Ask the Headhunter: How to win any job
In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
Question: Your advice is for upper management people, not the rest of us. You suggest "standing out" in a job interview by showing an employer how you would do a job "profitably" to get hired. You talk about giving the hiring manager a "business plan" about how you'll improve the job. Try to picture a waiter doing this. It might work for executives, but not everyone can be the boss. Can you give me something more realistic for working stiffs?
Nick Corcodilos: Do the job to win the job — right there in the interview. No matter what the job is, if you're not prepared to show how you'd do the work, then you have no business in the interview.
I know that sounds harsh and certainly a bit frightening. But what's the point of applying for a job that you can't show you can do? I'll offer an example I've used here before. It applies to any kind of job, from company president to bottle washer.
I was the guest on a radio talk show, and we were taking calls from listeners. A blood lab technician called and said he just got rejected for a job. I told him to go back to the employer and offer to show how he'd do the job more profitably than any other applicant would do it.
He tried what I suggested, called the manager that had already rejected him and said, "I know I blew my interview for the job analyzing blood samples in your lab. But I thought some more about the job you need done. If you'll give me 15 more minutes of your time, I'll show you how I can speed up processing time in your lab by about 10 percent with no loss of accuracy."
The manager said no one had ever even suggested that before and took him up on it. The guy showed up and went into the lab with the manager. There was no interview this time. The manager wanted to see what the applicant could do.
The technician looked over the layout of the lab, where all the samples and supplies and instruments were, and he thought about other labs he had worked in. Then he showed how, by shifting the work space around, he could speed up the testing process significantly. He got the job.
"No one's ever actually come in here to show me how they'd do the work," the manager told him. The technician called me afterwards to share the story.
I have no idea how much faster the lab was able to process samples. It probably wasn't as much as 10 percent — but that job applicant showed the manager something no one else had. The technician basically created a business plan for the job, right there on the spot and then executed it.
If a person can't do that, then they have no business asking for the job. It works for any job. Even for a waiter in a restaurant who can figure out better ways to handle tables efficiently and accurately. Everyone is the boss of their own job, and their number one priority is to do the job profitably.
Why is that simple idea so lost in business today?
Dear Readers: Could you do this in a job interview? Is it really so complicated? Thinking about the last job you were rejected for, how could you have applied this approach to try again?
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you," "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps," "How Can I Change Careers?" and "Fearless Job Hunting."
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