This course represents a few firsts when it comes to career advice and interviewing mastery...
First of all, for all of you that have take my other course called Dominate the Hidden Job Market of The Future...
... you know that I'm not a fan of obvious advice... the goal is always to keep things fresh and useful.
And this course-- Interview Like A Champ! -- is 100% actionable with scripts and step-by-step instruction that you can pretty much use word-for-word if you want to.
Here's another first:
This course is not just for job-seekers and it's not just for people who conduct interviews... it's for both!
Each are meant to gain extremely helpful insight from cutting edge strategies on both sides of the 'interview table'
Never before has there been this much access into the minds of job seekers and hiring professionals.
By the end of this course, you will be 'in their head'—so, in other words, job seekers: you will know precisely what the hiring manager wants to hear and see in almost every conceivable situation.
Hiring managers and recruiters: you can finally shed the dead-weight questions that lead to nowhere-- the ineffective and essentially random strategies that are practiced in most hiring organizations these days. This course will teach you to understand what makes the candidate tick and how to cut to the real issues, to what is really relevant to you, to get the real story and control the situation.
Job Seekers: you in turn gain more power by viewing the hiring manager's strategy through the window that is this course.
By the end of this course, here are just a few of the life and career-changing things that you will know:
How to show rather than tell about your value and what you bring to the table
How to identify the problem that companies you are interviewing with are hiring you to solve
How to ensure that the candidate you are interviewing is the right problem-solver
How to construct cheat sheets for yourself that help you to be prepared but also to ‘be in the moment’ and be at your best when it really counts
How to develop the optimal routine for the day of your interview
How to uncover candidate upside and also lowlights—how to reveal the things that the candidate isn’t telling you
How to uncover candidate reasons for change and what constitute valid reasons for change
How to adapt to new developments in the candidate’s job search situation
How to identify the questions behind the questions—the real interview game being played and how you can ‘ace’ these tests
By the way, that’s all in part 1…
For the interviewer, you will know how to control the interview and how to maintain a high level of respect from candidates.
Throughout this course, both sides will learn how to level the playing field when the power dynamic is imbalanced.
Interviewers: you’ll learn how to create sharply effective questions—ones that are extremely precise and relevant -- there will be no need for you to search Google for 'interesting' interview questions any longer.
And of course, we cover in a huge amount of depth how to answer questions in the most effective value-telegraphing ways—ways that show your value rather than telling about it… because as you know, talk is cheap.
Both sides will also know, by the end of this course, how to negotiate in the interview-- you’ll learn from exact scripts that are provided.
Lastly, you’re going to know how to adapt to curveballs, you’ll know what to do when you get stumped, and you’ll know how to adapt to various interview formats.
All of this is covered in this course in a way that you’ve never seen before. I guarantee it.
There you have it… Interview like a champ!
Let’s get cracking. I will see you on the inside!
I want to just quickly talk about how this course is laid out and the rationale behind all of it. Why do certain sections include the information they do and why it is important for you…
So, here’s the deal…
I didn’t want you to have to wait to get to the good bits.
Some courses have a whole bunch of theory up-front and then you have to get about half-way through before you get to anything you can use.
I didn’t want that to be the case here.
And for this reason, I decided to start this course off with a bang: with some quick wins. These are quick ideas and practices that you can start doing right away—whether you are a job-seeker or an interviewer—and these are things that can make an impact for you right now. So that’s why we have this quick wins section right off the bat.
Next, you’ll notice there is a glossary—a short section where we lay the foundation and discuss some of the terms and acronyms I’ll be throwing around in the course.
And by this time, you’ll have already noticed that the course has some lingo to it that you’ll soon be comfortable with and you’ll understand it—so in this early section I just wanted to make sure we are all on the same page and privy to the terminology that you’ll encounter throughout the course.
And of course, this is all still in part 1. And at the end of part 1, we start discussing the interview situation as a game and we define what that game is and how to understand it in a new way that is going to allow you to excel and dominate within its parameters. That’s the idea.
The interview situation, in general, has its surface level and it also has everything that lies beneath the surface. As you’re going to find out, the stuff beneath the surface is much more interesting and also closer to the truth. We’re going to be talking about all of that and how to navigate it.
In part 2, the focus becomes your preparation. Why is this section here? Because how you prepare is going to transform how you perform. Once you understand our new paradigm, you need to start acting on it. The first place to start acting on it is in your preparation.
We get pretty detailed in this section. We talk about everything from what resources to research, how to research them, how to identify key takeaways, where to look for crucial information, how to build notes and resources that help you on the big day, how to formulate your overall narrative, how to prepare your secret weapon for interview domination, how to structure your routine on the big day and how to build questions and hypotheses that simultaneously demonstrate your value while giving you vital information you can use.
Part 3 essentially takes all of this and goes even deeper. How much deeper? Psychology deeper. Part 3 can be boiled down to content that imparts principles based on social triggers. You’re going to understand decision-makers on a granular level. You’re going to know them better than they know themselves. You’re going to understand their hopes, dreams, plans, fears and pain better than they could ever hope to. In the end, you will leave them with virtually no choice but to choose you.
Part 4 is where the scripts come in. Every conceivable tricky question is met here with an adaptable script. Feel free to use some word-for-word answers or just take the general idea and make it your own. In this section, we take lessons from politicians, we discuss how to face the 3 most difficult interview tests, we look at the hardest questions out there—and I’ve provided an example script response for every single one. The best part of part 4, however, is near the end, where you learn how to level the playing field in any interview situation. This tactic instantly flips any power dynamic on its head and almost works like magic.
Part 5 deals with the end of interviews. When you get down to the end of an interview, the conversation often shifts towards money and perks and things of that nature. They want to close you on a number they can feel happy with. I’ve said it before: negotiation starts in the interview. And you need to know how to handle that. Both sides do. And I’ve got a pretty special script in this section that both sides are going to benefit from.
Also in part 5 is how to end things off, how to follow-up and how to evaluate things when all is said and done.
That brings us to part 6 which is about tying up some loose ends and helping you adapt to curveballs and things you might not expect. What if it’s a different format? Not every interview is the standard 1-on-1 with some variation of behavioural questions you can easily find on Google. Sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes it’s a group of people. Sometimes it’s a case study rather than a questioning format. Sometimes it’s a panel. Part 6 talks about what to do in each scenario.
And there you have it.
That is the breakdown of the course in general. As always, I will be adding more content based largely on your feedback. And there will be assignments and downloadable materials sprinkled throughout.
So without further ado, stay tuned for the ‘quick wins’ section in part 1!
Some of the stuff in this course can be put into practice right away. Some of it is going to take some time. Just in case you’ve got an interview coming up tomorrow or in a couple days, I want to give you some pared down but useful information that you can act upon right now.
For job searchers, candidates and interviewees…
The first thing is sort of an overarching maxim that I think you should practice throughout your job search. That is:
Show don’t tell
Now, this goes for your interview, for your resume, for your cover letter—essentially for everything. It’s a goal and a guiding principle. Always be showing more than you are telling.
What does this mean?
Essentially, anyone can just say things. You want to be backing up the saying and ‘telling’ with clever demonstrations. It’s like with online dating profiles: don’t tell people ‘im really funny’… just be funny. In job interviews, demonstrations often come in the form of ‘proof’. I don’t mean evidence. You’re not on Judge Judy and she’s not going to call you up to look at your rent receipts… instead of that you need little stories or ‘storyettes’, as I like to call them. In addition to stories and storiettes, we use interesting stats and metrics. When using stories and metrics, we further back them up with specificity indicators – names, dates and background.
When you use these, you score credibility points – when you score credibility points, your HVT index goes up. HVT stands for High Value Telegraph. It’s the cumulative sum of your value and social proof.
Uh… don’t worry.. there’s not going to be a whole lot of math in this course. Or geometry. Just the odd arrow here and there.
So, don’t worry…
We’re going to define these terms a little more in the Glossary in the next little section. You’re going to know full well what I mean by HVT or LVT, etc… we’ll quickly go over some of the terms that you’ll see pop up throughout this course (as well as my other course, Dominate the Hidden Job Market Of The Future).
Cool… got that in there… moving on…
Find a problem to fix -- be the ‘handy man’
Am I being literal here? Do I really want you to be a handy man? Absolutely, go out—get yourself some coveralls and suspenders, put a pencil in your hat… get a measuring tape… ok I’ve taken that far enough..
Just kidding don’t take your actual tool belt to the interview. What I mean is, be a ‘perfect fix’ for a problem that the company already has,. That means you need to accurately identify the problem. Thankfully, it’s usually not too much of a mystery and you would likely have all the information you need if you’ve made it to the interview stage.
Keep in mind: there is a reason this job is open. There is a big big reason for why people are interupting their dreadfully busy lives to sit down with you (a stranger) to talk to you (and to talk about you). From your experience can you think of a time when someone has wanted to just sit around and chat about you for no reason? No, you can’t. It’s not for fun. It’s not because things are all great and wonderful. It’s because there’s a problem. You are supposed to be the solution to that problem.
Do not go to an interview unless you have a very good idea of what the problem is and why you are the solution. Your whole approach and the ‘main course’ of the content you fill the interview with is basically supporting this one argument: why you are the right handy man for the job of fixing the problem that necessitates going through the riggamaroll of hiring someone.
Now, here is one thing for certain:
The folks at this interview you are going on… they will want to know about you.
We’ve probably all encountered interviews where the interviewer starts off by saying something like ‘tell me about yourself’ or ‘let’s start off by learning about you’.
We get it all the time.
Yet there are 2 problems:
For the first like 5 years of my interviewing life I would say, this question caught me off guard. It would get asked and then I would be in my head like ‘Wow, that was the only thing I didn’t prepare for… I never thought they’d ask me that…’
Some of us get so caught up on having technical details and all the difficult angles covered and then we forget to just nail the one that truly makes the most sense to think the most about. We think ‘well, geez… surely I know about myself. I can handle this.’ And then we just go on rambling with no structure, no point, and no idea about which part of the story is best to highlight.
Well, as we already know, the interviewers want to know about you. So you can assume that this is going to be asked in one way or another. It’s a given. It’s the most surefire thing that is definitely going to be ‘on the test’. So make sure you’re good and ready for it.
‘Good and ready’ means you have a structured narrative. You know exactly what you’re going to say, what you’ll focus on and what the point of it is. Answers to other questions the interviewers are likely to have will naturally flow from your answer to ‘tell me about yourself’. It’s all part of your cohesive grand narrative.
Therefore, if you can do nothing else, spend a good amount of time working on your answer to this. Spending time on it is going to benefit you in virtually all your interviews to come—and not just in interviews—in many aspects of your professional life. How many times in group setting and conferences and training seminars etc are you asked to introduce yourself? It happens all the time. It’s a vitally important skill.
So, try this…
Write a ‘high school essay’ answer to ‘tell me about yourself’. Of course, it won’t be delivered quite like a high school essay. You’ll build around it with natural conversation in order to not sound like a robot. But using this structure is a very good mental aide for memory and it also ensures that you’re using a narrative that supports your overall goal for the interview. You can then use this narrative to build on and extrapolate on all of it to answer other questions about your background.
You remember how these things go: thesis, 3 main supporting points and stories, and conclusion…
Here’s how the outline would look with the ‘blanks’ you’ll need to fill-in:
I really like to solve problems that involve x (thesis… this goes back to why you are the ‘right handyman’ or woman)
Even back in high school I did this and it related to x because of this (support 1)
In college I did this and it related to x because of this (support 2)
In my career I started doing this which taught me a lot about x in this way (support 3)
Now I’m looking to expand by working on this new dimension of the problem with you (conclusion)
So, right from the get-go… you’re talking about how you can solve the problem the company has and why you are the right person to bring that solution. Stay tuned for section 4 where we get into actual examples of good answers to this common interview scenario…
Traditional notes are not the best for bringing into an interview with you. It’s pretty tough to constantly ‘refer to your notes’ when you are in the heat of the moment.
