The Extra Mile: Building Your Interview Cred

While I’m not sure if everybody has been impacted by this trend, over the last few weeks I’ve seen a strong uptick in the number of people landing interviews — with at least a half-dozen clients reporting that this interviewing activity has translated into a new job opportunity!

What’s more, among the several notes I received from folks who landed new assignments, one person sent along a detailed rundown regarding his new role and the extremely proactive lengths he went through to secure it.  With his permission, I’m passing along his remarks, since I thought they painted a “role model” picture of how a serious job hunter might approach an interview — especially if they realize they might have other strikes against them in terms of not having the ideal background and qualifications:

Matt: I have wanted to work at Expedia for many years.  I’d applied to a few positions here and there over the months, but more often than not, I heard that my resume didn’t look like a typical resume the company receives and that I didn’t come from a typical background such as Microsoft, Amazon, or elsewhere. 

And yet, here I am, with happy news.  I just landed a job over there!
In terms of how I pulled it off, after monitoring their employment listings carefully, I found a group within the company that seemed to be more open-minded about the types of backgrounds they’d consider based on what I could tell from the LinkedIn profiles of people who worked there.  I then invested HEAVILY in background research so that during the interview process, I was able to spend each interview sharing with them what I had learned about their product, challenges, and opportunities — and getting their feedback.  Just to give you (and your clients) a little more detail on the process I followed, once I learned that I was being considered for the position, I did the following:
#1. I reached out to my network to find anyone who touched this Expedia product in any way…seller, developer, or user.  Through LinkedIn and a couple of referrals, I was able to interview 8 people.  Each interview was between 30-90 minutes long.  Some people I bought dinner/beer/coffee for and some I went back to several times.
#2. I pulled down all the data I could find about the product and marketplace from the web.
#3. I then went to Yahoo Finance and became familiar with the revenues and growth rates of Expedia and all of it closest competitors.  By the time I was finished with this research, in fact, I had uncovered a number of trends and market insights beyond what was openly talked about in the media — and was able tell the hiring managers some things they didn’t even know specifically about their own company and its performance, relative to their competition.
#4. With all of this data, I then built a model that I could put on the white board, allowing me to point out the near-term challenges and long-term implications of the group’s current strategy.  I knew this was a bit risky, but I knew my stuff and could back everything up I put in front of them.
A couple additional tips I’d share include:
— At the start of every interview, I mentioned that I had the opportunity to speak with 8 people from their product ecosystem and greatly looked forward to hearing how the interviewer’s ideas of where the product and division was headed mapped to what I had heard.  That got each interviewer to ask me, without fail, what I had heard at the beginning of each interview.
— I would then ask at some appropriate point if I could draw (on the whiteboard or paper) and then I largely mapped out the conversation for the next 45 minutes…which only gave them ~10 minutes for them to ask open-ended questions about my background at the end.  This approach was able to show them how well I understood their challenges, how I thought, the research that I’m capable of conducting, and how I present.
— I was then interviewed one more time over the phone, but I opened that conversation the same way and had a similar result.

Much thanks “Mr. X” (you know who you are) for allowing me to share this story — and in all of my years of coaching, I’m not sure I’ve heard a more textbook description of how somebody should approach an interview if they want to give themselves the best chance of succeeding!  While there’s no question that many organizations are plagued by bureaucracy, or that you could run into a control-freak interviewer who resists the efforts of a candidate to create real dialogue, I still believe that most hiring managers are tremendously impressed by candidates who take the time to go the extra mile, know their stuff, and arrive at the interview ready to make a strong statement about how they can solve the employer’s problems.

Glad it worked out for you and hope the new position gets off to an amazing start!

4 Responses to “The Extra Mile: Building Your Interview Cred”

  1. Bill Crawford June 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Price – I agree completely. There is certainly a difference between someone who goes on the offensive to demonstrate competency and an insensitive know-it-all who assumes too much. Early in my career, one of my mentors used to ask me whether I was hiring someone who can think for his or her self or someone who thinks they know what I think I want someone to think. I’m reminded of that every time I see a posting that says “We want a proven stellar performer who has done exactly this, this, this and that (read between the lines: We don’t really want someone who can build a better mouse trap).

    I’m glad you mentioned Mr. X’s persistence as well. There are certainly those who will only hire people who have demonstrated unusual tenacity and most candidates don’t prepare well enough or persevere.

  2. @Bill – as a former hiring manager (I am a consulting PM at the present time), I can tell you that particularly in larger companies, hiring new people is fraught with issues, including but not limited to hiring incompetence, logic-defying policies/processes, and of course, territorial turf.

    What was amazing about Mr. X’s story is his perseverance and finding a way to taking control of the interview. Just to be clear, Mr. X wasn’t taking over an interview by rambling, he was taking over an interview by demonstrating clear competence and in-depth knowledge about the company.

    Mr. X took targeting a company to a whole new level, many “clicks” above where most people take it.

  3. Bill Crawford June 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Congratulations to Mr. X and Matt for an excellent post. Interviewers either know what they want or don’t have a clue. Either way, Mr. X was in a position to really impress those who know what they’re looking for and show those who don’t, what they should be looking for. These are the kinds of situations that make me wonder what Expedia is doing with all the individuals who passed on Mr. X before he finally found someone able to recognize talent. How do cutting edge technology companies that pride themselves on thinking outside of the box develop such inept hiring practices that they could pass on Mr. X so many times before getting it right? I realize Mr. X probably probably improved his strategy and delivery over time and that some companies won’t hire anyone for the first job they apply for, but it should be hard to miss someone like Mr. X.

  4. Matt, first of all, a tip of the hat for you posting this but really the tip of the had goes to Mr. X.

    Secondly, I received a similar comment once about the depth of the research I had done and how knowledgable I was. Got the job!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: