Hiring for your past success or future potential—what does your next employer want?

All employers have a hiring agenda. They want individuals who can help them reach their corporate goals by overcoming the problems, challenges, pressures and issues that get in the way.

Future potential

Context or ‘culture’ is very important in hiring decisions. For example, the newspaper industry has collapsed and thrown thousands of journalists out of work as advertisers shift to online platforms…but many social media companies don’t hire newspaper journalists because they want people with a different mindset, or employees not conditioned by ‘old’ forms of publishing. These employers often start with young people who have basic technical skills and hire for future potential.

Such employers often profile their top 3-5 employees to identify their success factors, and then formulate interview questions to uncover those attributes because they are looking for certain traits, capabilities or values that match the culture of the company. This is especially true for the ‘disruptors’ that are creating new markets, such as Apple or Google, or companies eating into the market share of traditional sectors, the way Netflix is challenging broadasters or Amazon is replacing retailers.

Many of these ‘new’ economy employers focus on the role of their interviewers to ask questions that will uncover future potential to operate in emerging or creative industries requiring a higher level of cognitive tasks. They often use a rating system when interviewing candidates about their interests, values, and outside activities, more than their previous job experiences. They are often looking for signs of adaptability, flexibility and creativity because these jobs require individuals who can be trained to the shifting context they will be working in.

Past success

Most traditional employers use a behavioural-based methodology when interviewing candidates. This approach is based on the idea that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar circumstances, e.g. “tell me about a time when you had to….” These employers identify what competencies and behaviors are important in a job and then ask questions to see if the candidate has behaved in the desired way in the past.

This is especially true for roles that use metrics as measures of success–the kinds of problem, service, and incident management tasks that make up so many IT, customer service, social work, health, public administration jobs, including sales reps, tech troubleshooters, call center agents, case workers, nurses, border agents, or airline pilots. Often these tasks are routine, methodical, sometimes manual, and sometimes administrative. Employers of this type might give tests, call previous employers, and conduct behavioral-based interviews to get a clear picture of past behaviors beyond what candidates present on a resume. These employers focus on the role of the candidate in the interview.

What to do

When preparing the interviews, it is important to research the culture of a potential employer, to find out their approach to interviewing. Will they focus on past success or future potential?

It is also important for you as a candidate to communicate with clarity and confidence. This means you need to know the right questions to ask a potential employer in order to uncover their hiring agenda. You need to answer their questions with compelling stories that demonstrate specific ways that you can add value to their operations, whether they are looking for concrete examples from past experience or trying to uncover certain attributes.

Having the right strategy and tactics in place before an interview can help you win a job offer in a very competitive job market. Jobjoy provides a range of services to mine your story for the best material to present to potential employers.

If you are trying to make a career or job change, it is important to prepare for interviews accordingly.

How To Leverage Your Goodwill Network Into A New Job

Don’t overlook the obvious. Reach out to people you know, including family and friends, as well as people you have worked with or helped in the past. This is your goodwill network, i.e. people who want to help you because they like, love, respect you. Your job is to make it easy for them to help you!

Let me illustrate with a real-life example. I recently worked with a young woman who moved from Vancouver to Toronto in August this year. She had a specific job target to work as an Underwriting Assistant in commercial insurance.

She started applying to postings online in September but got no callbacks. She was convinced that employers would not hire her until she had completed a CIP credential (she was 1/3 of the way through). I assured her this was not a major obstacle to her job search.

Instead, I explained to her how employers get hundreds and often thousands of resumes in this kind of stagnant economy and look at only a few, maybe the first 25-50. In this kind of economy, employers can afford to be choosy and they will not hire until they feel ‘safe’ with a candidate. It is so important to understand why this is the case and how to overcome it.

Her previous job had been with a B.C. regulatory agency but she did have 1.5 yrs experience with an insurance company prior to that. I suggested a more effective job search would be to contact her previous employer and other insurance industry contacts in Vancouver and ask them if they knew anyone in Toronto that she could talk to.

I revised her resume to highlight the knowledge, skills and experience she offered as an underwriting assistant, specifically how she could help underwriters do their jobs better, get more clients, serve them better, and make more money.