A lot of times, I’ve found my interview notes can run into multiple pages and it just doesn’t work to sit there flipping through them and reading off the page while the interviewer is just sitting there staring and waiting. It really doesn’t work.
That’s not to say that you won’t have time to look down and review things. Most interviewers pause and focus on jotting down notes or looking for questions to ask. This is when you’ll have time to review things.
But again, not flipping through notes. What you need is a cheat sheet. A cheat sheet is a one-pager. It has headings and categories. Under the headings and categories, you use keywords to jog your memory and prompt your brain to latch onto a thought string that will bring the rest of the information back for recall and use.
I would use a similar strategy when it came to writing exams—I don’t mean bringing a cheat sheet into the exam. What I mean is I would have categories and my ‘memory jogger keywords’ for each. The moment we could pick up our pencils, I would scribble down all my keywords on a scrap paper in structured order. Then I knew I had my basic outline for everything there and could refer back while putting the ‘meat on the bones’.
The same can be done for interviews. But the nice thing is, the cheat sheet is allowed to come into the interview with you.
The keyword idea works really well because scripting your answers fully and trying to stick to the script is very difficult to pull-off. It never sounds natural. Therefore, you need talking points to keep your brain organized and then focus on ‘being in the moment’. Go with the flow of the present moment and have your cheat sheet keywords there for structure and reference.
Your pre-interview routine.
This can make all the difference in the world.
Do you notice that some days you feel alert, energetic, more social and you can ‘go with the flow’ a bit more naturally? When you’re at your best, you hardly need any preparation—you’re ‘in flow’ and your brain is just clicking and feeding up everything you need just as fast as you can use it.
This is when you are the best version of yourself.
Needless to say, you want to be the best version of yourself when it comes time for your interview.
However, the odds are stacked against you. It’s hard to be the best version of yourself at the right time. Why is that? Because we are so incredibly attached to the outcome. In other words, we really want to do well. Because we really want it, it’s harder to get it. We get freaked out and stressed. We think too much. We get psyched out.
How can we avoid this and make sure the opposite happens? How can we plan to be at our best?
With planning. Think of the steps it normally takes to be at your best.
You feel good physically.
You’re in a good mood.
You have great energy.
You feel confident and social.
You’re not worried about what happens.
You don’t need any external ‘remedies’ to get you going.
Maybe you can add a few more to this list. How can you plan to be in this mode of peak performance? How can you optimize yourself to get into these states prior to your interview?
Like I said, with planning—planning out a pre-interview routine.
Roughly, I suggest something along these lines for your routine…
The day before, plan out what you will do in each hour leading up to the interview. Consider logistics, time of day, other commitments, etc.
I suggest the following types of activities to immediately precede your interview. Here is a suggested order:
Rapport.. talk about anything except interview and connect at the beginning.. makes things way easier and the butterflies should be pretty well gone by the end of the chit chat
Chit chat for 1-2 minutes
Establishing some rapport right off the bat is going to help things along and ensure they go smoother for you throughout the interview. Plus, it’s a great way to get the interviewer ‘on your side’ right off the hop.
This is another thing element that often gets overlooked in our preparation. We overlook it because we think that chatting is no big deal—anyone can do it and we think it’s not part of the interview. Those assumptions are false. It’s not easy to do well and it’s very much part of the interview (along with everything else the moment you walk in the door).
You are being tested on how normal you are. Interviewers want to see the real you when your guard is down. They want to find out how you build rapport.
In the past, I’ve gone into interviews with my head so wound up in the details of my interview prep that I’m completely lost when it comes to just normal small talk and I end up coming off stiff as a board and right away they’re probably thinking … ‘ok, well… he’s not gonna fit in at the christmas party’. Fitting in at company retreats is a big deal. It’s what ‘fit’ is largely all about. You have to ‘fit in’ to company culture. It’s a vague term that could mean anything, really. But it starts with just presenting well and behaving like a normal functioning member of society from planet earth.
So, along these lines, think about what you’re going to chat about. Don’t necessarily wait for it to come to you—try to be the initiator of some small talk (without taking it too far or wasting people’s time).
Sometimes a perfect chatting opportunity comes up for me that relates to an event or something that just happened in my life. But I’m so caught off guard or unprepared socially that I completely miss the idea to incorporate it into small talk and I just end up being a boring stale husk of non-personality and then I realize after ‘oh man… totally could have talked about that and seemed like a cool guy!’.
So the point here is to spend some time thinking about this.
Come up with 2-3 harmless topics of conversation that are fit for a professional environment and think of how events in your life relate to them. This comes perfectly naturally to some and less so to others like me sometimes.
Bring a PPD
Last thing, for this section, I’m not going to say a ton about this now because we cover it quite a lot later in the course. I’ll just mention that, if you have time to draft a Proactive Proposal Document—it will go a long way in separating you from the competition and it’s well worth the time investment.
This document is a 1-2 page little plan or proposal for the practical steps you want to take to solve problem X when you get started in the role you are interviewing for. This could be your plan for the first 30, 60 or 90 days in the job. The document is great for diverting the focus away from your background and toward your plan.
Stay tuned for a PPD sample as well as more information on how to incorporate one of these nifty ‘value bombs’ into the whole process…
Now on to some quick wins for the Interviewers….
Go beyond knowing your ‘must haves’
What does this mean?
You want to be able to penetrate down beneath the surface.
Mercenary recruiters are often taking requirements in their most superficial and face-value form.
Assessing candidates is not all checking boxes. You can’t just say ‘yep, my candidate knows Java’ then check that box and assume this person is just as qualified as everyone else who says they ‘know’ Java. That question and that requirement deserves any variation of what could be an infinitely complex answer. You have to ask the next questions that make things more clear:
Java in what context?
What layers of java are they familiar with?
Where have they used it?
What did they make or build or do with it?
How did they use it?
What was their specific role on those projects?
What percentage of the time was it used?
How do you know what questions like these to ask and what answers are ‘right’?
.. you (just like the candidate/interviewee) also need to be acutely familiar with the problem (and the company for that matter) … recruiters tend to work on lots of recs across multiple categories… when things get busy, the tendency is to stop digging and to stick to the bullet points, treating the requirements at face value rather than truly understanding them in multiple dimensions…. Good recruiters and good interviewers go beyond this superficial understanding of the requirement. They understand the company and the requirement on a deeper level.
How do you do that?
Well here’s a start… keep detailed tabs on them… a portfolio if you will. Keep all your information on ABC company there—
your application forms,
all forms of history,
all communications—everything. Keep it in one place for each company.
Have a summary page that distills what they do and what they typically need. Ideally you have had the chance to interview the heads of the departments that will be giving you orders and you have a relatively clear understanding of the pains and goals of the department and how each hire potentially relates to this. Documentation of these interactions is also obviously something for your portfolio on the company.
One more thing on this, recruitment (as ive said many times) is particularly prone to murphy’s law. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. As someone performing the recruiting and hiring function, it’s your job to cover bases—to make sure Merphy’s Law is kept at bay—you want the smallest possible chance of things going wrong—when it does, it comes back to you.
Therefore, also go into the interview with your must-haves in terms of boxes to check—don’t overlook them. These small details are huge. The one time you forget to ask someone if they have a criminal record, guess whaat? You’ll get to the end of the process, having them going for multiple interviews and then you’ll find out everyone’s time was wasted because someone forgot to ask a simple question.
Sometimes candidates are relatively equal in terms of the extent to which they meet the main requirements of a role. For this reason, you also want to test their upside as it relates to the company. By this point, you’ve typically been through the behavioral stuff… the ‘tell me about a time when…’ questions. Now you want to get a better idea of how your candidate thinks.
Which candidates can roll with the curveballs and the unexpected or seemingly impossible-to-answer questions? How do they think on their feet, break things down, use logic and think through the problem in a productive way? What is the motivation behind the course of action they choose?
Here are some good ones:
What sort of advise would you have for your previous boss? (can they give a thoughtful answer while avoiding speaking negatively?)
Other than money, what would have inspired you to continue at your last job? (this further tests RFC and also invites thoughtful answer that may uncover more motivations and what makes the candidate tick)
If you were the CEO, what sort of concerns about our company’s future would keep you up at night? (this gives you an idea of how familiar the candidate is with the pain points of the company they are interviewing with)
Can you teach me something I probably don’t know right now? (discover some otherwise hidden knowledge or talent about your candidate)
What is the project you do in your spare time that you are most excited about? (is there something that will keep them from their work with the company? What other talents knowledge and skillsets do they bring to the table?)
What’s the most interesting thing about you? (uncovering ‘interesting’ things is often uncovering potential value and upside for the organization)
Why is it so important to know reasons for change?
Tells you whether candidate is serious or ‘kicking tires’.
Gives you an idea of how desperate they may be for change and this may lend insight into their True Salary Threshold
Uncovers potential red flags and sore spots in their work history – usually leads to some information that should be explored further to assess candidate performance and relations with past employers
Gives you insight into candidate expectations and motivations for their next role and you can assess whether or not these align with hiring company
When RFC is not dealt with adequately, things unravel.
It’s easy to let it go untreated or treated cavalierly (ie without enough care).
Bottomline: change is hard. Finding out RFC is needed to determine if candidate truly is ready to stomach change (for the right price) at this time.
If you are content when the candidate answer to RFC is ‘I just wanted a new challenge’ and you make no attempt to dig much deeper to get at the real story, that’s really not good. You are setting yourself up for some titanic disappointment. You’ll think you have a placement or a hire and you won’t.
Good treatment of RFC uncovers a sore spot. That sore spot should be ‘pressed on’ and prodded until the real story of how it got there is revealed.
As an interviewer, you are part of the salary negotiation process—a big part. The salary negotiation has already started and you’re in it. Your job is to essentially be really nice (tactful) about managing candidate compensation expectations so that things wind-up with everyone on the same page at the end.
For this, you need 2 pieces of information:
Here’s how to get started with getting this information…
Ask the candidate what sort of money or compensation they are expecting for their next role. Jot down that number.
Ask candidate what they are making now. Write the number on their resume beside that entry of work history. Now, this number is not always clear even though they give it to you. Sometime they will give you their base salary, sometimes they will give a rough estimate of everything including bonuses, etc and they’ll wind up with some inflated number that they figure is better to negotiate with.
Now you’re going to go in for some detailed information. So let them know, I want to make sure I’m not wasting your time and that your next move is a decent step-up career-wise, therefore I want to get clear on your compensation.
So, your next question is… what is your base salary?
What is your bonus? How often and what conditions need to be met to get it? What has it been historically?
401K or RRSP? Matching? Contribution?
How much vacation do you have now?
What is your benefits plan?
What other benefits, bonuses or perks do you have?
Write all this stuff down in the margins of their resume right beside the job entry.
Now go down the list and do this for the last 5 to 10 years of work history.
How do these numbers compare to the salary expectations they gave you earlier? Is a more realistic trend emerging that might indicate what they should be getting in their next role?
If their expectations are out of line, now is the time for a short education pitch, where you remind the candidate that their expectations may be out of line with the market and typical salary trajectories.
Gauge their reaction to assess if they are willing to make a concession and re-evaluate their expectations. If not, their RFC may not be solid enough to justify a move.
When you break down salary in this way and in conjunction with RFC and Job Search Developments (JSD) (coming up), you get much closer to TST. You get even closer when you Close on Salary (CoS), which is coming up later in the course.
Every time you talk to a candidate or schedule anther interview with them or meet with them, guess what.. most likely, something has changed.
Usually, you’ll be calling with an update.
