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How to land a job (any)

20 Apr 2020 by Harri Sieppi

Today I’m letting you in on a secret, how to land a job, any or the job you truly want. It’s not dark magic. It’s some work you need to do and tactics to box all the recruitment discussions so that the focus goes to what really matters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to understand what kind of hobbies you have and how you love dogs. Really important stuff, but it’s not what makes or breaks the deal.

Three things you need to study and do before you walk into a job interview

  1. Truly understand what problems the company is facing (A)
  2. Dig deep and get understanding where the company is going and what they are trying to achieve (B)
  3. Build a road from A to B.

Understanding the problems


I’ve been working in sales a lot longer than what I’ve been in recruiting business. Many of the methods I’ve used when applying for a job or helping people to land a job they love come from that background. These two have a lot in common, getting a new job is like getting a new client. 

Stock listed Companies and preparing for the meeting


If you want to land a job in a stock listed company, your preparation work is super much easier. The stock listed companies tell a lot about themselves on the internet. Check out the website, look for the investor section and annual report. These reports might look boring as hell, but if you want to get that job, these are gold. Open them up, take a pen and paper and get ready to do some Sherlock Holmes stuff. You want to list two things: (A) the problems the company is facing and (B) the company’s goals and target.

Every report is full of great achievements, goals and targets. You want to skip most of that stuff but list all the clear goals and targets into a list. Then look for problems that the company is facing and list them up too. I usually go through reports from the past couple of years so I actually get a decent list out of that. Also by checking out multiple reports, you’ll see if the company has been able to solve those issues that they were facing a few years back or not. 

Timesaver hint: If you have a Talented Agent, you can make him/her do most of this research for you. Ask your Agent: “What are the key challenges the company/team is facing at the moment?” and “What are the most important goals and targets the company/team has for the next 18 months?”. The job of our Agents is to help you get the job you want and that is an amazing timesaver if you use their services like this.

Superboost your interview with preparations 

The first meeting with a hiring company is usually with a recruiter. Now if you have done your homework, you have a list of problems, goals and targets. (Hint: categorize those into two different segments: problems in one box and goals in another.) The second thing you want to do beforehand is to make a list of problem questions. Check out the problem list items (A), take an hour and write down all the questions that help you define and understand the current situation. 

Example of a problem question: ”Hey, I noticed from the Annual Report that this segment is lagging behind in goals. What are the main reasons for that?” Problem questions are HARD to create in an interview situation and people always tend to wander away from problems to talk more about the good stuff, the goals and ambitions. Do not go there before you understand where the company is right now. A-to-B, okay? You will not get a clear situational image if you only chat about the bright future.

You are now super boosted: You have done the homework, listed up stuff about situational image and goals, and you have a list of problem questions with you. Pen and paper will be your weapons for the meeting.

How to win hearts in the interview

First of all, read all the BS about how to dress up, shake hands and make eye contact. Or don’t. That’s up to you. I really don’t care much about that. It has never been a problem and just being my annoying self has helped me the most to land a job of my desire.

What does matter now is how you box the conversation. After hellos and here’s your coffee and it’s so nice that you’ve come here today, you want to get an idea of the agenda of the meeting. When you hit this discussion of agenda, make sure your stuff gets in that agenda too. It’s really important to think of interviews as equal meetings between two parties. Not as traditional “they ask you reply” kind of event.

Tell that you are really interested in this position and because of that you have prepared for it. And that there are two things you’d like to get out of the meeting:

1) Where the company/team is right now and what are the most concerning challenges

2) What are the most important goals and targets for the company/team for the next 18 months

Ask if you two could start with going through what the position is about. Just to be on the same page about what needs to be done in the position. Take your pen and paper and write down notes and answers. That will improve your (A) and (B) lists or even create a totally new perspective. When the interviewer talks about the problems, ask what kind of implications those problems might have (if you aren’t able to solve this, what is the worst thing that could happen…). When you have a sufficient situational image and clear vision what needs to be done, repeat it and ask the interviewer if you got it right and you share the same view.

If you are still interested in the position, now is your time to shine and show your magic.

Building the road from A to B

This part is the hardest to generalize. I’ve been working with IT companies and IT projects for about 10+ years. Most of the problems I stumble on are related to my sector and my expertise, it’s probably the same for you too. If you are a developer the problems you’ll be solving are tech-related, if you do project leading, they most likely have something to do with leadership and getting things done. 

We all use our own toolbox for solving the problems and this is where you’ll be using all of your knowledge and tools to get that company or team from that current situation to where it needs to be. From A to B, just like we discussed earlier. 

This is a much better way of showing your skills than listing some godforsaken projects you’ve done ten years ago or telling how you’ve done five years of Java or two years of Growth Hacking. The truth is, they only ask those things to understand if you can get the job done. 

Show them that you can. Build them the route to the brighter future. Make sure they understand that you are there to help. Since most stuff is usually done in teams, it’s teamwork to achieve the goal, but these are your insights and input on how to reach what they want.

Summary

Of course, listing A:s and B:s and building the road from A to B doesn’t always work. It’s like sales, sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. Doing the interviews this way will still better your odds to land a job a lot, no doubt.

What you did there is putting some effort into figuring out what the company is actually doing and what the key challenges, goals and targets are. You’ve prepared yourself into the discussion so that’s more than getting to know each other. You’ve put the focus on where it should be, how you can make the company succeed. You have given them an idea or even a solution to how they could achieve their goals and most likely got at least a really interesting discussion. And hopefully, all the work helped you to land the job or get into the next phases of discussions.

If you smooth sailed to salary and contract negotiations, check out this post about what a software developer (and others too) can ask for.

You might also want to read:
How to write a developer CV that recruiters love
Finland’s top 20 workplaces for developers


Talented is is a community for over 2000 developers and designers and over 150 companies. We strive to shake up the general way of recruiting software professionals in Finland and worldwide. Stay up to date on Finnish software industry insights and connect with both the hiring companies and the other techies who geek on the same stuff you do, and join the Talented Developer Community today!

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