She started by contacting family members that worked as insurance brokers, which led to several referrals and 2 interviews but no job offers. I suggested that she follow up with people that she’d contacted the first time around but who did not respond, to remind them what she was looking for. It’s sometimes difficult, I said, to understand that your job search is your top priority but other people are busy with their own priorities. Reminding them of your request is not bothering them, it’s simply making it easier for them to help you.

By doing exactly this, she learned from her previous supervisor at an insurance company that they were opening a small office in Toronto. He immediately forwarded her new resume to the head of that office. She was invited to an interview. I prepped her, a week later she got a job offer, and she started her new job the following week!

In summary, make a list of everyone you know and tell them your job target, i.e. a specific role with a specific org or kind of org, then ask them, “Do you know anyone I can talk to?” Make it easy for them to help you. By giving them this targeted niche, all they have to do is go through the Rolodex in their head and pull out names. Then follow up!

If you need help following up in an efficient and effective manner, then call me 1-800-798-2696 or email george@jobjoy.com

Job search success! A true story of the right mix of strategy & tactics

Looking for job postings online, following up on tips, asking for referrals, attending workshops in your hometown is still hard work, even in such familiar surroundings with a built-in goodwill network of family, friends and former colleagues.

Imagine how much harder it is to job search when you move from another country, even with solid credentials and experience. I experienced this very challenge myself when I moved to Australia from Canada in the 80s with no prospect of a job. It took me 8 months to land something commensurate with my degree and experience.

Each person is different of course and has a specific set of credentials and experience, and each one is operating in a unique set of circumstances. But, in my personal and professional experience, the right mix of pro-active job search strategy and tactics executed with persistence and patience always pays off in a good job. Here’s a true and recent case:

In May 2015, Paul relocated from the UK to Toronto when his wife got transferred with an international company (can’t use his real name due to his wife’s terms of confidentiality). Paul had resigned his UK position as a Senior Building Surveyor with an engineering company that managed construction projects in the public sector.

After getting his two young sons settled into T.O. school and life, he started looking for work in his field in line with his visa conditions. He did a smart thing and followed up on leads from his UK contacts but they did not materialize into any job prospects.

He also sent out dozens of resumes but got no call-backs. When I looked at his resume, there was an obvious issue—Building Surveyor is not a job category in Canada, so he wasn’t getting screened in for interviews. But, more importantly, there is an oversupply of construction professionals in Canada, so employers didn’t need to consider prospects from the UK.

We quickly modified his resume and LinkedIn profile to better position/package him for the T.O. market as a Senior Project Manager-Construction because it combined the key technical, account management, and leadership responsibilities of his UK role.

When he sent out his resume and followed up with phone calls, employers now took his calls and talked to him. These conversations taught him a lot about the employment culture in Canada, and what was similar or different to his experience in the UK. It also demonstrated to him the importance of being pro-active in a job search for senior roles.

Consequently, he dialled back his online job search and put together a list of target companies. I encouraged Paul to leverage his natural charm and strong communication skills into “networking” in his neighbourhood. I explained the benefits of doing so. Sceptical at first, he started telling his neighbours and parents at his sons’ school what it was that he was looking for and asking them directly if they knew anybody in his targeted companies.

Besides building his confidence that his UK experience offered value to the Canadian marketplace (because his neighbours took him seriously), this pro-active approach generated a number of referrals, including one to a local recruiter who specialized in placing senior people in construction. This recruiter introduced Paul to a small firm headed by two partners from the UK. They were immediately interested in Paul but didn’t have a position that fit his experience.

I explained to Paul that this was code for “we don’t know you well enough to feel safe enough to hire you.” I explained to him how 40%+ of jobs are created for senior people who walk through the door, who get into conversations that uncover a firm’s key corporate goals/priorities and the major challenges that get in the way of them achieving those goals, and who can then spot the work opportunity in the intersection between the two…because a job is nothing more than activity organized around solving problems to reach corporate goals.

After meeting both partners several times in a professional manner in their offices and in a social setting over dinner, Paul was sent a job offer, which he accepted at the end of November. Interestingly, they left him to define his job description during his first 3 months on the job!