And they will have updates also that they are not just going to come out and tell you about. Getting their updates is crucial—at the start of interviews, phone calls and all interactions.
Why? Because it often changes the context of the whole interaction. If you go on blabbing about your information and meanwhile the whole situation has changed and it’s basically irrelevant, you look like an amateur, you give up all your leverage and basically it kind of sucks to be you.
You could be calling up a candidate to tell them about a second interview, meanwhile they’ve accepted a job from your competitor and they start tomorrow. Have fun getting toyed with on the phone!
Don’t be in this situation. Find out JSD first. Like I said, this includes when you are actually sitting down for an interview.
One of the first questions you should throw out:
So how is your job search going so far? Has it been super active? Any offers we’ll have to compete with?
And then if they seem reticent—‘knowing this stuff helps me help you… it allows me to know how much leverage we have for getting you a better offer (true), so keep me posted on any changes’
Don’t move on until you have a good handle on JSD and where you stand and how things have changed since your last interaction. Everything you had to say may now be moot. Or it may need to be presented entirely differently. Or you may need to make small adjustments.
Also, JSD (like I mentioned) will say a lot about TST. With JSDs happening, candidate salary thresholds change along with them. You need to re-assess with every JSD you learn about!
-- find this out at the beginning of every interaction… don’t reveal your information until you get this
Prior to the interview, you should have some idea of what information you want to come away with-- information that is not necessarily related to the qualifications of the candidate and their fit for the job. What info might this candidate have in their head that could benefit you by either leading you to other candidates or to other lucrative business relationships? In other words, how can this candidate play a role in building your network?
Let’s pretend im a recruiter who specializes in placing bilingual candidates.
I have Sally coming in who seems like an excellent bilingual candidate who has worked for some companies of interest to me.
I notice that she presently works for ABC Medical company and she used to work for EFG Medical company, both times as a bilingual CSR.
My client, XYZ Medical hires bilingual CSRs like her all the time.
What do I want to know? Plenty. I don’t currently have ABC or EFG on my client roster and I’d love to work with them. Furthermore, my client, XYZ, will hire good people from ABC and EFG all day long. Essentially, the information in Sally’s head is crazy valuable to me.
Think about all the things she must know. She must know:
who in each company gets involved with hiring—
how many bilingual reps each has currently—
how many bilingual folks are in other departments roughly—
she likely has some idea of how often these companies use agencies—
she must have some level of acquaintance or relationship with multiple other people that I hire or place all the time.
She probably knows the best way to get in contact with a lot of these people.
What is your plan for getting to all of that juicy information?
You have to be naturally curious. You have to swing the conversation over to there in a natural way. It’s a skill that takes good planning and execution.
I like to plan some of the questions I want to try to ask. I do my own research on ABC and EFG beforehand so that I can use what info I have already to build on.
For example, if I want to know who makes the final hiring decisions at ABC, let’s consider 2 approaches:
With #2, Sally is probably wondering why I want the information and will be potentially hesitant to discuss it, depending on how comfortable she is with me already. But with #1, I’m a bit of an insider already and since I know something about the company already and seem to be tapped-in, it makes a lot more sense that I would ask and it gives us a common ground for conversation.
So, Sally could say ‘well yeah, it’s always been jane as far as a I know but Cathy does this this and this… or she could say ‘no, it’s neither of them it’s actually Roger…’ and then she leads you to someone whom your internet research was never likely to turn up.
Let’s look at a few of the terms that I will throwing around in this course just so you have an idea of what I’m talking about and can start to get familiar with them. Some of these, we have already discussed in the course and some of them we’ll encounter a little later.
So here we go..
Here is one that has already come up… it plays a big role in the interviewing process on both sides of the table.. for interviewers and interviewees alike…
HVT – High Value Telegraph
Showing and demonstrating key value indicators through credible stories, results and metrics.
It’s immediately clear how this relates to the job seeker but perhaps not for the recruiter, hiring manager / interviewer—well, in many hiring climates, there exists a ‘candidate market’ where the war for good talent is fierce and so the interviewer plays the role of interviewee in many senses—in other words, both are trying to leave a favorable high-value impression on the other.
LVT – Low Value Telegraph
Demonstrating the traits of the average and frustrated masses. These are typically telegraphed through unsupported claims, lack of credibility, inconsistencies and a failure to think outside the box.
PPD – Proactive Proposal Document
A proposal or plan that is prepared prior to a meeting. A simple one or two pager that breaks down a plan for tackling an organization’s pain point through the solution contained in one’s value proposition.
This is your secret interview weapon (more info on this later in the course). It’s a plan you prepare in advance and bring to the interview with you. It outlines a proposal for solving the problem for which you’ll be hired to solve. It generally shifts attention away from inadequacies in your background and toward a discussion about your plan. It’s a huge HVT-booster.
CI – Credibility Indicators
Stories, names, specificity—anything that shows that you are who you say you are and that you are able to demonstrate and not just talk about your high value.
CP -- Common Path
The Common Path is the traditional way of searching for jobs- outsourcing to recruiters and software, using job boards and portals and using the shotgun approach that typically ends in the job seeker settling for less.
EP -- Extraordinary Path
The non-traditional way of procuring jobs the candidate actually wants—through pre-application interaction and networking, using CI and HVTs.
RFC – Reasons for Change
We discussed this. RFC is the context and situation surrounding the reasons for why a candidate made a change in their career and moved from one career stop to another.
EIT – Employer Interview Technique
Using this technique helps candidates to rebalance the power dynamic when they feel it moving too heavily to the hiring side. It demonstrates that the candidate is selective, has multiple options and is not ready to make a ‘cheap’ commitment.
CST – Claimed Salary Threshold
The ‘face-value’ number given when a candidate is asked about compensation expectations. This number needs to be qualified in order to get to a more accurate gauge on TST.
TST – True Salary Threshold
This represents a more accurate measure of candidate compensation acceptability. It’s achieved through probing around compensation and taking into consideration other factors like RFC and JSD.
JSD – Job Search Developments
Every time you start an interaction with a candidate, it’s important to first get an update on developments that have happened in their job search. This lets the recruiting party know where they stand and may change a lot of the strategy going forward.
CoS – Close on Salary (a technique)
Even after TST is established, it needs to be re-assessed in light of each individual opportunity. Therefore, once on-site interview has taken place, TST needs to be revisited in light of new JSD and in light of the candidate’s new perspective on the opportunity post-interview. To get this new TST, we use the CoS technique.
The real purpose of an interview…
In an interview, what you say is much less important than how you say it and how you think. You are being tested less for the content of your answers and more for how you handle the situation—how you prepare, how you react to curveballs, how you think on your feet, how you comport yourself and how well your approach resonates and aligns with the problems and goals of the company and the decision-maker.
There’s a lot in what I just said that we need to unpack.
The takeaway for now is that your goal is to find a way to demonstrate (rather than make claims) that your story aligns with the answers to these questions that the company is looking for.
Showing and proving is done with story-telling, data points, specificity, credibility indicators and validation from others. Telegraphing all of this effectively in an interview is no easy task. You have extreme limitations and parameters within which to hit all of these triggers.
Step 1: Understand the interview game…
The interview game is about what companies truly want to know about you (without coming right out and saying it). Interview questions are politically correct and seemingly harmless forms of finding out answers to otherwise very blunt questions. We want to know the blunt form of these questions so that we can better distill precisely what is going on.
The main thing to take away for right now is this: there is a reason for why interviews are not done only by phone or email. If it was simply about answering questions, there would be hardly any need to bring you in at all. Companies go through the trouble of setting aside very significant amounts of time for this because they want to test your attitude, demeanor and general comportment within a controlled environment.
They want to know the following…
Are you a potential flight risk that could end up wasting everyone’s time?
Does your story make sense?
Are you going to make a fuss or have a good attitude?
Can you act normal and be yourself in a somewhat high-pressure situation?
Can you present your thoughts in a clear and concise way?
Do you prepare well?
Are there any deal-breaking red flags that can be teased out of your back story?
How well can you respond to relatively standard questioning?
How well can you respond when faced with something unexpected?
How does your brain tackle and attempt to solve problems?
What sort of attitude do you have?
How well-developed are your social skills?
Do other people like you and want to work with you?
How genuine is your interest in the position and the company?
What is your present ability to get the job done and how much would they have to invest in your to get you up-to-speed?
How legit is your representation of yourself?
Is there anything special about you that we should know about?
Do you understand persuasion techniques (since these are likely to come into play with most jobs)?
In large part, the above questions are the motivation behind everything that will be asked of you in the interview. These are the things that potential employers want to know and it’s what they want to test you on. You want to be able to identify which of these tests are being thrown at you within each bit of interview dialogue. Then, you want to show (not tell) that you have what it takes to satisfy each criteria.
Let’s compare standard interview questions with their blunt subtext counterpart:
Ex. 1: Tell us about yourself
Does your story make sense?
Can you act normal and be yourself in a somewhat high-pressure situation?
Can you present your thoughts in a clear and concise way?
Are there any deal-breaking red flags that can be teased out of your back story?
Do you prepare well?
How legit is your representation of yourself?
Is there anything special about you that we should know about?]
As you can see with just the first example, there is potentially a TON going on in just one small bit of interview question or directive.
Ex. 2: Why did you leave your last job?
Are you a potential flight risk that could end up wasting everyone’s time?
Does your story make sense?
Are you going to make a fuss or have a good attitude?
As you can see, every standard interview questions has other more blunt questions behind them that represent what you are actually being tested on with the question. I would suggest getting good at identifying what the true test is before attempting to craft good answers.
Here’s the good news: if you have made it this far, chances are good that you have already answered many of these questions with satisfactory responses. Your job now is to reinforce that you are a solid hire. You’ll want to ensure that your responses are designed with only HVTs rather than LVTs and red flags.
As an interviewer…
First things first, review the information you have…
As a recruiter, it can sometimes be easy to ignore some of this info. We get into wanting to save time and only doing the things that we think will maximize it. However, reviewing the cover letter really is important (if there is one).
Is the cover letter included? This is an indicator of interests—of how much the candidate cares.
Is it generic or did the candidate take the time to craft something specific to the role? This is another indicator of interest. It also gives you more information—like whether you are the recipient of a shotgun pellet or a sniper shot. Preferably, you want to be a sniper shot. In other words, you want to be targeted and premeditated. You want the candidate to have taken time to write to you individually. It shows interest and that they truly care about your role above others.
Next, is it a good cover letter? Does anything stand out or is it pretty standard boiler plate cliché? Does the candidate make the same old claims or do they think outside the box? Does it sound like they have a handle on what your business is and where you truly need help? Or are they focussed on themselves and how many buses it will take to get to work? Are they more worried about giving value to you or to them? You want to see evidence that they’ve thought of you first.
Creep the internet footprint
For recruiters and talent acquisition specialists, creeping is ok. In fact, to a large extent, it’s your job. The internet contains a lot of information about your candidate that they are not likely to necessarily come right out and tell you. It often gives you insight that you cannot otherwise get. You can get a good sense of whether or not the candidate is likely to fit with the culture that you are considering them for. Will their values and personal interests align with the corporate culture of the potential employer?
You may also find new tidbits and details to probe deeper about. Maybe there is an inconsistency between the resume they sent you and another resume you found online. Maybe there is an inconsistency between their resume and their LinkedIn profile. Maybe their resume claims that they live close-by but their social media suggests that they actually reside in another part of the world. Really, you never know what sort of things you’ll find and dig up and you would be remiss to not do a little digging.
Much of the combined interesting stuff you find on the internet and in the application will be worth getting ‘the scoop’ on.
The scoop is the full story to determine whether or not there's anything to be truly worried about. For example, you might find a gap in the resume and want to find out what the candidate was doing during this time. Were they on vacation? Were they on a job that was completely irrelevant from the rest of their career? Were they working for a company that they left on bad terms with? Whatever it is, there is a story there that warrants further exploration.
