“Do more than hear, listen. Do more than listen, understand.” – John H. Rhoades


Jeffrey Fox tells the following story in his book “Don’t Send a Resume”:

Douglas MacArthur, the legendary World War II Army general, was looking to hire a new aide. After a staff review of candidates, MacArthur interviewed the “short list.” One of the potential aides was a young lieutenant. At the beginning of the interview, the general asked the lieutenant, “Did you have any trouble finding the place?”

“No, sir,” answered the lieutenant, who then asked, “Sir, what is your view of the role of the Army in winning the war here in the Pacific?”

For one hour, interrupted only by the lieutenant’s occasional “uh-huh” and “Could you elaborate?”, the great general talked. At the end of the “interview,” the lieutenant was offered the job. Later, MacArthur told one of his colonels that the young lieutenant was one of the most intelligent officers he had ever met.

I had the same experience in graduate school. I spent a quarter of an hour telling a visiting scholar how much I liked his books and what an important critic he was and asking him fan-club type questions. He later said to the department chairman, “That young man is extremely bright. He’s one of your best students, in my view.” He formed that opinion without hearing a single thing about me or what I could do and without hearing a single opinion of mine except how much I like him.

This is important to remember when you are seeking a job. It’s useful in any interview but especially so if you get to talk to the person you’ll be working for.

That said, let’s round out this week’s discussion with 14 more ways to get a better job — from your current employer or a new one.

1. Your cover letter should be very personal. It should indicate that you (a) know the company in some detail, (b) like the company, and (c) believe you have something specific and valuable to contribute to it.

2. If you include a resume, make sure it is tailored to the individual company.

3. When talking about yourself, don’t use self-serving cliches (such as “a passion for customer service”) that virtually any job candidate can make. Instead, use facts, incidents, and numbers to reveal your qualities and capabilities.

4. When you are talking or writing about your accomplishments, focus on what you have done recently (say, in the last few years).

5. If you have no relevant experience, don’t try to pretend you do by making a job at Burger King sound like rocket science. Here is where you make up for your lack of experience by showing specific knowledge of the company and industry you aim to work for. If you’ve done your homework well, you will be seen as a blank sheet with great potential (always desirable).

6. Don’t summarize your career, experience, or skills. State the facts briefly and clearly once.

7. Don’t say what your career objective is. No one cares but you. Your job, as the salesman and the sales product, is to talk about the needs and desires of your prospect, not yourself.

8. When you go for an interview, have a specific objective in mind and work hard to achieve it. If you haven’t been promised it by the end of the interview, ask for it (nicely).

9. A hiring interview is a sales call. Don’t talk or tell. Answer, ask, and listen.

10. Consider “showing” something — a customer survey, industry data, etc. — that illustrates the work you’ve already done and helps make the case that you can contribute to the company’s success. The tactic of showing is a time-honored staple of strong sales people.

11. If you interview at a restaurant, don’t drink alcohol and/or order something and eat very little of it.

12. In your research, discover dress preferences, if any, of the company you’re interviewing for. Don’t be a rebel. Conform.

13. Don’t try to befriend your prospective employer. Be friendly instead.

14. If you feel you might not get the job you are seeking, suggest that you can do a project for the company on a free-lance basis. Perhaps even for free. “That way, you can find out if I can do what I’ve promised,” you can say, “without any risk on your part.” This works in selling vacuum cleaners. It should work for you.

One final word from Jeffery Fox: “If you don’t know why the company should hire you, it’s a good bet the company won’t know either.”

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.

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