At JobJoy, we specialize in customizing a job search to the right mix of strategies and tactics that will land you a job that corresponds with your value. Call George today to discuss your situation 613-563-0584.

Why does networking work? – Part 2

In my previous article, I provided job change advice and explained why the biggest source of external hiring for employers is not from resumes submitted online but from referrals. In short, networking works because it focuses on the needs and priorities not of you, the job searcher, but of the hiring manager.

As a certified job change expert who has been a hiring manager, I want to explain why referrals are so highly regarded by managers. If you’ve had to hire individuals, this will make a lot of sense to you. If you’ve never had to hire anyone, then try to put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager.

A manager’s job in any organization—public, private, or nonprofit—is to help that org reach its corporate goals and objectives. That’s why managers get paid the big bucks, have fancy job titles, and get lots of perks…they have a lot of responsibility to ensure their employer thrives. If they don’t succeed, their employer doesn’t succeed, and their career is in jeopardy!

So, managers are busy managing plans, priorities, projects, programs, schedules, budgets, people, equipment, machinery, and more! They spend little time hiring unless, of course, they experience high turnover of staff (which is usually symptomatic of deeper problems in the org), or they are in a high growth phase and need to staff up quickly.

In addition, most managers are not trained to hire, don’t enjoy it because of what’s at stake—one bad hire can make their life miserable or ruin their career!—and, while they may have some real talents for managing priorities or budgets, it doesn’t mean they have a knack for hiring.

The point is: hiring is problematic for managers! Hiring is stressful. Many managers are on the edge of burnout from performing their regular job duties, and the added stress of hiring puts a bigger load on their shoulders and can push them over that edge into serious health problems. What to do?

As human beings, when things are difficult, we find ways to make them easier by cutting corners, or shifting our efforts, or streamlining process. So, managers turn to each other for support. Let’s say I’m a manager suddenly faced with the prospect of hiring a half dozen new employees to service a new account. I’ll call up a friend and say, “Hey. Bill, I’ve got tickets to the next big game, let’s go blow off some steam!” So Bill and I end up hootin’ & hollerin’ & blowin’ off steam cheering for our Ottawa Sens hockey team…but my job is important to me. Pretty soon I start telling Bill: “I’ve got to do a bunch of hiring. I hate it. It’s so hard to find these technical specialists, so hard to hire them, so hard to keep them!”

And Bill responds: “Hey, shutup, I’m trying to enjoy the game! Listen, I know this guy, known him for years, he’s very competent, reliable, dependable, he might be just what you need. I’ll give him your phone number. Do yourself a favor when he calls next week, take his call!”

And, I go, “Phew! Thank goodness for Bill, he makes my life so much easier. I won’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know his referral because Bill knows him. And I like Bill, I respect him, I trust him. If he’s vouching for this guy, it’s as good as me knowing him myself. I can’t wait for him to call next week. I’m going to seriously consider hiring him.”

That’s why referrals work, not because of you and your resume. But because a hiring manager is getting a referral from a source he likes, respects and trusts. The hiring manager’s professional life is suddenly made easier, he can move one more item from the To Do list to the Done list.

How do you contact people in order to get in their pipeline? Click here.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…and get a better job!

As a certified job change expert, I am an advocate of a two-pronged approach to Job Search: be passive online and pro-active offline. During this holiday season in Ottawa and elsewhere, here’s 4 job change advice tips to increase your chances of landing a good job, changing to a better job, or advancing your career with your current employer.

1. Go to office parties, professional association year-ends, social club celebrations, neighborhood gatherings. People are almost always in a good mood during this festive season, more open to conversation, more relaxed about sharing their professional goals and corporate challenges. Use this time to build rapport with people who have the power to hire you or network for referrals to people who can. Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill. You’ve already learned many skills in your life, learn this one too! It has a great Return on Investment of your time and energy.

2. Get into conversations that can be converted to job offers. Keep the business talk light but focused, or make a date to talk in more depth after the holidays. Listen for cues, e.g. planned expansions, new projects, progress blockers, and all the issues that generate work in an organization. New business goals and priorities always face challenges, problems, issues and pressures–discussions around priorities vs challenges is where you next job offer will formulate. Gather information, take a few minutes to record notes on your phone, or write them down on a card. Then take some time over the holidays to think about what you’ve heard. Many organizations are preparing to hire in the New Year. You probably won’t start your new job during the holiday season, but it’s quite possible to receive an offer early the next year.

