By Jas Singh
In 2012 I was lucky enough to get invited to the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. For those who aren’t familiar, Dreamforce is Salesforce.com’s annual gathering – the Woodstock of the cloud computing world.
Each year, the founder Marc Benioff organises a week full of jam-packed activities. Product demos, charity initiatives and thought leadership. He also regularly invites guest speakers.
This particular conference had a profound impact on me as it was the first time I was able to meet Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry. Instantly, I was hooked by her leadership style and her approach towards business.
Whilst doing her live interview with Marc Benioff, Angela was asked which company she admired most. The one who she felt was the closest to Burberry. Based on the fact her career had been spent entirely in the luxury fashion industry, her response was an interesting one: Apple.
At that point, I started following her career very closely. I suppose it’s part of my job – following the careers of top achievers with care. But this time I also had a personal interest – frankly, as a leader I found her approach to business fascinating.
Interestingly, I discovered that the more she was interviewed and quoted, the more and more she repeated her admiration for Apple. And funnily enough, two years later she was hired by Apple as SVP of Retail.
It’s almost as she’d head hunted herself into the role.
In ten years as a hiring specialist, I can say with confidence that most people adopt a reactive approach to moving jobs. In other words, they rely on applying to open jobs or responding to particular companies that are proposed to them. In fact, research has even proposed that most graduates fall into their first jobs purely by chance. Even though their first job can critically shape and define their entire career path.
Yet top performers are different. They take control. They do their own research and often even know the exact company they want to work for. Could be because of a particular leader. Or what the company stands for. Or the chance to learn and grow in a particular environment.
But when you know who you want to work for, how do you get hired?
Here are some practical ways how all of us can get hired by the companies we admire.
1) Research them regularly to find opportunities
Business is fluent and things are constantly changing.
And often when hiring, timing is key.
Hiring managers are constantly being bombarded with CV’s and the best companies are always in demand. Getting approached is an every day occurence. However, what is more important to hiring managers are people who can provide solutions to specific challenges they may be facing.
Has the company recently lost a star employee? Do they need someone experienced on the ground now they’ve opened an office in China? Have they recently launched an online business and now need digital expertise? Has the CEO’s annual mission statement focussed on needing to improve the sales force?
When competition can be so fierce, often the hardest part can be just getting your foot in the door. To do so often requires a compelling value proposition that addresses a specific issue that hiring managers are facing.
This can only be done by constantly monitoring and being up to date with the companies that you admire.
It takes a little more time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it.
And plus, if it’s a company your really want to work for, it will probably be something you will enjoy.
Kinda like your own trial run.
2) Network to find the right people
There are multiple ways to approach a company. To express your interest and value. To initially send your CV.
Numerous different hiring managers. Various contacts in HR. Perhaps lots of different recruiters who work with the target company.
However usually in every company there is only a small select group of people who have the authority to make decisions. And decision makers are the people to be speaking with. In order to make sure you are not wasting your time, it is essential that you are working with the right person. Even if that means passing the opportunity to speak with other people in the company.
Last year the CEO of one of our clients – a US software company – expressed an interest in speaking with one of his competitors top performing sales candidates. So we did our thing and after meeting the candidate found out he would be interested in speaking with our client – as long as he could maintain his current set-up of working from home for two days a week.
The CEO said this was OK, but wanted him to meet with the Global Head Sales as the first point of call. After all, he would be directly managing this person. To my surprise, the sales person rejected the offer. He only wanted to meet with the CEO to start with – because he realised that he was the only one who could authorise him working from home. He felt if he met with the sales manager then he might be reluctant to offer this set-up since it might set a precedent for his other sales people.
The interview never happened. Six months later (this January), the CEO came back again. And this time did agree to meet with him first. After subsequent meetings with other people (including his new direct boss), our candidate was hired within two weeks. And has started in his new job very well.
To increase your chances of landing that dream job it’s essential to meet with the right person. Otherwise you might just be another name on the internal hiring database that was deemed unsuitable for one reason or another.
It’s better to have no interview at all than to be interviewed by the wrong person.
3) Shout your admiration!
With the increase in social media and connectivity, nowadays opportunity can find you. Companies and hiring managers have endless pools of talent to choose from, and often what clinches the deal is a candidate who exudes passion.
Someone who really, really, REALLY wants the job.
Just like Angela Ahrendts publicised her admiration for Apple, people who are truly passionate about an organisation are vocal about their following. By putting your admiration on display, not only do you make yourself more likely to be noticed by opportunity but also the company, brand or purpose becomes part of your identity. You are much more likely to become accustomed to their culture, beliefs and initiatives.
In the sports world for example, often when an a coach expresses an interest in a vacant position, the news spreads fast and often causes them to be invited to an interview.
Likewise we all know stories of the likes of Warren Buffet, Steven Spielberg and Rocky Balboa (OK I know that’s fictional but you get the picture) who have got their big breaks purely on the basis of how determined they were. Even though there were far more quailifed people. Because of how focussed they were on that one particular opportunity.
Be vocal in who you admire.
They’ll be more likely to admire you.
We all have an equal right to job opportunity.
What often prevents us landing that job with our dream company is not our skill, ability or hunger. It’s how we go about the process.
Hiring managers should always be aware and responsive to those candidates who can demonstrate a long term passion in working for them.
It’s a quality that can be priceless.
Which company do you admire?
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