A few days ago, I had a chat with a former student who was looking to move up into a managerial position. She was depressed – she’d had interview after interview, but never got the call back. She’d faithfully followed all of the traditional advice on interviewing, with no success. What could she do?
There is so much material written about acing an interview that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I googled “how to get hired on your first interview” and got 183 million search items!
Some of them give really funny advice. Don’t wear red socks, they say, don’t drink Coca Cola if you are applying for a job with Pepsi, spend a good chunk of money on your first Nordstrom suit, and don’t come across as an eager beaver. Seriously?
These are all nice pieces of wisdom.
But, I told her, if you want to get hired on the spot, you just need to do these two things:
1. Show that you know their company or business inside and out; and
2. Bring new ideas to the table that are relevant, exciting, and make you sound like you’re already working there!
Learn this, and you can wear red socks for your first interview, I promise.
But how can you do this, before you’ve even talked to them? I’ve broken it down into steps, which if you follow, will help you make an unforgettable impression.
One week (one month is even better!) before the interview:
Learn all you can about the company. Print out or scribble down your notes on flipcharts gathered from their website, CEO interviews, and other company data. Figure out their strategy, competitors, and trends in this industry. Your desk or basement floor should look like a war room – pieces of paper, flip charts, pictures, articles. Everything should remind you of what this company does and what it prides itself on.
Think about it day in and day out. Imagine yourself in the CEO’s shoes.
Next, turn off your mobile phone, send the kids outside, and THINK. Figure out how exactly your experience, your connections or your creative vision can help this organization achieve its goals. Picture yourself already in the job; today is your first day. What actions will you recommend to your boss that your new division take immediately? What will you tell him or her about where you want to take your group in the long term? How will you lead your team to get there, starting now?
One fantastic tool that you absolutely must apply for this challenge is visual thinking. Go to your library or Amazon and beg/borrow/buy Dan Roam’s bestselling book The Back of The Napkin or Sunni Brown’s The Doodle Revolution. These two authors provide you with down-to-earth, practical principles of visual thinking that will change how you look at any situation. (I believe that my small investment in The Back of The Napkin provided me with the biggest ROI – jobs that I loved.)
These principles work every time, because they trigger your thinking.
Remember, unless you have ideas and concrete proposals to offer, there is no way that your beautiful smile, sharp Nordstrom suit and new Zappos shoes, can help you get that job! Don’t just tell them about your experience – instead, use your experience to generate useful ideas for your new employer. It’s your ability to synthesize elements, not some sort of static knowledge or list of achievements, that your employer wants and needs.
3 Days Before the Interview:
Gather the ideas and proposals you’d like to present to your future boss via this interview. Compile your presentation on 4 x 4 index cards. Each card should carry only one strategic message. Lay them down nicely on your dinner table. See what flows and what doesn’t, and be selective. Scratch the wrong stuff out.
Now, your next step, which is absolutely essential, is to create your breakthrough flipcharts – no more than 3. I suggest one to three. These flipcharts will have your best thoughts, smartly drawn.
Why is this so critical? Simple: your future employer doesn’t expect this. Most interviewers don’t use a visual thinking approach themselves, and they certainly don’t expect one from a job applicant. They usually expect a verbal answer. It’s possible that some folks tried to impress them with some boring powerpoint slides, but you are going to be different. Your drawings show that you’ve done a lot of strategy work already. Most importantly, you are NOT faking it – you now know more than any other applicants.
So roll up your sleeves, and do some artwork as prescribed by Roam. I promise – it’s not difficult, even for the most artistically challenged of us.
1 Day Before the Interview:
Well, we’re almost there. Now it’s time to create your superb American Idol presentation, your Gaithersburg Address, your Fulton Speech, your Cicero moment, where the main player is you. You are the message; you are the most important part of the interview process. Don’t hide behind the curtains of mediocre presentations, but memorize your stuff like your ABCs. Practice it aloud. Let your family, your friends or your pets interview you and hear how you masterfully transition from being interviewed to presenting your vision.
Remember, you are going to get it right. At the first interview.
The Night Before the Interview:
Don’t go to Starbucks, don’t brew your double espresso. Make your mind rest. Sleep. It is in your sleep that idea chemistry happens and all your elements come into place.Remember how Dmitri Mendeleev dreamed up the periodic table of elements?
At the Interview:
Just do it. You’ve put so much time into preparing, that now all you need to do is let it flow. Afterward, you’ll wonder why no one else walked in with ideas. It was so obvious, right?
P.S. Just for the fun of it, wear your bright red socks.
P.P.S. Send me a message if you used my advice, and tell me what happened. If you’re not hired on the spot, I’ll buy you a coffee next time you’re in DC.
Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, international business expert, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.