3. Follow up in a few weeks time. Don’t mix business with pleasure. Use the social gatherings at the end of the year to build rapport, then follow up in a business-like manner early in the New Year. Use the info you gathered during the social events to formulated some talking points, ideas that address some of the opportunities and challenges you heard about. The seeds you plant at parties can pay off big time by the time the next hiring season rolls around in Spring2015. Use social media not to establish rapport but to maintain the rapport you developed face-to-face at the holiday get-togethers. Send a message to these contacts inviting them to coffee or lunch reminding them what you talked about during the holiday season or raising an issue that you think might be interesting to talk about.

4. Be prepared. Luck favors those who prepare ahead of time, so learn to interview now before you go to parties because informal chitchats at parties can quickly convert into (in) formal interviews. Hiring is driven by the needs and priorities of a manager. Learn how to tap into those needs and leverage them into a job offer. Just this week I heard from a client in Florida who’d been seeking a position as an IT Project Manager. He’d sent out 50+ resumes and had 8 interviews but no job offers when he hired me to give him interview coaching. We reviewed his interviews, and I could clearly see what he needed to improve in his interview performance. After one session of coaching, his next interview resulted in an excellent job offer with a major telecom firm!

Managers Control Timing of Hiring: Get in Their Pipeline

This is one of the key principles that I use when helping my clients find permanent positions. Every hiring manager has a pipeline that they fill with prospective employees because (1) they are always looking for good people, and (2) they know they must hire them at some point. It’s not a question of IF but when.

A year ago, one of my clients got laid off after 25+ years with the same employer, a large defense contractor. My client was devastated but keen to get a similar job ASAP. He did what most people do, and sent out dozens of resumes to online postings with no positive results. He got extremely discouraged, even angry. He’d never needed to look for a job before, and it was a very negative experience for him.

I’m not saying he or anybody else shouldn’t look online but the U.S. Department of Labor reports that only 5% of people in the workforce are hired by submitting resumes to online postings. Therefore, I suggested to my client that he spend only 10-20% of his time & energy looking for a job that way, and to be more pro-active in his job search by networking for referrals to find job opportunities, not job vacancies.

I have written elsewhere on the difference between a job vacancy and a job opportunity, and how to find them. The key here is I coached my client on how to reconnect with former clients and brief them on his new employment priorities and preferences and ask, “Do you know anyone I can talk to?” One such approach resulted in a referral from a contact in Halifax to a hiring manager at a naval engineering firm in Montreal.

My client arranged a coffee meeting during one of the manager’s routine visits to Ottawa last November. That manager indicated there may be some job opportunities opening up in the near future. My client came to count on this vague verbal hint at a job. He followed up by email and phone for several months and heard nothing back…and got very discouraged again.

I reminded him that getting another job was his top priority but the hiring manager had other pressing concerns, another crisis to deal with, another fire to put out. And, he may be waiting for the conclusion to a very large deal that could take more time to come to fruition than he or anybody expects.

I encouraged my client to maintain the rapport he established with that manager by sending him an update every 2 months. In the meantime, I suggested to my client that he keep looking for other opportunities. He was able to land a few short-term contracts.

Then out of the blue this week, that hiring manager called this week to offer him a permanent job starting next month almost to the day of their coffee meeting a year ago!
You can’t control the timing of a job opportunity. It will materialize according to the needs and priorities of the employer.

Your job as a job seeker is to get in the pipeline, maintain a relationship with the hiring manager, keep your skills current, and persist with your job search.
In this stagnant economy, persistence pays off!

Job Change Advice: How to Convert a Conversation into a Job Offer

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.

A manager “once bitten, twice shy” is careful when interviewing

I’ve helped dozens of individuals this spring prepare for job interviews, including one PhD client who was recently interviewed for a senior position with a national organization in the communications industry. What she encountered in her interview is a typical concern for any hiring manager—risk assessment!

My client is already employed and I told her that a key concern in the interview would be a plausible explanation for why she would leave her current job to take another.