A lot of times, candidates will not want to be completely forthcoming and straightforward about things that they know are red flags. If you are not getting an answer that truly clarifies these situations, it is your job to 'press on the sore'. Ask the question again in a different way. Keep repeating various forms of the same question in a natural and Casual way until the real story comes out. Therefore, you want to prepare questions that are going to press on that sore spot. You want to make sure that you have enough ammunition to make sure that all the gooey oosing puss gets squeezed out.
There is a lot about a candidate background that should be interesting to you over and above their experience or their qualifications for doing the job in question. Basically what I mean by this is, power of Rooter for an account manager for a sales professional or someone who owns a recruiting agency or even if you are an HR professional who brings in candidates on a regular basis, which candidates backgrounds are hot and filled with leads that should be very interesting to you.
But of course, with the red flags in the pain points, story is not going to be on the resume or on any candidate social media profiles. It has to be teased out and dug up and questioned. Therefore, your preparation should make note of which parts of the candidate profile provide clues that warrant for their exploration. Which entries on the resume look like ones that could lead to interesting information for you to mine further? These are places to excavate and dig and to insert your shovel for a big deep cross section lead-filled. Could be referrals, they could be new prospects that you never knew anything about, they could be anything like this. Candidates are going to be your best source for Insider information without having direct interaction with the companies or candidates themselves.
Devise plan for sore-pressing -- the probe plan… questions to ask
Devise plan for info-mining … conversation starters and info to come away with..
Every job is going to involve screening elements that you must cover in the interview. You want to develop a standardized process and checklist for ensuring that you cover these things every single time and so that no balls get dropped and no steps get missed. Depending on what kind of jobs you're interviewing for, please will these elements will change.
For example. ..
Asking if they will pass a criminal background check.
Going through with the candidate the logistics of how they will get to work.
Understanding something about their family situation when it can often affect their eligibility for suitedness for the position and question.
Finding out whether or not they have the required equipment.
These things will change depending on the situation. having a checklist is invaluable because you cannot expect yourself to remember he said these little points every single time and often the one time that you forget to cover it is the time that it comes back to bite you.
A value pitch that demonstrates connectedness to opportunity abundance and tapped-inness into relevant market (show candidate how connected you are)..
Candidates need to be reassured that they are not wasting their time. Think about the sacrifice they have made up to this point—they have set aside time and energy to take your phone calls, prepare for your interview, travel to the location, get all dolled-up, etc… a lot of times their underlying fear may be ‘oh no… this is probably just another recruiter who is going to waste my time…’
You do not want them thinking that and you certainly do not want it to be true. Therefore, instill some confidence by developing a pitch about you and your connectedness to the market and the opportunities that they want. They should feel that being connected to you is like being connected to a wealth of opportunity.
A good way to do this is by using a fine balance of vagueness and specificity. If you have already disclosed the identity of the company to the candidate, then the company is fair game. At this point, you want to demonstrate that you are essentially an extension of the client company. You know it from the inside out. This is a good time to drop names and to talk about various personalities—to also talk about how the process works and what the candidate can expect.
‘So when you go in, Gina will probably greet you at the front desk and first you’ll meet with Jane and she usually introduces you to Tom. Tom is hilarious, you’ll love him and he is a huge Patriots fan (or whatever)’.
If you haven’t revealed identities just yet, you can still use a clever mix of vagueness and specificity. Talk about companies in terms of their industry category, presenting them in the best light possible.
If you’re working with a company that makes shampoo, talk about them as being in the ‘pampering business’… a company who makes steel components might be ‘a very well established brand that the world’s largest corporations couldn’t live without…’ be creative. Discuss ‘various ideas’ ie possible landing spots that you can connect them to.
So yeah, as an interviewee… you’ve got a lot more work to do.
So first things first you want to review the job advertisement or description if there is one. To print this thing out and really go over it with a fine-toothed comb because can actually find a lot of clues in there if you look hard enough. In other words, what a company's need is when it comes to the role in question and you can get a sense for their pain points.
Let's quickly take a look at a random job description….
Here is a random one I just quickly found on Indeed… I’m going to highlight the pain point clues.. there quite a few.
Director of Manufacturing BELLWYCK PACKAGING INC. - Scarborough, ON
BELLWYCK Packaging Inc . is a leading Canadian owned Packaging Company with over 400 employees in seven divisions serving Canada, U.S. and International markets. The Scarborough facility manufactures high end folding cartons for the Cosmetic and premium Confection industries. We are currently seeking a progressive minded Director of Manufacturing.
The Director of Manufacturing is a newly created position at our Bellwyck Scarborough location. Reporting to the Executive Vice President Operations/CFO, the main responsibilities of the position include overseeing all manufacturing activities; development of policies and procedures designed to increase productivity, assure quality, and mitigate productions problems; effectively improve throughput and other in-house processes with the objective of reducing overall costs and enhancing customer satisfaction.
Key Responsibilities :
Required Skills, Knowledge and Experience:
We thank all applicants however only those selected for an interview will be contacted. No telephone calls please. In compliance with AODA, BELLWYCK Packaging Solutions, upon request, will provide reasonable accommodation during the recruitment process. If you are selected for an interview and require accommodation due to a disability, please notify us when we contact you.
Job Type: Full-time
The intimations I’m getting when I read this and highlight the true needs that the company has for this position, is basically a message of a mature industry company that is trying to update itself and make itself more relevant and progressive for the modern economy. We probably have here a company that was family-run for a long time and has grown out of this and maybe didn’t have up till now a unified culture and policy infrastructure.
So, they need someone to come in and relieve the pain of transition and growth—to deal with growing pains that come from scaling. Their pain could almost be described as being a dinosaur that is trying to adapt to the new economy and the new standards.
Once we crystallize what that central pain is, it becomes a lot easier to start forming your prescriptions and the right narrative for why you are the qualified person to prescribe and implement.
So, as of right now, I’ve never heard of this company and all I know is that they are in packaging somehow (according to the name). I don’t know what kind of packaging they do or how they differ from other packaging companies, or how they are positioned in the packaging market. So, I want to take a look at their website to start gaining clues and insights about this company.
Hiring managers will very often ask you what you know about the company in some form—they may say ‘what do you know about us’ or ‘why do you want to work here’ or ‘what interests you about working here’, etc.
Looking at the website, I can see right away some information that actually gives me quite a lot of insight just on the landing page. Right away, I can see that this company is doing some packaging for the healthcare industry. It also mentions printed packaging, which suggests that this is a category of packaging that I’ll need to know about. It also mentions ‘contract packaging’ (not too sure what that is) and horticultural packaging. So right away I have some clues to work with and some things I can dig further on when it comes to researching this company.
So let's explore more deeply on this website and see if we take anything else up.
So what's there's two links I can either click this Healthcare picture or this premium picture. When I click on Healthcare it opens up some new links on the site and they showed a whole line of packaging and actually tells me exactly what the company does it also allows me to click on company profile,careers, news, and contact us.
Show on company profile we get a much more clear picture of what the company specializes in it says it right here pharmaceutical Healthcare cosmetic and fragrance wine and spirits and confectionery and other luxury Packaging.
Understand their position in the market
So from just a cursory glance at this company's news page and just from reading the headline I can see that this company is much bigger than originally thought. They seem to have Mobile locations, going to be operating in a number of different regions, very large, it says 170000 square foot facilities. There is one article about them acquiring another packaging company. So just without even clicking on one of these news articles I can start to see that this is a very well-established company that has a relatively dominant position in healthcare Packaging.
So from this we're starting to get a pretty good understanding of what this compass and we're starting to understand a little bit about what their position is in the market. To understand this further and to understand how they are positioned in the market, and then start to look at some of their competitors.
So, it's a simple as doing a few Google searches with a couple different keywords surrounding packaging and the type of packaging that this company does and we can start to dig up and uncover some other companies in this industry.
When I type in healthcare packaging companies in Google, get a ton of results and quite a number of websites that give me names of potential competitor companies Ultra North America I'm getting ...
- Adelphi Healthcare Packaging Ltd. - ALPLA - Amcor - Ardagh - Becton & Dickinson - Bemis - Berry Plastics Corporation - Catalent - Clondalkin Group - Gerresheimer - Graphic Packaging Corp. - MeadWestvaco Corporation (MWV) - Mondi - Multi Packaging Solutions(MPS)/Chesapeake - Owens-Illinois (O-I) - Rexam - Schott Pharmaceutical Packaging - Sealed Air - West Pharmaceutical Services - WiPak
I know I’ve seen many of these around the Toronto area, which suggests that there are quite a few operating in the immediate geographical location of Bellwyck.
And just from the fact that it seems to be such a competitive space, here is a question I have and want to try to answer:
What is Bellwyck’s competitive advantage over the other competitors? Why do some healthcare companies use Bellwyck and not BD or Bemis?
Try to answer this question yourself. Generate hypothesis and then ask the question in the interview and present the hypotheses you have come up with, based on your research.
How can your narrative be sculpted to solve these problems perfectly? To show you’ve done it and know how it’s done…
What are their major pain points?
Major pain points are, like we've pointed out, adapting a company in a mature industry to the modern corporate ways of doing things. The job advertisement has indicated that the company has recognized this need and they are looking for a progressive director that can conceive of and Implement these changes.
So, the narrative of course has to reflect the ability and experience with doing exactly this. This is a newly created position. This means that a lot of these things have not been dealt with in this company. They need somebody who has done this before and can blaze a new Trail and start from scratch in many ways. They want someone who can bring a proven model over and make it work for their company. Therefore the solutions and prescriptions that you provide should reflect the pain points that you've isolated.
Your narrative must involve following:
Progressive policies and procedures that you have conceived of and implemented. You need to be able to talk about company names,departments, action plans, actual policies, the composition of the teams and people that you've managed and affected through all of it, and the results in both qualitative and quantitative forms.
Where have you increased productivity? To to what degree, in quantitative terms, had it increased? You will need stories and numbers.
Where have you reduced costs in the past? What did that look like? Why did you choose the path that you did? What were some of the alternate plans you could have tried to implement? Why did you not go with them? What was the result? What impact did it have on the company's bottom line? What are the numbers for this?
What tangible impact have you had on customer satisfaction? How is this measured at your last company and the other companies that you worked at? Who did you work with to improve it? What was the overall result on the bottom line? What were the big challenges you faced in getting to this and how did you overcome them?
Outline your leadership in terms of what departments you managed, what parts of departments you've managed, how many people and under what capacity, and how your ideas led to change within the organisation.
In all manufacturing organizations, safety is a huge concern. This advertisement also makes mention of it. Your impact and involvement with safety and implementing safe procedures and enforcing those procedures also needs to be outlined. Tell a story about a company's abysmal safety record prior to you coming and how that record transform true you being there and why you think that happened.
The rest of your preparation…
Go through the blunt tests.. which ones are most likely to turn up? Which ones should you emphasize the most?
Which interview questions are most likely to turn up? These are the ones you need to develop narratives around (see part 4 for detailed examples and scripts).
Craft your ‘tell me about yourself’ narrative… introducing yourself is a huge skill… hit it out of the park use a bit of humor… (also in part 4)
Start crafting narratives and politician messaging for the most likely questions.
Craft your ppd template and fill it in for this interview. I included one here for a student of mine that we worked on. He was interviewing for a business development position for a tech company.
Checkout bonus section for the PPD sample.
How to craft a Proactive Proposal Document (PPD)…
Time to set yourself way apart from the competition.
We have talked about the importance of getting inside the DM’s head and understanding precisely what their pain points are and calibrating yourself and your value proposition as the solution. Now we want to further demonstrate your problem-solving ability to the DM and show them how much of a proactive asset you can be. The following is perhaps your best way to go about showing rather than telling.
