It wasn't because I did not have the experience, education, knowledge, accomplishment, teamwork, and enthusiasm. It had a lot to do with my not really knowing an effective technique to put myself at an advantage during the interview. I did not have a winning strategy. Upon reflection, I realize now that I played on the employer's and the hiring manager's turf and lost. This will not happen again whether I am interviewing for a job or just about anything. In this blog, I will tell you what I have learned recently and how I am helping others so they can win the job offer or even sales deals. In this blog I will focus on the job.
When you are looking for a job, you simply want to increase your chances of getting a job offer. So what technique can you use that will help you land a job? I came across a very good technique from Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas: Changing the narrative.
Cruz used this technique very effectively in winning cases in front of the Supreme Court when he was a solicitor general for the state of Texas. In his article in New Yorker titled "The Absolutist," Jeffrey Toobin explains how Ted Cruz approached cases he was litigating.
One specific case that Toobin writes about had to do with two teenage girls who were brutally gang-raped and murdered in Houston. The leader of the gang, Ernest Medellin, was arrested and confessed to the murder. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
Then the World Court got involved as it wanted to open the case since Medellin was a Mexican citizen and was not offered any consular services by the Mexican Government, according to a treaty that US had to honor. The Texas' case looked tenuous since a Texas judge was overruling the US Government and the World Court. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Cruz explains how he approached this case and his overall strategy in winning an argument:
“In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative. . . As Sun Tzu said, Every battle is won before it’s fought. It’s won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought. So in litigation I tried to ask, What’s this case about?" Cruz adds that if a judge litigating the case was asked what the case was about, and if he answered that the case was about whether a state of Texas can violate a US treaty, then he lost. To win, he had to change the narrative. And this is exactly what he did.
Cruz argued successfully that Medellin case was about separation of powers between the executive branch (Presidency) and the legislative branch (Congress). He argued that the executive branch can't request the state of Texas to open the case without the approval of the Congress. Cruz won this case 6 to 3.
Look, whether you agree with Cruz's politics or not, this is a very effective technique that you can also use for just about anything, especially, when you are looking for a job. I will give you an example of how I used Cruz's technique to coach a client who was getting ready for an interview for a technical consulting job.
My client has an acquaintance who mentioned my client's background to a hiring manager that he knows. My client was informed by his acquaintance that the hiring manager does not feel that my client has the skill set that he is looking for, but would still like to talk to him. My client asked me how he should handle this situation.
Before giving him any advice I first wanted to see how he planned to handle it. He said that he was going to try to find out how his skill set matches up to the skill set the hiring manger was looking for. Then, he was going to try to close the gap between any differences that might exist.
I said to my client that this is a good strategy that might work if the gap was indeed very small and the hiring manager saw it as such. But I suggested he also consider trying to come up with a new narrative based on how Ted Cruz would approach this situation if he had to make a case for him. Hence, I recommended he definitely talk about skill set but should not lead with that since that is not likely to be a winning case since the hiring manager is looking at him from one point of view, which is whether my client possesses the requisite skill set or not. I said if he is open to exploring this further, we can come up with a better strategy that will increase his chances of landing a job offer.
I then worked with him to develop a different strategy. I said to mu client that we need to change the whole framing so that the battle is fought on his terrain and not on the hiring manager's terrain.
I said skill set is a means to achieving some business outcome; therefore, if most of the discussion is around skill set, then he is not going to get the job. However, if the discussion is around the job and solving a particular problem to achieve some measurable outcome, then he has a very good shot at winning his case for the job.
Before we get into specifics he told my client he has to remember that he had to help the hiring manager overcome two things: "Fear of failure" and "fear of new." In the article by Samuel Bacharach "Want People to Support Your Ideas? Conquer Your Fears," he suggests doing the following four things:
- Accentuate the payoff
- Couch it in other person's reality
- Address the risks
- Be concrete
- Accentuate prestige
1) Find out what the job is all about.
I suggested he needs to focus on the job that has to be performed and the problem that has to be solved. Echo the key words the hiring manager uses so you are on the same wave length.
2) Focus on solving the problem.
Once the problem is understood and validated, focus on generating the outcome the hiring manager needs to produce.
3) Include credible source to support your case.
I suggested he use Gartner to gain credibility. Gartner analyst point out that three main attributes of a successful IT project are people, process and technology where people make up 50%, process makes up 30% and technology makes up 20%. As you can see that 80% does not have anything to do with technology. Since he has more than 15 years of experience, he can give himself an 80 without any specific skill set.
4) Bring up the skill set last.
Since it was a programming position and my client knew Java programming language real well, I said that is at least 50% of the skill set. Even if he did not have any other skill set the hiring manager was looking for, this would place him at 90%+ on what makes an IT project successful. This makes him an "A" player that the hiring manager would want on his team. And, who does not want an "A" player on their team?
5) Summarize the conversation.
Getting a job is a game and if you stuck to the plan, then you should feel good about it.
What if the hiring manager is still fixated only on the skill set?
(What I suggest is not Ted Cruz's method, but something that I have done.)
One More Thing
I suggested to my client that at this point you do not want to continue the argument since he has already made the case. I suggest he agree with the hiring manager and do one last thing. Suggest to the hiring manager that you are willing to work on a one month contract at a reasonable price and after one month if he feels he is not working out, then he does not have to extend the contract.
"Hail Mary" Time
What if the hiring manager does not bite on the contract idea?
At this point you have nothing to lose, so ask you will do it fro free for two weeks. You tell him I know I can do the work and you like the project so you are willing to do it on your dime. This costs the hiring manager nothing. He is getting free labor. If he balks here, then he is either stupid or just does not like you.
At this point you have nothing to lose, so try this last thing in a very professional way.
I suggested he ask this one "last" question: What is it that he can do that would change the hiring manager's mind?
This is just your last sale attempt since you have absolutely nothing to lose but maybe some pride. Why do this? Pride does not pay the bills and no one cares how you get the job. This is the final ask. If persistence is worth anything, then the hiring manager may change his mind (later) since you do not give up easy. This is not for fainthearted. It shows that you don't give up and that is worth more than any tangible skill set. This is something that is not valued by people who want something, especially when it comes to getting a job.
Assuming the hiring manager does not budge then all you can do at this point is to thank the hiring manager for considering you and let him know that you are not done selling.
The point I was trying to make with him is that a job interview is about selling. Note, you have done no work so there is no way the hiring manager know from interviewing whether you can do the job or not, so you have to sell and keep selling. He had to change the narrative to win. If the hiring manager is more concerned about the job and outcomes then my client is playing on his turf; however, if the conversation is mainly about the skill set then he is unlikely to succeed in convincing him in winning the case.