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by Julie Desmond
As the economy starts to rebuild itself, companies are moving from tentative temporary hiring to bringing on the upper level professionals who can take them back to profitability. These hires are the most expensive and consequential for organizations, so it is understandable that the decision making process lasts long and can be intense both for candidates and for hiring teams. Candidates who take a strategic and organized approach to the process will fare better, faster, and be well prepared to negotiate a contract when the job offer comes through.
For management or executive level professionals, finding an open position to pursue can be the most challenging part of the hiring process. You have identified target companies and you have a strong understanding of your own value. Look for opportunities you can create for yourself. Search for specific needs within a company or across an industry, rather than for job postings, then use this speculation to open up conversations with others who are currently working in the company or industry.
These informational interviews are going to be dynamic, two-way meetings and will be a conduit to positions that may not have been posted or even created yet. Your objective is always to add value to an organization; work to uncover the gaps you can effectively fill. Primary opportunities now will involve economizing current processes and expanding sales into new or different markets, so look into those areas first.
First interviews are typically with Human Resources professionals or peer-level managers. Do not overlook the importance of first interviews: you can’t board a plane without passing through security. During early interviews, you will be vetted for all you know about the organization. Study for these interviews the way you would research a new customer: the more information you have in your pocket, the more control you have over the conversation. Your knowledge will help you understand where the questions are coming from, and your own questions will be crafted within a context that makes sense to interviewers.
Your aim during first interviews is to uncover the needs the organization is hoping to fill. These might not be stated clearly, so you will have to devise questions that will reveal these needs. Following these interviews, go home and create a business plan or marketing strategy that demonstrates the success of the organization under your leadership. Quite possibly, no one will ever see this written document, but you will know it intimately and use it to sell yourself into your next role.
Subsequent interviews solidify the hiring team’s decision to hire you. These are strategic planning sessions which reveal your ability to bring the company forward. Discussions around your experiences are common; whenever possible, draw connections between your past successes and the needs of the company now.
At this stage in the hiring process, others also want to know if you are someone they wish to spend time with. This is speed dating at its worst, because no one ever says aloud, “This is the most boring guy I know,” or, “She really has to do something about that hairstyle.” Use the internet and your inner circles to find out what interests these people have both within and outside of their professional lives. Who or what do you all have in common? Drop names when it makes sense to do so.
Throughout the upper level interview process, continue your research and develop your network. Cultivate connections within the company and within its rival organizations. Reach out to those who have worked here in the past, and connect with customers and clients as well. Learn everything you can; use the products and ask others for their experiences with the organization. If you are currently unemployed, research and strategic planning is your current, full-time responsibility. The more you know, the more value you can add, enhancing both the interview process and your success once you accept the job.