In fact, the manager stated at the beginning of the interview that she was convinced my client could do the job no problem…what she wanted to know was why my client was willing to leave her current job and relocate to Toronto.  This became the focus of the interview.

The hidden agenda

The manager told my client that she had fired the last person!  Now, this important fact never showed up in the job posting but it was the real “agenda” for this manager’s hiring decision.  So, she was being very careful and assessing the risk of hiring my client—she didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

If somebody is said to be once bitten twice shy, it means that someone who has been hurt or who has had something go wrong will be far more careful the next time.

Finding, hiring and retaining good employees is a big headache for any manager.  Most of them are hoping somebody will make the hiring process a lot easier for them so that they can get on with their real task at hand, which is managing.

I have explained how the hiring process works in detail in these previous posts:

https://www.jobjoy.com/job-search-its-not-about-me/

https://www.jobjoy.com/the-linkedin-advantage/

Hiring managers are human beings.  They are bundles of self-interest, just like the rest of us, so they tend to look after their self-interest first, which is usually organized around the priorities of protecting and promoting their own careers.

Human nature drives the hiring process

That is why the hiring process is driven by human nature.  Human beings hire other human beings.  The problem with human beings is that we are not perfect!  We all have weaknesses, shortcomings, faults, biases, prejudices, vices, and so on.  In short, there is a downside to every individual. Every potential employee is a risk to a manager…a risk that might jeopardize his or her career!

As human beings, we fear what we don’t know. I’m not saying it’s right or equitable or fair; it’s human nature! When you approach potential employers as a stranger, their automatic fear response kicks in because they don’t know you, and they fear what they don’t know. As a candidate in an interview, you are an unknown quantity to the hiring manger.

In other words, a manager will not hire you until they feel SAFE with you.  We live in a litigious society, and managers must protect themselves from litigation. One of the easiest ways to do that is to minimize risk.  Since you as a job seeker are a risk, the easiest way to minimize that risk is to NOT hire you.  In most cases, a manager is not going to jeopardize their career by hiring somebody they don’t feel safe with.

Interviewing is a two-way street

My client understood this because I had prepped her for this kind of scenario, so she handled it well.   She explained to the manager how she was managed in her current position, and how she  responded to direction and authority, as well as other performance issues.  The manager seemed satisfied with that, but my client was not!

Since this manager raised a red flag by admitting to firing the previous employee in that position, my client decided to do some research of her own to find out more about the personality and management style of that manager.  What she learned caused her to decline a job offer.

In summary, managers don’t take unnecessary risks with their careers…and neither should candidates.  Both parties want and need time to develop rapport with each other to see if there is a good fit.

Both sides should exercise due diligence! If the interview does not produce a level of comfort, then an employer will check references, do background checks, and resort to other methods to ensure a “safe” hire.  Candidates should do the same—talk to previous employees, current employees, and so on to determine if the fit is good.

 

Getting to first base with a hiring manager means getting them to feel “safe” with you

I provide recent MBA grads with job search advice. Many of them are keen to leverage their degree into a related job or advance their career. For example, Chandra is trying to leverage her MBA-Human Resources concentration into an HR Specialist role.

She recently applied for such a job with her current employer but it was given instead to another employee with no HR education who had filled that role temporarily. The HR Manager asked Chandra to take the internal Recruiter role left vacant by that employee.

Naturally, Chandra was a bit miffed at being passed over for someone who had not invested their own time, energy and money in higher education. Feeling unappreciated by her employer, she redoubled her online search to find a job elsewhere, only to run into a brick wall—-she has not received any callbacks for interviews.

Like so many others, Chandra feels she has done everything right by being a good employee adding value to her employer, taking the initiative to go back to school to upgrade her skills, and now deserves her just reward–a better job in line with her degree. And, when you look at it from her point of view…she’s right!

I understand her frustration but I asked her to look at the hiring process from the HR Manager’s point of view. He was simply doing the most natural thing in the world!

Getting that job was important to Chandra, but I pointed out that she is not the most important person in the hiring process because she doesn’t get to hire herself; that task is still in the hands of the HR Manager. And his priority, naturally, is to protect and promote his own career first and foremost.

