by Dan Silver
You are preparing for an
interview with your top company prospect. Wouldnt it be ideal if the
most updated intelligence on their needs and issues were available? Not
the generic, bland requirements listed in the job description, but the
salient, pressing issues your potential boss is facing right now?
The following approach will demonstrate how to gather the best
intelligence before that first interview so that you can distinguish
yourself from your competition, and win the job.
Out of habit, most have confused the idea of interviewing with taking a
test. When the call arrives from a company requesting an interview, our
immediate reaction is to behave like high school students preparing for
an exam. We cannot ask what the test questions are because thats
cheating! So off to the Internet we go to study. Note: Researching the
company and industry is important, but do not confuse online research
with understanding the core needs of the position.
The reality is that job interviews are not exams and you are not a
student. A more accurate metaphor is that you are a consultant
conducting due-diligence and the interviewer Mr. Boss - is a potential
client. What consultant enters a client presentation meeting which is
what the interview really is without understanding the clients most
pressing issues? A competent consultant conducts an analysis of the
customers core issues prior to presenting why he is best qualified to
solve them. As obvious as this seems, the interview is not set up this
way, but it can be.
STAGE 1 THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
You have the power to gain valuable information before you get to the
interview. Heres how it works.
Hello Mr. Smith, (thats you), Im calling from ABC Company. We have
your resume and Mr. Boss would like to schedule an interview with you
Terrific. Make an appointment that gives you at least 3 days to
But before ADMIN hangs up:
Before we finish up, it occurs to me that I have a bit of a dilemma
Im very much looking forward to my meeting with Mr. Boss next week,
and at some point in our discussion he is likely to ask me a very
important question, which is what can I do for your company in regards
to Mr. Bosss specific needs. Appreciating that Mr. Boss is a busy
executive, I would like to maximize his time as much as possible in our
meeting. In order to answer this question intelligently, Id like to
have a better understanding of what his core needs are, so that I can
properly prepare, and he can get the most out of the meeting. And in
order to do this, I would like to ask him. Could you put me through? Id
like to briefly speak with Mr. Boss.
Objection #1 ADMIN
Im not sure how comfortable Mr. Boss would be speaking with you before
the interview I dont know that anyone has made such a request
Oh, of course I understand that this must seem like an unusual
(Agree with her - do not argue.) The reason I ask, however, is that I
view myself as essentially a consultant, a solution provider and Mr.
Boss as a potential client. As you can imagine, no consultant walks in
to a client presentation meeting without having a pretty sharp
understanding of what the client needs are, because otherwise hes is
wasting the clients time. My goal is to maximize Mr. Bosss time as
much as possible. So I can assure you that I will be brief with him by
phone and I think Mr. Boss will appreciate my directness.
Objection #2 ADMIN (and much tougher):
Mr. Smith, didnt you answer our job posting on Monster.com? Dont you
already have a job description? You dont need to speak with Mr. Boss.
I appreciate what youre saying. I do have the job description and its
a good one, but having been involved in the hiring process in previous
companies, its been my experience that decision makers rarely write the
actual job posting. Because of this, the unique characteristics that
define the position for Mr. Boss, the skill sets that are most important
to him, are often left out. So, ironically its whats not in the job
posting that could be the most important aspect of the position. And
thats what I would like to prepare for, to maximize Mr. Bosss time.
So, I can assure you I will be very brief, and I think that Mr. Boss
will appreciate my directness.
Objection #3 ADMIN (The most likely objection and the easiest
Ok, but Mr. Boss is not available right now. Hes away from his desk,
in a meeting, traveling, etc.
Terrific, since were not scheduled to meet until Thursday, when would
be the best time to reach him for just a few minutes? Before 9:00 AM or
after 5:00 PM?
Why these responses work:
Remember, you did not cold call Mr. Boss. His secretary called you,
representing a completely different dynamic. You are one of the few
people out of hundreds that Mr. Boss would like to meet. In this initial
phone call, you are important and possess leverage. The Administrative
Assistants job is to make this meeting happen. She is likely to
acquiesce to your unusual request if your voice is patient, kind, and
your responses are consistent with the above.
Back to our scenario... The admin assistant has advised that you can
reach Mr. Boss at 8:00 AM the following morning. Following the call, she
sent a note to Mr. Boss informing him of your request. If he does not
want to speak with you, he will simply not answer the phone and wait for
the interview. This is key. If your fear is that he will not like this
idea, then the very fact that he answers the phone eliminates this
possibility. If he answers, hes intrigued.
STAGE 2 THE BOSS
My name is Mr. Smith and you and I are scheduled to meet with you on
Thursday, March 12th at 11:00 AM to discuss the position of marketing
manager. (Open with this line to focus his attention.)
What can I do for you?
Im very much looking forward to our meeting next week and I think at
some point in our conversation you are going to want to know what I can
do for you regarding your specific needs. Id like to maximize your time
as much as possible in our meeting. If you could briefly outline the
skill sets that you feel are most valuable to succeeding in this role,
or the types of initiatives you want the person hired to immediately
address I will put some thought to it and I think you will get more
out of our meeting as a result.
Thats it. Do not say another word. If there is silence on the other end
let there be silence. Hes thinking about it.
Ok, Im looking for someone to market our line of products to new
retail markets. We want new markets. I need someone with strong
branding, product development, vendor relationship and team leading
Thank you very much. Ill give this some thought and I look forward to
seeing you next week.
Do NOT chat with the boss. You are not doing this to make friends. Just
get his needs, thank him, and politely end the conversation. The
strength of this approach is the idea itself. Making too much
conversation only jeopardizes the premise of maximizing his time.
The Ideal Candidate Pro (IC-Pro)
Now that you are armed with the bosss core needs, lets put together a
document that far exceeds the value of your resume. Its time to prepare
The IC Pro consists of a table with two columns. Column 1 is titled
Company Requirements. Column 2 is titled, My Background. Quoting the
boss as much as possible, list the company requirements in column one.
In column two, provide short examples of how you have successfully dealt
with these types of issues in the past.
Before we move forward, consider the following questions: If you were
Mr. Boss and someone put you through this experience, would this
individual stand out from the crowd? Are expectations higher for this
person given that he proactively sought and received information on the
position that his competition does not have?
As the candidate who executed this strategy, lets walk into the
interview. What do you think Mr. Bosss first question will be? Pause
for a moment to think about it. Over the years my clients have reported
the following almost without exception: Mr. Boss opens the interview
with: So, we spoke by phone a few days ago and I gave you some
information. What have you come up with?
Your response: Thank you very much for the extra time to speak with me.
I put this together for you (hand him your IC Pro, which matches up your
background to the issues that he had raised). I would be happy to take
you through this or, if you like, you can take a look.
What happened to the typically dreaded first question, Tell me about
yourself? Its gone. Mr. Boss did not open with that question because
he already had a conversation with you - a surprising one prior to the
interview. That call raised his expectations. He wants to see what you
did with the information he gave you. Tell me about yourself is out
the window where it belongs. The interview is now running on a
different track the consultant track. Many clients have reported that
the entire interview then proceeds with the boss asking questions based
on the material presented in the IC-Pro. Mr. Boss is still asking the
questions, but you have provided the script, one that matches up your
best stuff to his specific needs. The interview has now been elevated to
a discussion between a client with a need to fill and a consultant
prepared to demonstrate how he has met those needs in the past. Leave
test taking for your competition.
Following the interview, your IC-Pro will be passed around to others in
the company who have influence over the decision to hire you. While your
competition is relying solely upon a resume to impress in their absence,
your materials will go much further. Your IC Pro connects the dots. And
these connections lead you to the job you seek.