“[All highly successful people] treat life, business, and success… just like a nightclub.
There are always three ways in.
There’s the First Door, where 99% of people wait in line, hoping to get in.
There’s the Second Door, where billionaires and royalty slip through.
But then there is always, always… the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, climb over the dumpster, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, and sneak through kitchen. But there’s always a way in.
Whether it’s how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software, or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest director at a major studio in Hollywood — they all took the Third Door.” — Alex Banayan
Spray and pray is how most people job search
This is how a lot of people apply for jobs. The funnel. They make a list of a bunch of jobs they “want”, they submit applications to tons of places with a 10 minute cover letter, they pray for responses, then they go on a few interviews.
I like this approach if:
- You don’t know what you want.
- You’re practicing getting comfortable interviewing.
The funnel approach is often used in sales and marketing, too. It looks like this.
But what if you do know what you want?
Ever come across a job that you want, badly? A job with a company you’re passionate about, a mission you can get behind, and one that you’d do anything to land?
If you feel this way, here’s what to do next.
Verify there is a match first
The first thing to do is to chat with the hiring manager. Your goal is to ask questions. Often times when job recs are put together, they are done so without a clear need, with limited information, and then rushed out the door. It’s your first order of business to find out the following:
- Good people?
- Good position?
- Good product?
I like them in that order, but obviously there are products you wouldn’t want to work on. 1 is non-negotiable. Hopefully you can determine 1 and 3 for yourself. If not, see my post above about asking questions.
#2 is a bit trickier. Your goal is to determine if the job is going to challenge you. Here’s how I think about it.
It’s your job to work with the person hiring as a partner to help determine if the job is right for the both of you. If you’re an engineer and it turns out the job is mostly sales (assuming you’ve never done this before and are not interested) then you should probably bow out. On the other hand, if you’ve been a VP of Sales for 20 years and they want you to be an entry level sales person… you’ll be bored.
What’s really interesting is this middle position. You can land the boring job, no problem, but this middle position requires you to sell yourself. You need to convince the hiring manager that what you can do today is the most important piece of the job and what you can’t do today, you can easily learn. Oh, and that you’re likable :).
You need to convince the hiring manager that what you can do today is the most important and what you can’t do today, you can easily learn.
10x your impression
There are tons of things you can do to convince the people you interview with that you’re exceptional. But, all require tons of work. Usually 10x the work that anyone else does. It’s worth it though.
Here are some strategies you can employ.
- Prepare hard questions.
- Research everyone you’re meeting with and put together a list of similarities between you and each person.
- Read, read, read about the company: Glassdoor, Quora, Google. If the position is a policy position about new markets for Lyft, you should have three pages with timelines of every new market they’ve entered in and a list of challenges they’ve faced in each market.
- Send handwritten thank you notes to everyone you chatted with, including the person who let you in the door!
- Ask probing questions (make sure the context of the conversation is right). How do I compare with other candidates? Will you recommend me for this job (towards the end of each chat)? Knowing all you know now, would you take your job again? Describe the one thing about this culture you wish you could change? What’s your biggest struggle in your position and how can I help?
- Use their product and provide feedback, but make sure to do it in a constructive way and make sure to comfortably lead the conversation that way.
- Focus away from your experience and back on the problems of the job and how you can help solve those problems.
- Get the names, titles, times, and email addresses of every meeting ahead of time. Email them thank you notes, takes notes so each so you can reference the conversations you had ahead of time.
- Takes notes during the interview and in your subsequent interviews, refer to their colleagues. “Nick was just telling me about problem x and how you’ve solved it in the past. How did this approach turn out?”
- Listen. Actively listen. Be totally present and be comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” Or, “can I think about this over the weekend and provided a structured response next week.” Pause when you need time to think.
There are tons of things you can do and some of them fall in these buckets.
- Be present.
- Do research.
- Provide a high-touch experience.
- Do work ahead of time, but don’t just dump it on the table.
- Connect with people (see #2).
There are tons of things you can do, but you don’t do because you’re so busy doing urgent things or recovering from those things by doing non-urgent and non-important things (TV). Or, you’re already thinking about another interview.
Spend some more time high and to the right and think about how you 10x your impressions.