August 24, 2009

How to Say It: I’m taking over this interview…

Filed under: How to Say It, Interviewing

In the August 25, 2009 edition of the newsletter, I discuss A Killer Interview Strategy. (Don’t get the newsletter? Sign up. Sorry, it’s not archived. This special “rollover” feature from the blog is for newsletter subscribers… a place to discuss what’s in the newsletter and your ideas about it.)

You advise “doing the job in the interview.” A manager isn’t going to understand that I want to demonstrate what I can do, and might not like the idea of me taking over the interview. If I want to make this suggestion, how do I say this to the manager without getting the boot?

Wowee, you’d be surprised how many managers are shocked when job candidates actually suggest showing how they’d do the work… right there in the interview. In this week’s Q&A feature in the newsletter, candidate Gerry leaves the manager with his jaw on the floor. And gets the job without a traditional interview.

How would you introduce an offer to show what you can do? Ever tried it? How would you say it? Ever get booted out of an interview for being “so brash?” Or, did it get you an offer?

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18 Comments on “How to Say It: I’m taking over this interview…”
By Alan
August 25, 2009 at 8:28 am

This approach has gotten me my last two jobs. They were both significant forward moves for my career. I showed up with a written 90 day plan of what I would do on the job in my first 90 days. I answered their questions, but then I pulled out my plan. “I have something that I’ve prepared that outlines what I think I could do for you that I’d like to go over if that’s OK with you.” No one ever says no to that. The plan concentrates on solving problems and making a difference. Takes significant homework ahead of time, but it’s worth it.

By Ohadi
August 25, 2009 at 10:42 am

Did my home work, presented plan for integrating solutions across stovepiped organizations. Did not get the job. I was seen as a threat to territorial managers. Good thing too because I wouldn’t have liked working there.

By Bonnie
August 25, 2009 at 10:43 am

I love your advice, Nick… and Alan’s approach of answering their questions first and THEN knocking their socks off with his presentation. I think that’s a great strategy, particularly for employers with HR’s that insist on pre-approved, identical questions for each candidate. It also allows a chance to modify the presentation (if needed) based on the earlier Q&As.

By Janet
August 25, 2009 at 11:27 am

Bonnie is right; some workplaces, particularly union shops, require that questions be identical and be scored numerically so candidates can be evaluated under identical conditions. So it’s a good plan to do the presentation at the end. However, it may mean it’s got to be quite short.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm

@Alan: I luv ya, Man!

@Ohadi: Interesting payoff in your presentation. It kept you out of a broken job.

@Bonnie & Janet: Now you’re raising a very big problem. “Fair and even” interviews. I’ll comment on this on a separate blog post. This is a big topic.

By Bill
August 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Nick,

An excellent column this week on how to market yourself and demonstrate to potential employers “why they should hire you.” The question for me becomes, from your example of your friend Gerry, wouldn’t there be a risk in giving an employer “free professional advice”? I have heard numerous stories of candidates like Gerry who propose solutions to company problems, not get hired and find out down the road that the company actually implemented their idea, in essence STEALING it??? At what point do you hold back to protect your ideas and ingenuity-feed them some to get the hiring manager’s appetite whet, then hold off until they get serious with a formal offer extension?

Keep up the good work!

By Nick Corcodilos
August 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm

@Bill: Thanks for your kind words. And you hit the nail on the head. Some companies do indeed steal concepts from interviews. That means you must be circumspect and limit what you divulge.

And when they ask for more… you smile knowingly and tell them you’d be glad to tell them the rest if they hire you. :-) Or, if they feel they need a consultant in the meantime, your rates are such and such. All with a smile, of course.

By Lorraine
August 25, 2009 at 3:34 pm

One of things that has always worked well for me was when an interviewer asks about my skill or knowledge (or whatever). I always have a ‘case study’ or two in my back pocket so that I can say, “Let me tell you about a time when such & such happened…here’s what I did.”

It works like a charms — shows you have the knowledge and the b@lls to assert yourself in an interview.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

@Lorraine: I think it’s a great idea to be ready with concrete examples of what you’ve done. Just be careful not to fall prey to “behavioral interview techniques,” which focus on evidence of what you can do rather than on something specific the employer needs to have done. It’s a big but subtle distinction that’s lost on most people. (For more about the problem with behavioral interviews, see http://corcodilos.com/blog/16/hrs-new-dildo-the-behavioral-interview)

I’m not knocking your method — it’s a great start. But if you really have b@lls, why talk about what you’ve done? Instead, ask the employer to lay out a live problem she’d like the new hire to tackle. Then quickly outline a plan for how you’d do it. That takes brass and quick thinking, but it also reveals that you are focused on the actual work of the employer. That’s what I mean by “doing the job to win the job.”

By Joe
August 25, 2009 at 11:43 pm

I’ve heard people doing the 90 day plans; I think it impresses people that are easily impressed. Most people, no matter how much homework you do, know what it is to do a job in a particular company. It’s presumptutious to think you know how things work in that company. But hey, if you get a job, good for you.

Interview are 80% about fit, 15% of what you have done, and 5% if you can do the job (an exception is tech jobs, which require what I call “guild” skills.)

Unless you are coming in as EVP or CEO, you shouldn’t have a 90 plan – they should know their business plan. If they need me to tell it to them, I’m likely hiring in at too low a position.

