A Talent Professional's Strategy for Landing the Big Job

This is how a highly skilled recruiter tackles an opportunity to land a dream job.

I got to know Karla Porter through various recruiting networks over the last year or so, and more closely through Twitter over the last several months. I have grown to respect her opinions, ideas, and her straight forward generosity. So when she sent me a note on Twitter that said basically, "We are supposed to be the experts at this and I have a job interview pending that is making me very nervous", I immediately sent her some info to reassure her and offered heaps encouragement. I asked her to keep me updated, and we kept digital fingers crossed through direct messages on Twitter for the next few weeks.

I didn't realize quite what Karla was going through until she told me one day that the finger crossing had worked and that she was offered this very high profile position. I asked her to email me the details and she did. But what she sent me was a lesson in expert preparation, interview strategy, and follow-up worthy of review by anyone pursuing a new job opportunity.

"I was a high volume, full-cycle Recruiter for entry through executive level positions in a fast-paced call center. I was there for 7.5 years and was so busy and entrenched I really never looked for another job in all that time. I was very comfortable there, live 5 minutes away and had a good amount of autonomy which I liked. For the past year or so I had toyed with the idea of independent recruiting and the dream of working from home but I know it’s a tough market to break into and I never moved on it. I did join an on line staffing service that sucks $68. a month out of my bank account for backend services which I have never used. I think it is wrong I should have to pay a monthly fee and a sizeable cut of the commission too. Something about lifetime residual income doesn’t sit right with me. Joining must have been some kind of psychological plea because I could be giving that money to charity each month and it would have a purpose, and I know better. I need to cancel my account.

About a month ago I received a call to ask if I would be interested in interviewing for the Director of Workforce Development position that was recently made vacant by a person who had been in the position for many years. I know this person and she liked the job very much but she had moved on to another chapter of her life. I figured I should give it a shot after I read the job description and it sounded about 85% like me. The other 15% I had no clue about but I scanned for the word algebra and it wasn’t there so I assumed it would be safe.

The interview was a 6 person panel and really very conversational. It wasn’t the stiff corporate interview I expected or the kind I am used to conducting myself. They said they were looking for “fit” and that they had narrowed down a flood of resumes to 6 very qualified candidates. All the interviews were conducted the same day and I was the last person scheduled. I decided that after a day of interviewing the panel would probably be ready to go to sleep from exhaustion so I strategized to wake them up and engage them.

I went prepared with a flash drive of work examples. They didn’t want to see any of it. They said they were familiar with both my professional work and service to the community and my skills were not in question. The interview was scheduled for 45 minutes but they talked with me for 1.5 hours. I would be kidding myself and you too if I said I didn’t have some butterflies behind my rib cage the first few minutes. it had been a very long time since I was on the other side of the table. I took the approach to interview them; asking questions that I knew would set me up for success. Questions like, “Are you looking for someone to maintain the functions of the position status quo or move it to the next level?” and “How important is it that the candidate of choice understand the changing demographic of our local workforce?” These were questions that I knew the answers to and that I asked to further cement my skills, talents and experience in their minds. The interview was full of thoughtful, passionate, dynamic conversation with a sprinkle of humor. I left with a really good feeling.

I also let people I have a solid history with that I would want to use as references know I was interviewing. I called them the day before the interview to let them know of my intent, to let them know of my excitement at the opportunity and to ask for advice. Without having to ask for support they offered to make phone calls to let the organization’s leaders know I would be a valuable asset to have on board. I was thrilled!

I did everything that I would expect a top candidate to do; down to the handwritten thank you notes promptly sent the day after the interview, etc. I focused on accomplishments not a laundry list of responsibilities in my resume. I talked to a couple of Recruiters I respect and a friend who is a marketing genius about the opportunity and my interview strategy. I never acted interested in salary during the interview and of course didn’t bring it up. When asked why I was interested in the position I said it was my desire to serve my community that compelled me to apply and that I was not an active job seeker. I told them I was perfectly happy with my job but that the opportunity to use my talents for the greater good of the community was more attractive than using them for just one organization.

A week later I got a call asking if I was still interested. There was discussion of salary and benefits and I found out I was one of two final candidates. I offered to come for a second interview or to be assigned a project of their choosing. I was told it wouldn’t be necessary but it was putting me over the edge in a good way to offer and that my energy was impressive and to just sit tight. The next week I got the offer call. Though I had very positive feelings the entire time, I was concerned politics might get in my way because I am not politically connected and I didn’t know who the other candidate was. I feel really good that wasn’t the case, that I was offered the position based on merit and that they were savvy enough to recognize the best person for the job.

My boss claimed shock when I called to give my resignation notice. Other senior staff was surprised too. But honestly, they shouldn’t have been. For years I had worked outside of my job description, stretching it and pushing the boundary of it into other areas. I developed business cases and did presentations on the use of new recruiting technologies and employer brand management, educated my peers at other sites and superiors on Gen Y and effective strategies for multiple generations to work together, driven attract and retain initiatives, developed relationships with Area Agency on Aging for older workers, local technical schools and colleges. I was selected to serve on committees with Directors and VPs regarding HR and other areas like the integration of emerging technologies, for example. This in addition to 185 hires last year alone (The Generalist and I shared an admin assistant but it is a one Recruiter site). The hours were often marathon like.

These were things that my peers at other sites and our HR VP’s were not versed on; they all just rely on internet job boards, newspaper classifieds and job fairs. I openly asked for opportunity which was often given but rarely recognized for in the way I had hoped. My hope had turned out to be an unrealistic one, that the company would recognize my contributions with a promotion or the creation of a specialized position. Senior leaders through the highest level expressed that they were sad to lose me but happy for my opportunity. I felt weird about it because I would have stayed with them had they allowed me to grow formally within the organization. Instead, it took an outside organization to recognize my value.

I’m overjoyed to have accepted a wonderful opportunity and high profile position in the community with what I see as endless possibility. I start April 10th, wish me luck………."

Karla Porter can be found on major social networking sites. She welcomes you to follow her on Twitter @karla_porter . I highly recommend that you do. -CF

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