The DM is a busy person. They have tons to think about and they have thousands of small and large decisions to make. Given this, they almost invariably have the issue of limited bandwidth—they need someone to come along and take things off their plate. They need someone to do the heavy-lifting who does not require their constant input. DMs simply want to sign-off on things. They don’t want to do the work for you.
So, what is more effective? …
You could say this…
“I am a proactive individual who works independently and is able to handle a number of assignments without supervision…. Etc….”
This is a perfect example of telling and not showing. It’s only mildly convincing because anyone can say this. As you’ve heard, ‘talk is cheap’.
Let me show you something much more powerful.
It’s showing rather than telling…
Present the Proactive Proposal Document…
This is the secret weapon you bring along in your folio or binder or whatever you carry along with you. No one has asked you to prepare it and no one is expecting it. It’s going to be your proposal for solving X. Or it can be X, Y and Z. It can be used in a number of different scenarios (not just in interviews).
What are you solving? The specific pain points you have identified with the company—in the news, on their website, in various publications about them, from your research, from the job ad, etc. When companies advertise for a position, they are typically telegraphing their problems. By the interview stage, given your earlier engagement with folks in the company, you’ll likely have a few ideas.
So take those ideas and draft a 2 or 3 page document that outlines how you plan to tackle these pain points. It could be a proposed plan for your first 30 to 90 days with the company. These could be your ‘campaign promises’. Up to now, you have effectively taken polls (from your interactions) on what the company needs and wants. Now you are telling them how you plan to go about executing it.
It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate or exactly according to what the DM thinks they want. It is simply going to provide a couple of alternative courses of action that can become points of discussion. It is a way for you to take control of the discussion and lead the direction.
Here is why that last sentence has within it something extremely powerful:
This document shifts the focus of the entire meeting. It’s a beautiful game-changer…
You are essentially diverting attention away from you and your background and on to your plan. It virtually assumes you have the job already. You’re inviting the DM to think about the next steps with you, as you have already been thinking way ahead. They are no longer wondering about your background or your potential red flags or whether or not you have enough experience in X—they are focussed on assisting you with your approach. And therefore, you are giving them a chance to take you for a test run right then and there. You are proactively giving them a chance to test out what it would be like to work with you.
And you’re showing them great things. Without even getting into the content of the document, here are the HVTs you are telegraphing:
When to pull it out…
It depends on the content to some degree. Therefore, there are two points in the conversation at which you could segue to this document.
You’re going to find that doing this well is extremely powerful. It’s an HVT extravaganza and, if they even remotely like what you have prepared, your chances of solidifying your position as the top candidate are very good.
Plan some questions you could potentially ask and your hypotheses for each.
We already discussed one you could ask (although maybe not the first one to lead with)..
What is Bellwyck’s competitive advantage over the other competitors? Why do some healthcare companies use Bellwyck and not BD or Bemis?
This is not a great question on its own. The key thing is to add to the question to make it great.
Try to answer this question yourself. Generate 2 hypotheses and then ask the question in the interview and present the hypotheses you have come up with, based on your research.
For all of your questions, the important point is to try to answer the questions yourself. This way, you ensure that they are in fact meaningful questions that you cannot completely answer on your own. It shows that you have gone a long way to do the work in trying to get it answered.
Your hypotheses should be so good that you are essentially giving the interviewer choices: they can pick hypothesis 1 or 2 as the correct answer… or they could introduce a third option.
So, in the example above, you could say… is it cost vs value or is it because Bellwyck has greater access to certain technologies and methodology (ie is it specialization)?
You’re giving the interviewer a lot to run with by going as far as you can with it.
Let’s discuss other questions you could ask…
First, Bad questions:
I Found these in my first google search)… by the way… I don’t believe that there are no stupid questions… some questions can expose an extreme lack of understanding or indicate that you haven’t been paying attention or are just missing the point altogether. So don’t fall for that nonsense.
Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
You should have a good idea about this by now. You need to be more specific about what you are trying to clarify in order to make this a good question.
What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
Again, this is something you should know by now and will have spent much of the interview discussing. Seems like a weird time to ask this.
What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, year?
A discussion on this should flow naturally from the presentation and discussion surrounding your PPD. This should be covered in great detail, rather than left for a footnote at the end.
How do I compare with the other candidates you’ve interviewed for this role?
This is a recipe for awkwardness. Are you expecting to get a straightforward answer? Whether it is blunt or they beat around the bush, there is scarcely a favorable outcome to this.
Can you Describe the culture of the company?
Good, but why not ask them what it is they like about the culture so that you can keep things in perspective. Everyone you talk to may have a different view on this. Also, hypothesize about the culture and let them respond.
Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years?
Hypothesize about a couple directions it can go. If you are going to ask this, try to refer to a couple case studies of other businesses in a similar trajectory that you have researched.
What might a typical day look like?
Make sure you qualify this. You want an answer that gives you real insight so that you can make a truly informed decision on whether or not this job is really going to work for you. Also, you don’t want to leave yourself open to an unhelpful response such as ‘every day is different—there are no typical days!’ or whatever.
So, ask… how much team involvement do you forsee on a daily basis?
Will I be at my desk most of the time? on the phone? What activities tend to happen? Are there fixed meetings on particular days? Are there impromptu meetings that happen often? Does the team tend to eat lunch together? (you can get as detailed as you want here) Does the team tend to chat about their weekend a bit on Monday mornings?
What are some of the biggest challenges that you think I’ll face in this role?
Try to get them to uncover the not-so-glamorous bits of the job. Just like they are trying to find your red flags, you want to find the red flags of the job. Not all challenges are red flags, but you want to find out what they perceive as the toughest parts of what you’ll have to do.
What will success look like 6 months and 12 months down the road. Both in metrics and any intangibles you can think of… How is success measured for this role?
Get them to define their expectations so that you can gauge how realistic they are and whether it will be possible for you to come in and over-deliver.
If you haven’t checked out my other course, Dominate the Hidden Job Market of the Future yet, here’s where I really need to suggest that you do so because a lot of what we are talking about, especially in this section, is going to be supported by that course and it works in conjunction really well (WITH THIS ONE).
One of the major themes in that course is penetrating companies through back door methods using unconventional approaches, a step-by-step networking strategy and by leveraging insider connections. The course also talks a lot about interacting with companies prior to formally applying. The reason I mention this now, it Is by this method that we often learn in great detail and with very good Insight what a company's pain points are and what the language is that they use to talk about it. Once you have intimate knowledge of the inside of a company, you can achieve some clarity and uncover information that doesn't exist anywhere else.
1 uncover pain and fear from insiders
Record meetings and phone calls with these insiders. Keep meticulous notes and jot down furiously whenever you hear anything that seems like ‘lingo’ or buzzwords or the internal language that teams and organizations use to describe things to one another. You want a reference list of that insider language. You want to get it into your vocabulary and start adopting it and using it with ease.
This is the first way of getting inside the head of a company and its decision-makers. However, we want to go much deeper. You may get insight into needs, interests and pain points just from getting in tune with the language being tossed around. But we want to become even more familiar with the pain, hopes and emotions of the key hiring decision-makers in the organization.
Here is what you want to understand about the decision-maker:
Fear (their deepest work-life fear)
Pain (the issues and problems they are currently dealing with)
Claim (to fame) – what makes them successful… their ‘bread n butter’
Hope (their interests and desires for the future)
Dream (their ultimate dream and motivation)
Come up with an avatar and complete the exercise and fill these out.
Avatar definition for out purposes:
A representation of our target audience (companies, insiders and decision-makers) to whom we must adequately prove our value.
Example Avatar Exercise:
Here is our example avatar (chosen and made-up at random)…
Michelle, Director at Telecom giant
Let’s consider how her specific situation could fill in the blanks of our FPCHD model (and yes I realize it’s a horribly long an un-catchy acronym… but we’ll use it nonetheless)
Fear: A repeat of last year’s hiring fiasco (where 4 of 10 new hires dropped-off within the first 3 weeks of training) could lead to the department asking for her resignation.
Pain: Not having the right middle manager in place to make trustworthy decisions (particularly with hiring) has caused her to have to divert her attention from her core focus and also put in more hours doing hands-on things she would prefer to delegate.
Claim: Luckily the department has a strong core group of technicians that have been with the company for a long time and none are anticipated to leave any time soon. They are good enough to pick-up the slack caused by poor hiring.
Hope: Things are looking up for the next training class and with a few tweaks to the hiring protocol, hopefully the next group of hires can turn things around in the medium-term.
Dream: To have a full contingent of middle management and staff in the department that are able to independently handle day-to-day operations so that new enhancement projects can be undertaken by the director.
Think of how powerful it is to have this sort of information on the decision-maker that makes the ultimate call on hiring you.
Likewise, as an interviewer, it makes sense to outline these realities for yourself—so that they are clear. And then it gives you a clearer idea of what problems and goals your new hire (or the hire for the client or department you are representing) needs to address, solve and satisfy.
This is what allows you to identify and anticipate needs.
As an interviewee, the better your handle is on these factors, the better able you will be to predict what the hiring manager is going to want to know about you.
As an interviewer, the better your understanding on this, the more effectively you can organize your approach and pinpoint the exact right questions to ask.
The approach we are talking about here is in direct contrast to this:
The arbitrary question plan:
Simply going through a list and randomly or arbitrarily choosing the questions that sound good to you.
Have you ever been in an interview where you experienced this?
The interviewer has a big long list of questions and you can visibly see them trying to decide which one to ask you… hmmm umm… no not that one… uh… ah ok.. sure… here we go…. Tell me about a time when you thought you knew an answer to a problem but everything fell apart…
This is not a good way to prepare. But it’s how most people do it. They go on the internet… compile a big huge list of questions and they choose the catchiest ones. I’m suggesting that you need more of a method than that. Every question should have a deeper purpose. And, instead of getting ‘good questions’ (or so says your search term) from the internet, why not actually build the question yourself to reflect what you actually need to test? Or what is going to be tested of you?
To follow along from Michelle, the Director example we spoke of earlier… her issue is that she can’t trust the hiring decisions of her middle manager. The person occupying this post is making decisions that she can’t trust (as it’s brought her to the point of fear of losing her own job). This person needs to be replaced with someone who can truly be delegated to—who has demonstrated independence, sound decision-making, problem-solving and good hiring decisions.
Given this, it’s really not hard to extrapolate the questions that either 1. Should be asked or 2. Are most likely to turn up.
Let’s brainstorm a few:
Tell me about a time when you made a hire that didn’t work out.
Tell me about a decision you made that you would change in hindsight.
What sort of decisions does your present boss like to be included on?
What is your approach to hiring and how do you ensure that every hire is a good fit?
What sort of measures do you take to ensure a good retention rate among new hires?
Out of the last 5 hires you made for the department, how many still work for the company? How many out of the last 10?
What is your approach to keeping sales and administration staff motivated?
What is your approach to maintaining open communication to senior technology staff?
We could go on and on… hopefully you can see what I’m getting at and the logic here. Basically, the more you understand about fear, pain, what’s working and hopes and dreams, the easier it is to come up with good and sharply effective questions. You can come up with any number of great questions that run along the same lines as the ones we’ve just outlined. I didn’t get them from any magic handbook. I just came up with them based on what I know about Michelle. If you ask enough good questions, sooner or later, the real story is going to come out. Likewise, if you prepare for enough good questions like these, you are virtually assured to anticipate the immediate concerns of the DM.
We have already established that DMs will be intensely curious to know if you are able to satisfy their pains and goals. But they should want to go beyond these. They’ll also want to pick at any LVTs you demonstrate. They will want to make sure that your gaps and red flags are not overwhelming and deal-breaking problems.
