The Power Of Unrelated Skills

It’s early 2000 and I’m interviewing for a Solution Architect role at Compaq. The hiring manager, Russell looks up from my CV and asks about my sailing experience. Which I’ll admit threw me somewhat at the time. But I got the job.

December 2004 and I’m interviewing for a Strategy Consultant role at Microsoft. The hiring manager, Gray spots my dive watch and we spend 45 minutes talking about scuba instruction. Again, I got the job.

Later I learned what great hiring managers know. There are core capabilities that drive excellence such as:

  • Perseverance through discomfort
  • Teamwork under pressure
  • The ability to explain complex concepts simply and others

These are often refined and definitely demonstrated through entirely unrelated pursuits.

Sometimes it’s the totally unexpected skill that brings home the bacon (or in this case, beef)

The Last Question

QuestionProject 2012: Day 352

With just 2 weeks left in this blog series I figured it time for us to get to the crux of the matter. Finishing off the final interview, and negotiating your job offer.

So this weeks post is all about your last question:

“Do you have any doubts as to my suitability for the role?”

That’s it. Exactly like that. Practice it word perfect.

If the interviewer has doubts, you inquire as to what they are, and resolve the doubts there and then. If they don’t, then your next question is:

“Great, what are the next steps?” and “When should I expect to hear from you or would you like me to call?”

The next steps are important, and if you’ve managed the interview process well, your interviewer will expect you to want to know when you’ll be moving forward.

This question is so powerful that my daughter was practically offered her job even though the organisation still had other candidates to interview. They literally said that if her references checked out, they’d be pleased to offer her the job.

And they did.

Remember, if there are no doubts (or you’ve resolved them) the role may still go to another candidate. In that case, this job was not for you. You’ve done your best, put your best foot forward, been helpful, thankful, confident, and shown you can do the job.

Hold your head high. Well done.

Accelerated Rapport–Part 3

Project 2012: Day 345

People like people who are like themself. The next time you’re in a shopping mall, just have a look at teenagers. This age group, known for it’s rebellion against authority, still all dress alike. They have the same phone, the same jewellery, the same shoes, and the same clothing. Their dress expresses and forms their identity. By wearing similar clothes, they identify with others.

This is a simple concept, dress for purpose. i.e. dress in in the same style as your interviewer. If they’re in a suit, wear a suit. If they’re in casual clothes, dress down.

But there’s a couple of nuances to this principle.

There is no point wearing something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Chances are your dream job entails you wearing something comfortable. So if you have to dress up, to be someone you aren’t, just to get the job, it’s not the job for you.

The second nuance is about branding. Wear something that sets you apart from everyone else. Watch Tim Cook, or Richard Branson, or Mark Zuckerberg. Neither of them dress to “convention.” Their confidence to wear what they want is likeable in it’s own right. Oh, and they do dress for purpose, to identify with their primary audience.

This doesn’t have to be a major distraction. It could be a pair of cufflinks, or different sorts of shoes.

In the 90’s I used to wear loud waistcoats (vests in the US & Australia) rather than ties. At the time silly ties were all the rage, but I’ve never enjoyed wearing a tie, so the waistcoat was my way to feel comfortable whilst being (somewhat) formal. Certainly made me stand out though Smile

I don’t necessarily suggest everyone do that, there’s a certain confidence you need to be able to carry it off.

Thankfully that time has passed Hot smile

Accelerated Rapport – Part 1

Project 2012: Day 324

Small talk!! The bane of so many people. I mean it’s not real communication is it?

Well, actually…

…in an interview, you have a job to do. One job only. Get to the next stage of the hiring process. That could be short-listed for the next round of interviews, or contract negotiation. That outcome requires you to generate trust that the interviewer considers you, not only right for the role, but the best person for the role.

Trust.

Trust is a combination of 4 factors: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and whether you’re oriented on yourself or the other party (in this case the interviewer). Now your CV and references will in a large part determine your credibility & reliability, as will your answers to interview questions. Not to mention the questions you ask.

But only building rapport will increase your intimacy factor (and decrease your self-orientation factor). In short, how do you make the person believe you are like them, or at least “in synch” with their way of thinking?

The Cold Read

In the (brilliant) BBC series Hustle, there’s an episode where Alfie, the mentor of a group of con-artists, teaches Danny, the up-and-coming n00b, the Cold Read. In the episode he shows how to observe tell-tale signs on a mark, and use these to build rapport. To become “like-minded,” or “two peas in a pod”

An example would be to observe say someone wearing a divers watch, then ask if they dive? From  here, if you dive, you have something in common that you can talk about – when last did you dive? where? What equipment do you have? Where was your best dive? etc. etc.

Even if you don’t dive, you have something that interests the other party, and you can ask open questions to get them talking about their interest.

Couple of points to note:

  • Don’t pretend to be a fellow fan of something you aren’t. To anyone even vaguely interested in something, it is child’s play to see right through someone who isn’t interested and is trying simply to manipulate you. You can show genuine interest (open questions) without having to be a fellow afficionado. I hate golf, and will never play, but can still allow a golfer to espouse their passion for the sport.
  • Don’t be a “story topper.” The idea here is to allow your interviewer to talk about their interests, and to build rapport by being genuinely interested. Not by having been higher, further, faster, or generally better than them. That simply pisses people off, puts their back up, and destroys intimacy. It’s because your self-orientation factor is too high. So even if you have been higher, faster, deeper, or generally better than the interviewer, allow them their moment in the sun.
  • Be genuinely interested. This is easier, of course, if you have a similar interest. You get enthusiastic about the same rides (or golf courses, or knitting patterns for that matter) but you can be genuinely interested even if you hate the hobby. Read magazines, check out the Internet, follow bloggers or tweeters. In short, show respect by researching and learning about the topic. Then ask open questions, not with the outcome to build rapport, but with the outcome of learning more about the topic. The rapport will build naturally. In short, be interested in the topic, because you’re interested in the person.

One of the interns in my team observed to me that I get a lot of things done in HP because I ride a motorbike. People, especially other bikers, invariably talk about my bike, week-end rides, then talk nostalgically or dreamily about biking. This leads to talking about things other than work, which builds intimacy (friendship by another name), which leads to me having an extended network of all sorts of specialists across our business unit and the entire company.

It was an astute observation, but I pointed out that he was only half right. I’ll pick up on any topic of interest which I have in common, and lead into the conversation with that. It’s not about motorbikes, but about an interest in the person. First. Before the work stuff.

Believe me, it beats talking about the weather or the traffic…

…which is what your competition is talking about.