Friday, September 16, 2016

Got the Interview? Now Get the Job!

You’ve got the experience, you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the interview. Now get the Job.

If you are fortunate enough to get an interview, that means something in your resume and experience leapt out at the HR representative. If you know what that star item is, you’re off to a good start. Be it a full time position, freelance role, or contract assignment, the interview is your opportunity to follow that momentum and see how you might add instant value to the organization.

Do your homework
Before you approach a prospective employer, do your research. Know the company’s history and strengths. Read about the founders, the CEO, leadership structure, etc. Study their products and evaluate their market impact. Is their stock suffering over the last year or two? Are they the leader in what they do? How do you think this company would benefit from your skill and experience? In addition, what technology are they utilizing to get results? What partnerships have they formed and what new markets are they breaking into?

Doing your homework will give you plenty of talking points in your interview. You will also be well equipped and less nervous for your shot at the title. You will form a concise reason as to WHY you want to work for them.  If they ask “Where do you want to be in five years?” “In ten years?” and “What is your ideal job?,” you better have good answers. Your research will enrich your responses and paint you as an interesting candidate. By doing your homework on the most relevant points, you will make a good impression.

Ask the Right Questions
Based on your homework results, you are prepared to ask good questions. What does the company hope to achieve by hiring you? What do they think your biggest challenge will be as a newbie? Is the team eager to have the position filled? What kind of reception would you get if you started work tomorrow?

I once got hired in a key leadership position, but was dismayed to learn upon my first day that the team was skeptical of change. They felt a new team leader would amount to nothing in contrast with the long autocratic history that governed their daily tasks.  Gaining their trust was an uphill struggle. If I had known of this atmosphere before I accepted the offer, I might have prepared some strategies to galvanize the team and replace unproductive pipelines,

Asking the right questions will not only give you the information you need to assess your effectiveness, but will clarify to your employer that you are a forward-thinking, clear-headed mature candidate. Skip “Where’s the coffee machine?” in favor of “Would it be possible to meet some of the team?” or “Who would I report to”?”  

Another area to define is your employer’s expectations.  Do they expect you to bully your way into your new role, or do they prefer you forge alliances with key colleagues? Are they prepared to publicly back you up and give you the support needed to make their directives a reality? How you are woven into the group can make a big difference between a great first year and a terrible one.

There may be an opportunity to mention the latest tech you’ve read about in the trades. What kind of version control software are they using to manage assets? Is their compliance software off-the-shelf or proprietary? You might inquire if they’ve considered using “xyz” technique to improve accuracy. When your prospective employer scores your interview, they will account for the relevance of your questions.

Know Thy Value           
How much are you worth?

Your worth comes down to two things: How much value you can bring to the company to make their business a more prosperous entity, and how much you deserve to get paid. Your interview will probably breach the daunting topic of salary. “What kind of salary are you looking for?” they may ask. This one is a doozie. If you respond with a number that is much too high, you stand to look foolish if you still want the gig and are willing to accept a much lower offer. Go too low, and you look as if you undervalue your contribution.

When asked any salary question, have an answer ready.  Unless you are damn sure what they industry standard salary is for this position, you may want to redirect the inquiry with something like “I’m flexible within the going industry rate, but it depends on the big picture. Salary is important to me, but so are opportunity and a feeling of accomplishment.”

If possible, be first to ask them what their budget is to see if they are even considering a reasonable number. If their figure is far too low, but you sense they like you, you might be able to itemize each of the proposed job responsibilities and get them to reflect on the veracity of their pay scale. You could be the one candidate who proves they need a higher salary range to attract top talent.

Thank You and Follow Up
Don’t forget this important step. If you think this position is everything you want, say so. Let them know that you are most definitely interested in joining the team. Mention your availability date and that they can contact you anytime if they require further info for making a decision.