I’ve gone this route – you have to be careful not to give too much away. I did this once (as in “My mother hung me on a hook once. Once.” from Johnny Dangerously). I shared the plan, which they loved. They decided to take it and hire another person for 20% less.

I’m all for tackling an issue and discussing it, but to me, interview != free consulting.

I think your better bet is to probe with specific questions about their organization, their approach, and compare/contrast to domain related experiences you’d had.

I’m also of the mindset it’s better to have 10 irons in the fire, and do a reasonable amount of effort, vs 3 iron, and spend a ton of time prepping a pitch that may not even work.
It’s a number games in order to get a job, plain and simple.

By Tim
August 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I like your example of Gerry and how he did a presentation and got the
job. The example also answers the question posed later on, in the
column on the right, about how to take over the interview. Don’t just
try to take over; ask if you can do a presentation. This is brilliant.
I suspect that asking permission is crucial.

By Jim
August 27, 2009 at 10:38 am

I specifically tried this approach once. I told them in the interview to put me in front of a computer (I’m a programmer), give me a live problem, and I’d show them how I’d handle it. In other words, I was ready to go to work right then and there. They declined, but I got the job within 2 days. And I was told later that my approach is what got me the job. I later became a star performer for them.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

@Jim: Your story says it all. I think that even employers who are startled by such an offer during an interview realize later what it means: that the candidate is ready and eager to hit the ground running. Kudos to you!

@Tim: Yes, asking permission is crucial. This is not intended to dominate a meeting or to show off. It should be done cooperatively. The more you engage the interviewer during your presentation, the better. And you’ll see just how engaged the interviewer is… if they’re not engaged, well, you get to see immediately what they’d be like to work for.

By Scott
August 28, 2009 at 12:36 am

Hi Nick,

Your advice on getting interviews and connections by networking, calling people, is the best ever. This do the job stuff I’m not so sure about. If someone came in to interview and gave a presentation where he or she did the job, I’d call corporate security to see who was leaking our proprietary information. At high engineering levels, we expect you to know how to do the job in general, and my interview questions (which have gone nowhere near HR!) check that. But the winning candidate has skill and flexibility and a certain degree of humility. A common flaw in young engineers is to come in and recommend the obvious things to make the company or project really efficient. I did it myself. As they really learn engineering, they learn to look at all the factors. Once in a while they come up with really new ideas, which get followed up on. But someone coming in to do the job, even if they read our papers which are a few years out of date, is kind of saying that he knows better. If he’s wrong in the slightest, out he goes.
Now, asking about the group’s issues and asking if they thought of a couple of new approaches, on the fly, is something that will get the job, because it demonstrates that the candidate has a good grasp of the basics and can think on his feet. Coming in with a Powerpoint presentation – in any place where I’ve worked.

Sorry for going on so long, but this bit of advice has bugged me for a long time. I do recommend your site to anyone I meet who thinks that job boards are the way to go, though.

By Nick Corcodilos
August 28, 2009 at 10:11 am

@Scott: A candidate can be humble and still talk about how he or she would do the job. Nothing proprietary has to be discussed, and the level of detail can vary greatly depending on the company and the position. As Tim noted, asking permission is crucial – it should be a friendly dialogue, not a PowerPoint presentation that leaves the interviewer feeling like they’re sitting in an audience! You must use your judgment. Showing how you’d do the work is different from being an arrogant know it all who ticks off the employer in the interview.

By Olger
September 1, 2009 at 2:40 am

Hi Nick,

Although maybe a little off topic, it’s still a good story.
A good 10 years ago I applied for a job (which a workmate picked up and passed on to me and we both applied, we’re still good mates), as a Sales Engineer for a small (15 staff orso) company selling software. This was on a Tuesday morning. We had to show up the day after at 5pm. We were asked to select an IT topic and create a presentation for the job interview. Not knowing anything about the company itself (the products they sell are well known) I called them up and asked what sort of equipment they had available for running a presentation. Turns out they had a computer and projector, no whiteboard or paperboards or overhead projectors. So I (and my workmate) proceeded creating a presentation in Powerpoint. Turns out I was the only applicant that called up and asked about the equipment, which was part of the reason why I got the job at the time. Some applicants showed up with overhead sheets… Ouch.

Mind you, I had never done a presentation for a job interview before. When I showed up at the company (on time as I had been there the evening before so I knew where I had to go), I was shown around and was allowed to setup my presentation. Then things got a bit busy as people walked in and out, and eventually people started to sit down. I had expected a somewhat traditional audience of 2 to 3 people. There was about 10 or 12 sitting down. I had to swallow a few times.

In the end, I got the job due to my posture doing the presentation, the fact that I called to ask what presentation facilities they had, and because I didn’t freak out when I found out the size of the audience. Of course, my skills played an important part too ;-).

It’s also the most memorable job interview I’ve had so far. Even more recent interviews have not left such as lasting impression.

By Scott
September 1, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Nick,

If people really followed your advice, they’d already know as much as anyone is telling about the job, and will have an edge. The interview would really begin long before the official one. I’ve been “interviewing” at some companies for years now, just in case. Maybe that is the missing link. Don’t go in there after researching the company on the Internet and tell them what you’d do, but do go in there after picking the brains of internal contacts and tell them what you’d do.

By magnesiummangel
October 5, 2009 at 6:08 am

I really like your advice. I am so glad I found this article!I like it very much.. I think if i follow this advice than easily i can crack any dam interview. Thanks for sharing such a nice information.

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