The above title reads like a headline from your local newspaper, but this is a classic story of what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Rick is an IT Project Manager, and has been my client for the past three years. He reconnected with me recently for interview coaching as he was pursuing an opportunity through a recruiter. He met with the recruiter and got a clear idea of the challenges his target company was facing. Using that information he developed a strategic plan, prepared a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the challenges and offering solutions, and sent it to the recruiter for review. The recruiter was so impressed with his approach that he asked all shortlisted candidates to prepare a presentation.
By the time Rick came to me for coaching, he had updated the presentation to include matrices and charts, and was confident he knew what the company needed and the value he could offer them. I reviewed the presentation with him, then we focussed on interview questions he would most likely be asked. To cover all bases, we reviewed other questions that could come up based on the problems he identified and the environment in which he was going to work. He left feeling very confident.
At the interview, all eyes were focused on him and the presentation. When the interview ended he was told that he would hear from them by Friday. In less than two hours, and before he got back to his office, they called to offer him the position. Not only did he get the job, but it came with a $20,000 pay increase and an excellent benefit package.
Here are some things that Rick did right:
- He took his job search very seriously instead of leaving it up to luck.
- He did not wait until a day or two before his interview to seek coaching. Too many people go to the interview ill-prepared and with high expectation that something miraculous will happen.
- He researched the company, found out what problems they faced and offered strategies for solution.
- He separated himself from his competitors by going the extra mile. He capitalized on his strength and, in so doing, raised the bar by which the other candidates were measured.
- His expertise and enthusiasm shone during the coaching session and because of that we were confident he would do well at the interview.
Rick’s case is not unusual. More and more hiring managers are asking candidates, particularly those at the managerial and executive levels, to prepare to deliver a 10-15 minute presentation. Rick was not asked to do one, but it gave him an edge, and to a large extent, allowed him to set the agenda and control the interview.
I have coached many individuals to do what Rick did. In one case, it was a corporate lawyer who wanted to apply for an internal position as Corporate Responsibility Officer. A presentation was not a requirement but I suggested she prepared one anyway, as she was competing with three other internal candidates. From her assessment, they appeared to have had the edge, including one who was with the company for 22 years and was acting in the position. The research that she did and the strategy we developed helped her to ace the interview and get the job!
As competition increases, job seekers are being pushed to find creative ways to stand out from the crowd. Not everyone will have the successes mentioned above; not everyone will be vying for positions at those levels, but if you are serious about moving your career forward, it requires an investment of your time.
Some people spend more time planning their vacation than they do their job search, and from my experience, it’s easy to spot these individuals. They call in a panic the day before the interview to ask “Do you guys do interview coaching, and can you see me this weekend?” or they leave a message wanting to know the fee for a ‘general’ or ‘generic’ resume so they can apply for a job that has a deadline the next day. This quick fix, microwave approach won’t work, and that’s the reason some people’s job search go wrong. Don’t let this happen to you.