In other posts, I have explained how to get face-to-face with hiring mangers to increase your chances of getting a job offer sooner…rather than waiting for callbacks to online applications in this hyper-competitive job market.
But…once you get there—what do you say?
The first order of business is to establish rapport, build a positive relationship. How do you do that?
Not by selling yourself; why should they care?
No, by first tapping into their concerns. Get them talking about their needs and priorities.The most effective way to do that is to ask questions…then listen.
Think about it, don’t you appreciate someone taking the time to listen to your problems? Isn’t that the substance of most conversations you enjoy with friends and family?
This is what every successful salesperson learns early in their career when they serving a portfolio of accounts with a relational or solutions-based approach to sales.
There are two kinds of questions to ask during a face-to-face meeting: plus or minus questions. It is usually preferable to start with “safe’ questions on the plus side. Start with their Industry or sector; most managers like to talk about trends and issues in their sector.
Why? Because work—when you think about it—is just activity organized around problems, challenges, issues, or pressures that get in the way of organizational goals and objectives.
If it was easy to achieve those goals, the manager wouldn’t need to hire anybody, they’d do all the work themselves and make more money!
But they can’t, too many problems get in the way of their best laid plans, their most clearly defined goals, their most heartfelt objectives. That manager needs you more than you think!
Remember, your goal in this first meeting is to establish rapport, not get a job offer! This is a necessary step towards getting an offer.
Here are a few conversation starters that give you an idea of the kinds of questions that get a manager talking:
- What is responsible for the positive or innovative trends in the industry? Are they social, political, economic, technological or other kinds of trends?
- What factors are responsible for driving growth in this industry?
As a midlife career changer, the scope and nature of the questions might change depending on who you are talking to and what sector you are talking about. Your own questions might be more focused and refined, appropriate for a specific situation.
Your goal is to get them talking. What you are listening for are clues to change and growth in the sector, two key drivers of job creation and hiring.
Your ultimate purpose during these advice calls is to identify the problems, to see if you want to be the problem-solver!
As rapport develops between you over a conversation, an informational interview, or perhaps 2-3 meetings, you might move to minus questions about the sector in order to identify specific pain points
For example, you might ask, ‘What specific trends affect you? (Markets drying up, hostility toward the industry, cost factors, etc.). But, be careful, because a minus question might imply that the manager is not doing a good jobif you ask a question like, ‘Is your growth fast or slow? Is it typical of the field?’
Managing this kind of approach with a hiring manager requires some skill, even practice. I suggest you try out this approach with somebody who knows you well, someone who is willing to give feedback on the effectiveness of your approach.
Since the stakes are so high, in terms of you getting a job offer, consider working with a job change expert to help you practice your approach. You might need to move deftly from sector questions, to company affairs, then personal priorities of the manager.
Moving back and forth between questions, while being sensitive to individual reactions to your tone and approach, is not rocket science…but it is a skill that must be developed and deployed in an appropriate manner.