and you know you are the best candidate to do that job.
All these things take you from being a candidate who waits to get a job, to being a candidate who is willing to earn it - by putting this time and creative effort into a company before you are even hired.
Choice is yours: You can Wait to get the Job, or you can Earn Your Job!
For more coaching tips on interviewing, or to learn more about creating the Package You, please get in touch. I am on a mission to help Junior Sanchez at http://RiftSuccess.com reach his “Change 360” Mission, and I would love to help you achieve your ideal job!
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