10/02/2008

Corporate Survival Guide: Getting the Job

Before we can become great warriors for the corporation, we must gird ourselves for battle. This means getting the right job with the right company. And to do that will take interviewing skills so powerful that the company not only wants to hire you; they would be afraid not to.

First impressions are the most important ones, the ones that make or break the deal. So you have to make sure that your first impression for the company leaves them quaking with respect, fear, and wonder. It's like a first date, but without making out. Unless you must to seal the deal.

Following are some important techniques that you can use the nail the job.

Dress

One of the most difficult problems we all face in today's Corporate Battlefield is how to dress for an interview. Dressing too casually gives the impression that you don't care about the job. Dressing too nice gives the impression that you don't have a clue about this particular corporate environment. So what should the Warrior do?

The best solution to this and, in fact, most problems you will face during your career is to do exactly what the people around you do. In this case, that means dressing like the people in the company. But it's not good enough to dress generically like random other people in the company: you should dress exactly like the people interviewing you.

Typically, you will get a list of people that you will be talking to for your interviews. If you don't get this beforehand, insist on it, claiming some allergy to certain names or whatever excuse you can come up with. Once you have these names, you must stalk the people on the list; watch them coming in and out of the building, taking note of what they are wearing.

Once you've compiled a list of the various outfits being worn by your interviewers, go buy those exact clothes. On the day of the interview, dress in layers, wearing all of the clothes in the proper order, so that between each interview, you merely need to peel off the outer layer to present yourself in an outfit that is tuned to the next person on the schedule.

Some important nuances to note:
- Sometimes the interview schedule will switch around at the last minute. If this happens to you, first see if you can get the original schedule back. If this is not possible, perhaps because one of your scheduled interviewers has malaria or is dead, then you'll have to improvise. Bring a lab coat to wear during the interview with the unknown person. This neutral approach will avoid all clothing issues and preserve the rest of your outfits for the people that they were tailored to impress.
- Some of your interviewers may be of a different sex. For example, you may not be used to wearing a dress like you saw your third interviewer wearing. This is not a problem - they will be all the more impressed that you happen to have their fashion taste even at the risk of societal awkwardness.

Start negotiations early

Typical salary negotiations start when the company finally admits that they want you. But this is far too late; you've already lost the upper hand at this point, and the negotiations will reflect this.

The true Corporate Warrior begins negotiations first thing, as soon as you walk into the company. Demand a pay package commensurate with what you know you are worth to them. Agree on terms before proceeding any further in the interview. After all, if they can't match your expectations, then the whole process is a waste of time.

Sometimes it's difficult to know what the right salary is. After all, you haven't had this exact job before, and you don't know how much the people at the company make. So it's usually safe to start with "Double your salary," to whomever you're meeting with first. This puts the numbers within an acceptable range, making it relative to the pay package of other company employees.

This brazen approach will convince them not only of your value, but also of your confidence and your ability to seal a deal.

Answering Interview Questions

One of the typical problems that arises in interviews is that you have to answer questions that you don't know the answer to.

Psychologists have been doing this for years, ever since Freud first said, "I don't know, what do you want to talk about?" This technique is now practiced by politicians everywhere. No matter what question is asked, they stick to their policy message: "Senator, do you know the time?" "The time is now, and always has been, and always will be, for my healthcare solution for all Americans."

In fact, the last time a politician answered a direct query was when President Taft answered the question, "Do you want another slice of pie?"

Inevitably, you will get questions in your interviews that you really haven't a clue how to answer. The trick is threefold, and is what I like to call the RTR method:
- Redirect
- Talk about something you know more about
- Remind them about some other question they asked that you actually did answer.

I'll give you an example:

interviewer: It says here on your resume that you're an expert in the Kroonglebaum Process. Can you tell me about the Three Tenets of that Methodology?

candidate: Kroonglebaum is an excellent process, and certainly one that I favor in the groups that I lead.
For example, I managed a team of over 90 people spread throughout over 100 Geo's to implement a solution for corporate goaling, and I was recognized by the executives at the company not only as having excellent leadership skills, but also dressing well under pressure.
By the way, I'd like to return to your earlier question about coffee as an example of my decisiveness; I trust that you were satisfied by my quick and confident assertion that I would like a cup of coffee. It's just another example of the type of action-oriented contributor that you'd be getting when you hire me.

Did you notice how cleverly we avoided the entire issue of the question, while at the same time giving interesting and crucial information about other aspects of our skills that we know far more about?

The important thing to note here is that it is far easier to develop skills of avoiding a straight answer than it is to actually learn any subject in particular. If you develop the first skill, you'll never need the second. As long as you can avoid talking about anything in particular, then you can also avoid having to know anything in particular.

Your Resume is a Pack of Lies

Another thing to notice about the previous item is that the reusme point about Kroonglebaum was obviously fabricated; our candidate hadn't a clue about it. But given the cleverness with which he deflected any questions about it, he didn't need to know anything. This is a skill to capitalize on: stuff your resume with all kinds of fiction: bullet points on skills you've never heard of, buzz words you made up, and accomplishments you couldn't possibly have achieved without another 75 years on the job.

This approach has multiple benefits, such as:
- Easy credit: None of us has anywhere near the experience that hiring companies expect of us, but that's no reason to stop us from making them think that we do. By listing it on the resume, you've staked a claim that you do know about it. Most of them won't know all of the stuff that you list either, so it's unlikely that you'll have to talk about most of it. When you do get a question, just make sure to skirt the issue appropriately and you're home free.
- Conversation: The goal of your interview is to stretch the conversation out and cover the time allotted. The worst thing you can ever do is to let the conversation die. So if you give them more talking points, then you are automatically building more conversation into the process. Don't make them work to figure out who you are; lay it out in black and white who you want them to think you are.

Ending the Interview

It's important to let the hiring company know who they are dealing with. In particular, you must keep the upper hand in the relationship. Interviews typically put the candidate at a disadvantage; the very concept that they get to make the decision about you is already a bad start.

But you can easily counter that and claim the home court advantage.

When the interviews are nearly over, check you watch pointedly and then exclaim that you're late for an important appointment and you must leave. Get up, shake their hand once, tell them that you will think about what they have said and get back to them, and let yourself out of the room.

If you do this quickly enough, you will so completely throw off the last interviewer that they will still be in the room, trying to figure out what just happened. Meanwhile, you can wander around the building, searching out a good place for your new office and stopping by the break room to pocket some free sugar and creamer packets. You may not need these, but it's an important psychological point that you have not been interviewing for free, but have now been compensated for your time.

If, by this time, they still haven't found you and escorted you out, consider finding an empty office and starting work. Roll those sleeves up, get some charts out of your bag, and look busy. The only difference between you now and you as an employee is the paycheck, and that will surely follow.
Post a Comment