Therefore, as an interviewee, you’ll want to prepare to address your gaps and red flags and turn them into opportunities to impress.
These require non-defensive stories of why they turned out for the best…
Red flag: you only have 8 months of relevant experience.
Point out how this is a weakness, but showcase the speed at which you have learned and ramped-up. Use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a ‘human sponge’ who learns extremely quickly. Show that it is actually a strength that you can perform at such a high level in comparison to those who have been working in the field for a much longer period.
Gap: you have a 4 year gap in employment from when you were an entrepreneur
Within this, you’ll need a story that explains why you decided to go into business and why you are now seeking employment. This needs to be finely balanced in order for it to make sense and not beg more questions.
Example: ‘I had a unique opportunity to open my own business when a friend of mine who heads-up the marketing dept. at XYZ company asked for a few of my graphic design samples. They loved them so much I started getting more orders than I could handle. I realized I had a whole host of industry contacts that I could easily farm out extra work to and split the fees with. Then, 3 years later I was approached by ABC Agency to sell my business assets. This actually worked out really well because it allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming an Art Director for a large design firm in NYC.’
Red flag: dropped out of school..
You’ll need a story here about why the program you were in was not for you. You’ll also want to touch on how you came to realize this and why it couldn’t be foreseen at the time. Then tell a story about something that you really are passionate about (like your next job after that) and point out your longevity and perseverance with whatever that endeavour is.
Here’s something that can ultimately make career goal attainment and advancement so elusive: nothing is 100% transparent.
It’s very rare to find people being completely straightforward with you.
You’re almost never being told the full truth. And no one is going to volunteer their whole hand of cards for you to see before they’re played.
sometimes jobs are posted that don’t even exist
sometimes you’re told you’ll get a call back and you don’t
rarely will you be rejected in a direct manner
when you ask why, no answer will come
companies have to dance around how they communicate. They don’t want to get sued by some offended candidate.
Hiring managers are in power because they are good at wielding power, controlling it and keeping it. By giving you too much information, they give away leverage. Therefore, maintaining the imbalance of power between employer and prospective candidate is built-in and ingrained in the process.
For that reason, you have to be a detective always on the lookout for hints and clues. Treat those hints and clues like shouts and screams—they are often the most important pieces of information you can get. They are your ticket to understanding the question behind the question and the unspoken words. Listen for what is being hinted at—people don’t feel at liberty to come right out and say the most important things, sometimes. Yet, these things that they want to say (but can’t) can be so important and influential that they will still drop hints.
Your job is to focus on the hints and unpack them. Dwell on them much more than the obvious stuff that you’re hit over the head with.
This is why the question: ‘do you have any concerns about me or my candidacy’ is really not a good one. It’s too direct and attempts to force the interviewer’s hand into giving a direct answer. You’re basically asking to be lied to.
The smallest details make the most significant difference in almost any competitive thing you do. The margin of difference between a winner and second place is often just one measly stroke—but it’s the difference between the prize money, fame and being forgotten.
I won’t bore you with clichés, the point here is to pay attention to this stuff and take it seriously. These small details that we’re are talking about now are what are going to ultimately decide it between you and the other top performers.
Be extremely careful. Humor has to be ridiculously safe in order for it to be at all effective in interviews. You are expected to be on your most professional behaviour. And pulling off humor that is both not lame and professional is extremely difficult.
I once had a candidate completely nail 99% of their interview with the client. The issue? When they asked his weakness, he eventually gave a good answer but he started out trying to be somewhat humorous about having a weak bladder that makes it more difficult to climb up ladders. The director was unimpressed that he thought the interview was a good setting in which to bring a bathroom topic into the equation.
A joke has to be more than just ‘PG rated’ and on safe subject matter. It also can’t depend on your best delivery in order for it to be funny. If a joke depends on how well you tell it, on your timing or on how you say it, don’t bother attempting. You cannot expect your best delivery in this situation, regardless of how well you dreamed it up. Bottom-line, humor is very subjective and you are often giving people a reason to rule you out that never needed to be there.
Notes should create images and maps in your mind. They should create familiarity and allow for quicker and organized recall of information.
They can hurt more than they help if your familiarity with your own content is so poor that you must essentially read your answers off the page. You want to get to the point where a quick glance at a keyword will jog your memory enough to bring the rest of the content flooding back for you.
Writing things down helps your mind crystallize concepts and it helps store things away for easier recollection. The actual image of the way words appear on the page helps your brain form patterns and choose important bits to hang on to. Doodles, underlines, different colors, etc all help your brain form images and make connections.
Also, structure to each note is important.
If notes are in the form of paragraph after paragraph of indistinguishable information, your brain and memory have no chance. Once your brain can understand the basic structure of how information is presented on the page, it makes jumping to the right section and navigating through the information exponentially easier.
For example, when prepping my interview dialogue, I use the following structure… every answer has 3 parts—part 1 is background story, part 2 is what happened in a particular instance and what I did—part 3 is the result and the takeaway. Using this structure is so effective in my note-taking that I can study my notes once and never have the need to look at them again. This is not because I’m smart or have a good memory—I have a poor memory. It’s all in how you file away the information.
We get much deeper into this in Part 4, along with examples and note samples.
Don’t be afraid of the sound of silence. It’s infinitely better than the sound of rambling and disorganized thoughts. You’ll find that virtually all hiring managers agree with this.
Rambling is a huge LVT—it basically says ‘I’m not confident in the answer I just gave, I’m unsure about the example I chose to use, I feel like I need to add more so that you are fooled into thinking that I know what I’m talking about’.
Control the urge to ramble. For many, it’s an instant deal-breaker. You’ll be instantly thought-of as a time-waster. No one can put up with that.
Instead, systematically present your answers with structure. Use your structure as your guide through the answer. Once, you have completed the final part of your answer, it’s over. Regardless of how much time this has taken. If the structure is complete and you’ve hit all your points, stop talking. Don’t be the next person to start talking again until someone else fills the dead air. This is a huge confidence trigger and a huge HVT.
8 When you get stumped…
It may be a curveball. It may just be a question you were not prepared for.
I remember the last time I got stumped. It was something super simple… but I had no idea what to say.
The interviewer said: ‘tell me about your most recent volunteer experience’.
For some reason, even though things were going swimmingly up to that point, I went blank. Nothing was coming to mind and no smooth transitions were coming easily.
What did I start thinking? In my head, I was like ‘oh gosh, I haven’t volunteered in forever… all my free time has been taken with having and raising kids recently…’ and eventually I started half-heartedly talking about some food bank I helped out at almost 10 years ago. Pathetic.
What I should have said?
‘My volunteer contribution has changed in recent years due to having kids but I help out with their stuff whenever I can… coaching baseball, hockey, taking their classmates on field trips, etc…
In my younger days I was fairly involved with food drives, food bank volunteering, etc..)’
How hard was that?
The issue? I was caught off guard and my brain went into panic mode because I just kept thinking ‘crap.. are you serious???’
Here’s what to do in this situation:
Pause… Again, don’t be afraid of silence. The perceived need to fill dead air and start rambling crowds our brain and doesn’t give us the time and space needed to think.
If you still need to buy more time, don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m sorry, I’m pretty sure I had a note on that…’ and flip through your notes while you continue thinking.
If really stuck and you’ve run out of comfortable pause time… say ‘you know, that question is really interesting and I’m glad you’ve challenged me with it… it was unexpected because of this… the best way I can answer it is…’
And then spin into your politician messaging. Bring the conversation back to the value you bring (as closely as it relates to what they asked) and your prepared narratives surrounding it.
Don’t make the interview about you… the size of your office… how close the job is to home… how interested you are, etc… keep it focused on the company’s need and the value you bring.
Plan travel route .. this will often be the first time you have traveled to this location. Don’t assume it will be a smooth journey. Make sure you know where you are going. Do a ‘dry run’ to the location so that you can get a lay of the land and ensure your travel time will be adequate on the day and during the time and traffic you are likely to face…
Arrival -- 5-7 minutes is perfect… why? It shows that you do things right. Any earlier forces people to deal with you before they are ready. Any later is cutting it too close.
Body language -- feet firmly planted flat, hands still on the table (not fidgeting)… back straight, slight forward lean to show ‘ready position’ and eagerness… don’t give the impression of ‘laid back’… it’s not a good look.
Extra copies -- you never know how many people you will meet and it looks bad when you have nothing for them. Bring at least 5 additional copies of resumes and documentation. Don’t assume that they have them because you sent these things in.
Documentation – don’t show up as if you were going to the beach--- be prepared and bring everything that could possibly be relevant with you. Being thorough and prepared is an HVT.
PPD – Don’t forget multiple copies of your Proactive Proposal Document. This is the deal-sealer. Checkout the bonus section for a sample and detailed instructions on how to craft this.
Your narratives comprise the message that you want to get across, regardless of what questions you are asked.
I’m going to craft my narratives for you right now in order to demonstrate this process. The following is essentially how you prepare your talking points for an interview. The goal is to prepare well-structured and bases-covering HVT narratives to succeed in each of the underlying interview ‘tests’.
You don’t have to answer questions you are not prepared for. I’m not saying that you can ‘pass’ when a question you don’t like comes up. Instead, you can ‘spin it into an opportunity to talk about what you really want to talk about. What you really want to talk about, essentially, is that which demonstrates your HVTs. Therefore, treat every question as an opportunity to bring it back to the most relevant aspects of your prepared narratives (which we will put together below).
What you are being tested on: Highlights of your career life and why they should care…
Often comes in the form of…
‘Tell us about yourself…’
This almost invariably gets asked in one way or another. Many interviewers like to kick things off with this because it takes all the pressure off of them and puts it on you to get things started. It also gives them information they can use—like potential sore spots and red flags that they’ll want to dig deeper into. A thorough interviewer will find your lowlights (regardless of how you try to hide them) and will keep probing on it until the ‘real story’ comes out. If you haven’t planned for this test, you are dreadfully underprepared.
Keep this to a couple short paragraphs and connect-the-dots of the last 5 years for them. Show the successful execution of a 5-year-plan. How does this flow into what your new goals are with the company you are interviewing with?
In 2011 I completed a Liberal Arts degree, which taught me to acquire and use information quickly in a variety of subject areas. I developed the ability to gain fluency in any topic in an extremely short time.
This seemed to parlay very well into the world of recruitment where the mandate is often to become very familiar with a number of different companies, sectors of the economy and professions. In fact, at the very first firm I worked at, I had the reputation of being a ‘human sponge’ it actually became a nickname. They would use it as a justification to assign me recruiting tasks that basically nobody else wanted—‘give it to the sponge’ the owner would say.
From there, a number happenstances occurred and I wound up starting my own recruiting business around the end of 2013. This was an incredible experience and I had the opportunity to get extremely hands-on with solving every bootstrapping start-up business problem imaginable. I was lucky enough to have the firm get acquired in 2016 and since then I have been using all of that delicious experience for a side consultancy and information products business.
My goal now is to bring this ‘spongeyness’ and problem-solving skills to a team that I can help. It ties in very well to the role here at ABC Company and the need to do X in the role as a Y.
What’s going on in these paragraphs?
I started approximately 5 years back and got right into what sort of value schooling gave me and how it would be preparing me for what comes afterwards and sending out the HVT of being a super fast learner and someone who assimilates knowledge quickly.
I continue on this line with the second paragraph where I substantiate this with a story that displays value, credibility and social proof (all HVTs). It also tells the story of a company depending on me for their really tough assignments.
The next paragraph is another story about me as multi-dimensional business problem-solver. Again, it shows a natural transition into the next part of the path which is the side-consultancy. Notice that I’m mentioning two experiences they are definitely going to want to test me about. I’m putting them out there right away and showing a natural transition from one to the next.
Test: What do you know about us and how legit is your interest?