As soon as possible send an email that says how much you appreciated the interview and would love to discuss the position further. Chances are you met with at least three employees in addition to the HR rep. If you were able to get their contact info from their business cards, drop them a short line of thanks as well. Now that you have garnered enough background on the position, it doesn’t hurt to add a short sentence or two as a reminder of what value you bring to their team.

Impact Mark
You’ve learned a bit about the employer. You’ve clarified the details. You may have a good idea where you will fit in, who you will work with, and the project being considered. Now it’s time to go outside the conventional interview process.

It’s time to leave your Impact Mark.

When I interviewed for an Art Director position at EA Sports, I knew that EA wanted to merge cinematic storytelling with their blockbuster sports games like Madden NFL and NCAA Football. They had met me previously and were attracted to the drama and camera angles in my storyboard portfolio.

When I walked into my interview, I sat in a conference room of twelve staffers. Questions went all around, some great, some canned. I had my own share of questions, especially since I was unfamiliar with the mysterious technical processes of video games. Most of the staff seemed unreadable. After getting a complete studio tour from the senior Art Director, I walked away with uncertainty. For an interview that lasted over three hours, I couldn’t tell if they were or weren’t interested.

How could I add value to this extremely mysterious group of individuals? How would I get a second chance to talk to them?

In the next few days, I replayed the interview in my head. They had spent a lot of time showing me their current NASCAR racing game. I was sure they needed some art leadership in that area.

I needed a NASCAR related follow-up idea that would leave an impact – what I now refer to as my IMPACT MARK.  I had recently spent an afternoon drawing at the Richard Petty Racetrack, designing drawings that felt like an actual NASCAR race in progress.

I had been amused when I noticed the Richard Petty track sold huge, worn out NASCAR tires as souvenirs for 5 bucks apiece! I can’t emphasize how big these tires were. I’m not sure if they sold any, as they had stacks of them outside. Any tourist would need a small fortune to ship one home, but I could buy one, throw it in my trunk, and use it my promotion scheme.

Using my PETTY drawings to build a portfolio, I placed the book inside a small tool kit, which I suspended inside the tire using bungee cords, bolts, and a black mesh netting to seal the tire on one side. On the front of the case I emblazoned the message “Put Me in the Drivers Seat to Complete Your Winning Team.”

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if my package would be a welcomed delivery. What if the Senior AD was irritated that an enormous rubber, metal, plastic and paper monstrosity appeared on his desk? What if he hated the smell of rubber and despised the cumbersome weight of my showpiece? I hesitated for a minute, but with the encouragement of my wife and some friends, I realized that the idea was too exciting to pass up.

I hired a messenger to hand-deliver it to the Senior Art Director’s desk that Monday morning. Within a few hours I got a phone call with an amused voice on the other end. “You sure know how to make an impression,” said the Senior Art Director. “We’d like to have you in for another interview.” My Impact Mark worked!

Two more interviews later I was hired, and soon the Tire Portfolio story was spread around EA like a folk tale. Many people heard rumors that “Someone got hired because they sent a “Big Tire” to the Senior Art Director.

I smiled inside because I knew that it wasn’t just any tire – it was my IMPACT MARK.

What Impact Mark would make a lasting impression on your next prospective employer?

Expect to Hear from Them
There is nothing like a sense of certainty to carry with you throughout the days following your interview. You are confident that your preparations - research, questions, value, and impact mark - will get you an offer in the near future, or at the least, prepare for that eventuality.  

When you get the call and the job offer, be prepared with an answer. Have the answer rehearsed so it covers both a good offer and a bad offer. Is the offer final? Are they open to negotiations? Maybe you ask for a signing bonus or extra stock options to sweeten the deal, or maybe an earlier performance review.  They might ask for something in return, maybe by starting earlier than originally discussed or by working a few weekends on the house. Remember they are making an investment in you, perhaps as much as you are investing your future in them.

To sum it up, consider your top choice, do your research, ask better questions, clarify your contribution, establish your worth, say thank you, and leave your Impact Mark on the experience. Will you get an offer? I can’t promise. But each of these steps will rocket you closer to the role of a lifetime!

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