Chandra admits that she had never met that manager prior to applying for the position of HR Specialist—that’s a major reason she didn’t get the job! He doesn’t know her, and he’s not going to risk his career on hiring someone that could jeopardize it. Instead, he hired someone that had worked for him for several years, and someone who had performed that role temporarily without “relevant” education.

It is “safer” for him to hire someone he knows as reliable, dependable, and competent, over Chandra, who is “qualified” but unknown to him; in short, she is too much of a risk for him. What if she has a personality flaw and can’t get along with him and they end up in a dispute, or litigation? Not to mention the many other possibilities that could lead to some kind of workplace conflict that could jeopardize his career. I’ve written about this in more detail in another post, but suffice to say here that few managers will take that kind of risk if they don’t have to.

By offering Chandra a lower level position as an internal Recruiter in his department, he is saying in effect, “Thank you for applying for this position. I like what I see so far. But I really don’t know you well enough at this point to take such a big risk with my career. Please accept this other position so that I can get to know you better. Once I feel safe with you, I will feel confident about promoting you into an HR Specialist role.”

I recommend that she take the internal recruiter position, and use it as an opportunity to deepen rapport with her HR Manager. This makes his job easier when it comes to hiring in the future.

If she wants to prospect externally for opportunities, I suggest that she focus on a pro-active job search strategy, by identifying preferred employers, getting the names of HR directors, using her contacts to get face-to-face with them to establish the same kind of rapport that is a pre-requisite of any hiring situation (except desperate ones!) . I have outlined this process in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

Your job, as a job seeker, is to reduce that risk for a hiring manager, by giving them a chance to get to know you. The purpose of these meetings is not to get a job but to build rapport with a manager so that they feel “safe” with you.

Talking Your Way Into a Job

Jerry (due to the security nature of his job we are not using his real name) came to my office a victim of the high tech bubble burst in 2003 with an interesting problem. He was a middle manager in his middle 40s and didn’t know how to look for a job. He really never had to look for a job in the past. He had a good reputation and as long as things were going well with high tech start-ups, employers were coming to him.

However, things were no longer going well. He had spent most of his career in aerospace and telecom research and development. By time he came to me, he had spent most of his summer sending out resumes without success.

What Jerry needed from me was coaching on how to target companies and tell his story in a compelling manner–concepts that he’d had no reason to think about very much in the past. He also had to learn where he best fit and what kinds of jobs to avoid. He was quite willing to do all three.

The first thing we did was work on “the fit.” The opportunity of “making a killing” was the main draw to his previous jobs. In retrospect, he realizes they were not good situations because he didn’t ask enough questions. He even described his last job as a “toxic work environment.”

What he really needed was an opportunity to use broad organizational and leadership skills to manage technical projects with some high risks and exciting challenges. He also wanted to work with a “reasonably-sized group,” which he defined as “over 10 people.”

Our next step was to have Jerry increase his networking skills so he could make contacts to find his hidden opportunities–positions he would fit that might not even exist. He did this by creating a spreadsheet of 20 target companies, who the principal players were at each company, if he knew any of them and how to contact someone if he didn’t know somebody at the company.

Next he called each company and wrote into the spreadsheet what they talked about, when to check back and how he had left off the conversation.

Then he would meet with me every two to three weeks and go through what he did. If he was called for an interview, we would go through typical questions and the methodology of answering those questions the day before the interview. We also went through a debriefing during our next meeting after each interview.

Most people go into an interview with the assumption the employers know what they’re doing. Employers are just human beings, too, and they’re subject to all kinds of flaws and weaknesses.

So instead of just answering questions, Jerry had to learn to tell “his story” in a compelling way. People think that when they are being interviewed, they are being interviewed for a job vacancy. If they can communicate their value–Here’s what I bring to the table; here’s what I bring to the company–more than a third of the time, the employer will create a job for them.

It certainly worked for Jerry. After two interviews at major defense contractor for a posted vacancy, the senior managers created another job, one that is a perfect fit for him. He’s in charge of the research for designing most of the surveillance equipment used to protect Canada.

Jerry got the job because he had a coach that helped him stay focused on what he really wanted and then Jerry did the work.