Often comes in the form of…
‘Why do you want to work here? What interests you about ABC Company or the role?’
First of all, I think it is rare to get an opportunity with a company as well-established as ABC Company. You folks are very well-respected in X industry and I think it would be an awesome challenge to uphold that. I noticed also in the Big Business Publication that you were recently ranked extremely high in X.
I think the prospect of doing Y for ABC would be hard to match. The fact that A requirement is so well-suited to my B Skillset is a good indicator that this could be a great fit.
What’s going on in these paragraphs?
I start off with praise almost as if I’m stating the obvious that I should be naturally interested in their company. Then I am sending out huge HVTs by demonstrating that I understand a little about how they are positioned in the market and what’s been recently happening with them in the news.
In the second paragraph, I am subtly making the case that this is a serendipitous match between what the company needs and the key value I have to offer.
Test: Are you a flight risk that will waste our resources and the investment we will put in you?
Often comes in the form of…
‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’
The 5 year plan is actually really simple. In 5 years I hope to be working for the same company and really thriving at what I do!
What’s going on here?
This is a very short answer for a reason. This question is a bait and trap that is intended to reveal reasons to rule you out. That is virtually the only thing it is designed to do. The hiring manager wants to uncover red flags, hidden agendas, reasons for why you may become a problem, interests you plan on pursuing as soon as you save enough money, etc. The more you talk the more you risk saying something that may not align with the company’s perceived plan for you. So say your small piece and shut up!
Test: Are you aware of where you fall short and what you need to address?
Often comes in the form of…
‘What is your greatest weakness?’
My greatest weakness is that I only have about 6 months of recent experience working for a large multinational corporation. I know that operations in enterprise level companies vs small companies is sometimes like night and day. However, I think that during my short-lived tenure at a large company I have proven myself extremely quickly and showed I could thrive in that environment. While I was there I achieved X tangible target and received Y award or recognition for doing so.
Actually, I found that my ‘small company’ mentality helped me thrive twice as fast. This is because I was very accustomed to rolling up my sleeves and doing whatever had to be done. Once I got to a large corp with a whole bunch of resources and a great team behind me, I was like a kid in a candy shop!
What’s going on here?
Notice how I am focussing on a weakness on my resume and in my job history. I’m not talking about a deficiency in skills or performance. Most people say something ridiculous like ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I care too much’. DMs know these are BS.
Instead, take this as an opportunity to address a gap or red flag that you know the DM should be wondering about. Talk about why it is not a concern and tell a story about how it worked in your favor.
A note on Behavioural ‘BAR’ interviewing…
The fact that companies focus so much on this style of interviewing is a dead giveaway that they are more interested in people who can show rather than just tell.
The instinctual response for most people when posed with a question is to start telling about what they think the interviewer wants to hear. This is inadequate to say the least. You can’t say ‘in this situation I do this,’ or ‘this happens all the time and I do this’.
That’s garbage to decision makers and you will be passed-on immediately for answering in this way.
The interviewer here is inviting, expecting and even demanding that you get more specific. They want a specific story. Without a specific and credible story, it didn’t happen. The story needs structure and it needs to demonstrate the right outcome.
BAR stands for Background Action Result. This structure is a great way to organize virtually every answer you give. Using the structure makes preparation for specific questions very quick and painless.
Let’s consider some example interview prep.
First, the two most important points that should appear first in your prep notes:
What I know about ABC Telecom Company…
These are the point form results of your research…
- 12.5 billion company in telecom primarily
- also into some other cool things like health and internet of things
- impressive list of awards from top 100 employer to sustainability, diversity, etc
- I get the impression of a very progressive company
- fibre and on the cutting edge of telecom tech… everyone I know is switching to them!
What I can do for this company and why I am a fit…
Your story-starters for your core strengths and value…
My narrative in a nutshell…
I have a lot of upside (due to top performer sales results in past jobs)
Independent, dependable (as demonstrated here…)
Human sponge (this is what they call me because of this…)
Broad background (I have demonstrated success here here and here…)
Then… what appears next in your prep…
The 3 questions we outlined above..
Tell us about yourself…
Why do you want to work here?
Your greatest weakness…
Your Reasons for change (RFC)
What were the circumstances surrounding change and why did change happen in each instance? In other words, develop an air-tight narrative for each RFC.
Unacceptable ‘RFC’ (ie not real):
‘Wanted a new challenge’… (this is BS and can be used any time you don’t like something. If you are going to use this, you better have something specific to say..)
Didn’t get promoted (that just shows that you possibly failed or came up short… not a good idea to expose this)
Didn’t get along with supervisor… (never never admit to conflict)
Job was repetitive.. (your new job may have repetition too… this is a huge red flag)
Didn’t have time to search for a new job.. (that’s too bad… people do it all the time and it’s a huge leverage forfeiture if you fail to be employed while looking for work).
Company x offered more money (this shows poor loyalty and that you’ll jump ship whenever you can find another $1 an hour.. it’s shallow and if this company makes you an offer, who’s to say you won’t bail at the last second for a counter-offer—leaves huge exposure)
Job Sophistication – in other words, multiple specific points about why the target job or new job is a better fit for you and better suited to your skillsets
Structural (lay-offs, company went out of biz, company goes bankrupt, acquired, etc)
Location that can’t be avoided (company relocates, you relocate for unavoidable reasons.
These are the only valid RFCs
Interviewers, don’t allow your candidates to get away with anything less than these.
Interviewees: ensure your narratives fall in line with the latter 3.
So… back to the questions…
BAR structure preparation examples…
Tell me about a time when a client was dissatisfied with the service they were receiving. What did you do and what was the result?
What is being tested:
Can you listen to customers and act accordingly?
How do you resolve problems?
1. Customer dissatisfied that ABC Company’s customer service didn’t understand their issue and did not relay it to me, the technician.
2. I explained that problems often change by the time I get on-site so they leave it up to us… I listened and made sure I understood and reassured that we’d get them all fixed up.
3. Left the customer feeling very happy
Tell me about a time that you weren’t getting along with a co-worker. What did you do and what was the result?
What is being tested:
How do you handle conflict?
Do you burn bridges or are you able to maintain positive relationships with difficult people?
Tell me about a situation in which you have had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?
Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was the outcome? What do you wish you had done differently?
Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree. Why?
Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn’t like you. How did you handle it?
Note that these are not the most amazing literary answers of all time. They are simple and to the point. They simply fill-in the structure, showcase that a relevant event occurred and a logical process was followed. In every situation, the main aim of the answer is to ensure that no part of the answer can be flagged as a negative course of action.
Let’s look at some tough questions…
Why it’s hard… what are you being tested on?
What are your pet peeves?
The test: are you nitpicky and negative? Do you get irritated easily? Are you hard to get along with?
Why is it hard?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about things that bother you in the workplace. Don’t. Make it something small and insignificant and non-work-related. Downplay how much it bothers you, whatever it is.
What your pet peeves in the workplace?
Chances are, they won’t take it this far. But if they do, get super clever:
Say ‘honestly I think the workplace requires some cooperation and flexibility and I’m all about getting things done. So I do find it difficult when someone has too many pet peeves. But with good communication, anything can get sorted out.’
How do you handle stress?
The test: what sort of situations do you consider stressful and what sort of problems does stress create for you? Can you handle multiple assignments at one time?
Why is it hard?
It’s difficult to admit that we get stressed because it feels like revealing a weakness. However, there is no need to admit this.
Simply point to stressful or difficult situations and how you dealt with them. Provide stories of you rising to the occasion. Don’t talk about feeling stress. Talk about why the situation was potentially stressful and how you came out of it without ‘getting stressed’.
Who was your worst boss? Why?
This is similar the question about coworker conflict above.
Test: Do you have issues with authority, organization and policies? What leadership style is the best fit for you?
Why it’s hard?
Anytime the interviewer is inviting you to say something negative, it can be easy to fall into the trap. It’s a baiting technique to see if you will bite and reveal some hidden emotion that may be problematic. They want to find out if you harbor blame or grudges.
Resist the temptation to speak negative. Anytime you say something negative, the interviewer will assume there is no reason for why you wouldn’t go and talk about them in the same way. You can say ‘I’ve been lucky to have really good bosses, for the most part. I had one in particular that stood out because of X. The rest didn’t quite go that far over and above but honestly they were great too.’
Sometimes we instinctually think that employers and interviewers will perceive us as a better fit for the company if we can make a good case about how interested we are in working there and within the role in question. It’s important not to sell out. Maintain a fine balance here: you want to show interest, but not too much.
If the interviewer gets the sense that you are putting all your eggs in this potential basket, their level of power relative to you rises.
They’ll continually make you keep selling and proving your worth. The goal is to make your worth self-evident. You do this with spoken and unspoken HVTs (telegraphs). If you find yourself overselling or getting too attached to getting an offer, stop selling altogether. The goal is to get sold to at least as much as you are selling.
Your telegraphs should signal to the interviewer that you are in high demand (without arrogance). Little hints can be dropped about this and take every opportunity to mention other potential opportunities that are in-play for you.
One way to dramatically shift the balance is with exploratory and qualifying questions. Note: I’m not suggesting that you bring up anything about salary or compensation or perks or offer package here. Avoid everything about this in the interview stage.
What I’m suggesting is that you start digging around for a high level of detail when it comes to work environment, company culture, strategies and approaches, and company performance relative to competitors.
I call this, The Employer Interview Technique
If done right with the well-thought out questions, this technique is super powerful.
Have a lot of these prepared to use. Throw one out when you feel your power slipping away or keep them coming until you can feel the power dynamic shifting back to your favor.
What is the company doing to improve in X?
What do you feel your track record is on Y and are you happy with it?
I worked at ABC Company which is a world leader in X, how do you think that this company compares?
What are your favorite aspects of the company culture here? What would you change if you could?
What is one key area where you feel the department could improve team interaction?
What do you find is typically the cause of turnover here when it happens?
What sort of employee retention rates have you experienced? Are you happy with it? What sort of focus is being placed in this area?
How is the present economic situation affecting the organization?
Handling salary discussions…
Interviewers typically start establishing negotiation parameters within the interview itself. They do this because, at this stage, it’s not typically viewed by the candidate as ‘negotiation’ and therefore discussing it at this stage is strategic. It gives the hiring organization an immediate advantage by getting a good idea of what you would accept and reject.
And because of this advantage that it gives, this is precisely why you need to remain steadfast and politely keep your cards as close to your chest as amicably possible. Revealing information here is a huge LVT and a recipe for not getting what you want and deserve.
Here is why this is so challenging: many interviewers will press quite hard if they don’t get the information they are looking for. Maintaining a good relationship while still managing to not give away your power is another fine balancing act that you’ll need to navigate.
The bottom-line is that it’s not up to you to come up with numbers and throw them around. Your job is to politely accept and reject.
Let’s consider how to handle questions about salary with a scenario:
‘what are your salary expectations?’
‘I’m flexible. My main concern right now is finding a good fit. Therefore, I’m happy to consider your best offer’.
Sometimes it will end here—for now. Sometimes the interviewer is not mandated to press to hard or they will pretend to be satisfied with your answer for the time being and will patiently wait for another opportunity to press you on it. Or, they might refuse to move forward without pressing right away.
‘I understand, however, it’s our policy to get a clear understanding about salary expectations at this stage’.
‘I can appreciate that. I’ll have to think long and hard about it. Honestly, I’m not prepared with my numbers at the moment. I was hoping to first make sure there is mutual interest on both sides in moving forward.’
‘What are you making now? What were you making at your last job?’
‘Let me get back to you on that because I’ll have to confirm what I’m at liberty to disclose given the agreements I’ve signed in the past. I know that my past employers were very strict and tight-lipped about internal equity and pay information and I want to show them the utmost respect as I would for any employer.’
