Wednesday, August 24, 2011

4 steps to Interview for a new Industry

8/24/2011 11:12:00 AM

Peter, a much younger friend of mine, asked me how I interviewed for job opportunity of a new industry that I did not have experience at all. Apparently he paid attention to our earlier conversation about my switch of industry from IT vendor to a dotcom online advertising company and at the same time with a change of role from sales to product development management position.
I told him that it was not a sudden change and that I did possess much experience and skills that was transferrable across industry. I was also "old enough" to have accumulated different kinds of experiences from different roles. My earlier technical (programming) background also helped to convince my employer then that I could handle more than just sales function. In a nutshell, I was ready when the opportunity was presented to me. There was no magical technique for a super interview.
Peter, however, was not satisfied with my answer. He was looking for how I prepared for an interview for a job that I have had no experience what so ever. Well I did have such successful experience that I was called upon by a head hunter in the morning at 10am, used my lunch time to prepare for the interview at 6pm and then I was told by the employer back then that they would like to offer me a job at 9pm.
"Hm…I did use a specific set of technique for interview that landed me many jobs, be it changing industry or not." I thought in my mind. So I started sharing the "steps" that I took for these interviews to Peter. These steps were actually very simple:
  1. Analyze the "benefits" the employer was looking for.
  2. Map my strength to see I can produce these benefits.
  3. Write a one page executive summary of how I would use my strength to create some kind of tangible item, such as a campaign, marketing program, new business or product, to deliver these benefits.
  4. Provide this one page summary during the interview to the potential employer.
"But what if you have written something wrong on the executive summary? It would put you in a very disadvantage position." Peter said to me. I smiled. Peter had completely missed the point of what the employer was looking for I thought. So I explained to him that he was too concern about being right or wrong but I focused on a rich and meaningful interview session with the employer. It was the meaningful and even intelligent discussion during the interview that landed me the job. My executive summary, frankly, was not as wise as I like it but I still got the job.
Yes I understand that it was a risky proposal to anticipate the new employer and to some degree speculate about things of a new industry that I did not understand fully. However, it is preciously that I risked the chance of being wrong to demonstrate that I was sincere enough to research and prepare for the job, committed enough to spend the effort to put it on paper, mature enough to use my experience to apply for new situation, confident enough to put it on paper and, lastly, humble enough to tell the employer than that I was merely speculating based on my limited information. Frankly the employer knew that I was ill equipped to make a "perfect" answer for the business issue at hand. I was sly enough to recognize the fact that the employer must have been out of options when they asked me for the interview. They were not looking for someone from their industry but they were looking for a guy with a non-traditional approach. It was the gutsy approach that landed me the job.
I was successfully because of a combination of other factors other than just the interview technique. Each job opportunity and job seeker match is unique. To the jobs that require a real industry experienced guru on the subject, my approach probably wouldn't work. However, for the jobs that are more sales, marketing, business development and management oriented, my risky approach was very applicable.
Hope this is useful for you. If it can help you then it would make my day a good day.