This is a very tactful way of the dodging the question and politely delaying the discussion. It’s very hard for the interviewer to make much of a rebuttal at this point. They can’t reasonably ask you to go against agreements you’ve signed and they will appreciate your discretion given that they have their own confidentiality that they would want you to honor going forward. Handling the discussion in this manner, therefore, showcases numerous HVTs.
Sometimes, at this stage, recruiters and aggressive hiring managers can push it even further. They may say something like ‘when my client or department head asks me your salary expectations and yours is the only one I don’t have, what should I tell them?’
Or they may say ‘I’m sorry that’s just not how it works and you very well may be ruled out for this reason’.
At this stage, interviewee needs to make the call. Is the opportunity worth salvaging for an employer who seems this preoccupied with nickel and diming? Or you can say, ‘whatever the range is that is offered for the role is what I’m happy to target at this stage’.
Using this line will probably be intensely frustrating for the super aggressive recruiters and managers who are really pushing the envelope. But again, it may not be an opportunity worth pursuing much further at this stage.
Think about what the recruiter or employer is telegraphing to you by making such a big deal here: they are essentially saying ‘we are very hung up about salary and we want to make sure we have the upper hand in negotiations. Getting someone at the right price is more important than finding the right fit’.
This is usually not a good sign.
For the Interviewer:
Close on Salary (CoS)
As the interviewer, you have to be able to accurately report salary expectations. Therefore, a candidate that navigates things as deftly as the above example can be a problem for you.
Therefore, you’ll want to urge the candidate to start accepting and rejecting numbers and package elements—you want to be able to feel them out numbers-wise and start getting an accurate idea of where their threshold is.
The best way to do this is to follow a CoS protocol.
As you can imagine, the steps laid out above formulate the first few steps. The questions from the interview side in the last section should help to uncover some initial data points that you’ll want to further refine.
Here’s how you refine salary expectations in accordance to particular jobs ie: what the candidate will accept for the specific job in question (different jobs will have different salary thresholds to each candidate… in other words they may require $20/hr to be a laborer but only $15 to be a CSR)
Use hypothetical scenarios..
Important: usually, you want to be at a stage where the candidate already has enough information to reasonably make a decision.
First, explain that negotiation doesn’t happen like they show it in the movies. It’s not going to be numbers going back and forth. The first offer has to be the right offer. It’s not going to be them coming with something super low, then you countering with something super high and going back and forth until you gradually meet in the middle. That’s not how it works and so you want to make sure the candidate understands that.
What you are doing here is explaining why you want to run through some hypothetical scenarios. Explain that in some ways it is your job to ‘go to bat’ for the candidate and ensure that an offer is drafted that is the right offer and good for both sides.
Therefore, use what you know about the candidate’s salary thresholds so far and start testing them against a specific job in question.
Try their stated salary expectation and move down. If they stated that they are looking for 55K, start with that number.
‘If XYZ company comes back to us tomorrow with an offer of $55K plus an acceptable benefits package, should we say yes?’
Now what if it comes a bit under that? What do we say then?
Well I’d have to think about it.
Ok, well let’s start thinking about it now.
Let’s pretend that you just got an offer for 54K plus benefits. Do we say yes or no?
I’d still say yes.
(aha! A new threshold and new information!)
Ok, what if they offer 52K? Do we say no?
Hmm, that’s a close one. I still don’t think I would turn it down.
(see how far we are getting now?)
Ok, where do you think you might definitely say no? If they offered 47K?
(now you have to feel out their response… listen for maybes, I’d have to think about its, etc)
By taking them through hypotheticals and getting them to imagine actually receiving an offer and putting them in the position of acting and prodding them to make a decision, you start getting much more reliable information.
You’ll know what numbers they feel comfortable with and what might be needed to sweeten the pot to achieve reliable acceptance.
Have a Master Interviewing Checklist. These are the things you must cover—the questions you want to ask, the information you want to get. Both interviewer and interviewee should have a check list of things that must be covered off before ending the interview.
The checklist is very category-specific.
With some job and candidate types, you need to make sure they have certain certifications, have a clean driving abstract, have fall protection, have safety boots, first aid, etc… these are must-asks..
More interviewee question ideas (more questions to ask the interviewer):
Do you have a formal training program? How long is it? Could you describe the type of training? •
How will my performance be evaluated, and how often? •
How is the present economic situation affecting your organization? •
What are your plans for expansion in terms of product lines, services, new branches, etc.? •
How would you differentiate your company from your major competitors? •
What do you consider to be the major challenges to the industry today? •
What is the next step? Will I be hearing from you or should I contact you? •
What is expected of new hires? •
What are the company’s most difficult challenges in the year ahead and how does the firm plan to overcome them? •
How will I know that I have met your goals? •
How often do managers conduct performance evaluations? •
How would you describe your company’s management style and decision making habits? •
How do you help workers balance their personal and professional lives? •
What kinds of people are most satisfied working for your company? •
What is the staff turnover ratio? Why do you think people leave? •
What are the company’s values? •
Does this position have room for growth and advancement? •
How is the company positioned against the competition? •
What does success mean to you?
Closing the interview
If you have the chance, it’s nice to put a bow around your core value proposition right at the end. Due this by stating your interest in the position and the good match that you think it’s challenges are for your core value. Summarize how the position and you align.
Get some clarity on next steps. It’s important to do this now while you have people in the room. Once you leave, getting information will be often be very difficult. Ask things like ‘how far along are you in making a decision for this role?’ or ‘how quickly would you like the successful candidate to start?’ or ‘just so I can anticipate timing, how do you foresee the rest of the process playing out?’ or just plain old ‘what are the next steps if I move forward?’.
Ask for the business cards of everyone you met. Often, the people you meet will not be the same as those you had previously been in contact with. You don’t want to lose track and you’ll went to send a follow-up to each.
Yes, it’s a thank you note. But it’s more than that. You want to fire this thing off within 24 hours. It serves a few purposes.
First, keep it brief. Respect time at all costs.
Second, actually say thank you. It’s a huge ordeal for folks in companies to set aside hours of meeting time. They have other deadlines and mandates and things to do. Show that you appreciate this and don’t take it lightly.
Third, show that you were listening. Mention one or two things you learned. Mention one or two key ‘take-aways’ that you got from the whole experience.
Fourth, give value. If it makes sense, quickly reiterate how you can help and address whatever point you would have liked to include during the meeting.
A good way to evaluate is to have a recording to study. I’ve gotten good at sneakily switching my phone’s voice recorder on during meetings. My automatic call recorder pro records all phone interviews (and all phone calls even Bluetooth). Therefore, getting into the habit of recording what you can is super valuable.
In this way, you can recall both sides of the dialogue, what was said by the interviewer and what their intention was behind it. The response by the interviewee and whether or not all the relevant points were hit on.
Review your performance through the entire process so far. Determine your plan for making adjustments. Determine what needs to be addressed in future follow-ups and when those follow-ups should take place.
Also, now that you have more information, evaluate the company and the job vs your expectations and interests. Is it still worth pursuing? Did it maintain it’s position in your personal rankings? Go through the advantages and disadvantages of the role and the company, as well as the pros and cons.
What would it take for you to accept an offer?
Will couch this as it was brought up by a student of Dominate the Hidden Job Market…
Actually I am having a lot of problems to pass the group Interview phase . In most of the groups interview that I have gone, I had to handle a presentation about myself (strenghts, weakness, why this company, etc) and a group study case, that after about to 30 minutes, we had to make a presentation about the solution. Do you have any tips for this kind of interview, what should i do, if i am shy?
Group interviews, of course are a lot easier for extroverts who tend to be more naturally at ease in these situations. It perhaps doesn’t take as much adaptation. But for introverts, the story is much different… here is my response…
I am an introvert and can relate to your challenge with group interviewing.
There are 3 main ways to completely transform how you respond in this situation: 1. Embrace it (rather than dreading it) and 2. Over-prepare. And 3. Warm-up chats.
One of the reasons for why you are having trouble is because you presently view the experience as unpleasant. It’s very hard to excel at something that you’re already turned-off on. If you can teach yourself to embrace this situation, your ability to perform within it spikes dramatically. You have value and strengths that the others do not and your advantage will be your preparation and strategy for conveying this.
As an introvert, when it came to any sort of presentation, winging-it just never worked for me. I’d get panic attacks when having to think on my feet in a group setting. I also hated introducing myself and talking about myself. The only way this changed was when I over-prepared and came ready to over-deliver. And I don’t mean to the point where I was reading from a script—that never works either. What I mean is that you’ll have your structure and ‘scripts’ in the background and as reference points and mental maps. But during the event itself, you do not rely on them too heavily. Instead, trust in your preparation and ‘be in-the-moment’. Let all of that preparation just be there to help you and give you confidence. Have a narrative structure prepared for every scenario you know you’ll encounter. Practice introducing yourself and throwing in a little bit of humor in that part to get things off to a comfortable start.
Also, as introverts, we need to warm-up socially. I know that the tendency is for us to be in our heads, ignore people and just let our mind battle itself in constant fear and over-compensating thoughts. Allowing this to happen is not the best way to warm-up on the day of the interview. Instead, on that day, start it by being more social than you ever have in your life. Chat with people—on the way, at the coffee shop, in the parking lot, in the elevator, in the waiting room, etc. You will get energy from this. And, all of a sudden, you’ll feel a familiarity with everyone and you’ll feel like people are really on your side. Your brain will also shift to focussing on external operation and it will start ‘greasing-the-wheels’ for you when it comes to speech and response time. It brings a pretty high level of comfort when you do this and you’ll go in with more ‘social energy’ than you would typically have on a normal day. Meanwhile, paired with your meticulous preparation, these become a powerful combination.
Hope this helps!
Thank you Ryan for your response, really apreciated it.
One more question:
During the group study case, what should I do to highlight myself from the others, one example, in one interview that was Important to me: All the people were separated in two groups, one represented a sell side of a Home and the other represented a buy side, We must make a deal that was good for both sides. We had 15 minutes to prepare our deal and after discuss with the other side for a solution.
I had prepared a lot for this Interview but I couldn't predict what should be, In this case I didnt know what to say , What should I do in situations like this? What does Interviewers want in cases like this?
Without having more context, this is a tough one to answer fully.
What sort of job were you interviewing for?
Were you given the chance to discuss with the other side prior to crafting a proposal?
Were there any parameters to the deal?
In general, the folks doing the hiring want to see you contributing intelligently without creating conflict. They want to see how you think through a problem. Sometimes, this involves not being afraid to ask clarifying questions.
Perhaps you could have taken the lead in your group to some degree by asking everyone in your group what would be on their ‘wishlist’ or ‘checklist’ in terms of criteria that would need to be satisfied for your side of the deal. Then, narrow down which of those are non-negotiable and which could be potential concessions. Then you can put the concessions in order of importance so that everyone is in agreement about which items are conceded. This way, the whole group is on the same page prior to entering the negotiation. Also, you’ve taken the lead without dictating your own interests or opinions.
If you are the one to take the lead in asking the group these questions, chances are, you'll also naturally take the lead in presenting your side to the other group. At this point, you essentially do the same thing again-- you ask questions and determine what they want and what they could compromise on. Confer with your group if needed before making hard decisions. Having things play out in this way would certainly be in your favor. And all you've essentially done is ask good questions without having to come up with really anything on your own.
Ryan is a job market expert, staffingpreneur mentor & career coach.
He teaches companies to hire well.
He teaches recruiting firms how to hack their growth.
He helps new entrepreneurs launch their staffing & recruiting enterprises.
He teaches job seekers the art of career mastery.
In 2013, Ryan founded LyrGroup, a workforce solutions firm in Toronto that quickly grew to revenues of $2.6M in the first year. In 2016, the firm was acquired.
Since then, he has been travelling, consulting and creating online courses & programs.