When I interviewed Harvey Mackay recently about using selling techniques to help in a job search, I told him that he was giving away the top secrets of journalists, also. It's funny -- I never thought that journalists and salespeople use the same strategies to gain access to important people, but I guess it's true. Here's the story I did for Gannett/USAToday.com, and some of the secrets that will work whether you're salesman, a journalist or a job seeker...
Harvey Mackay has been a salesman for a long time. He has bestselling books sharing his business advice and he heads a $100 million company. He’s in great demand as a business speaker, and has the ear of more than a few influential decision-makers.
As the job market has worsened over the last year, Mackay has turned his sales abilities in a new direction – teaching job seekers techniques to help “sell” themselves to employers.
In his new book, “Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You,” (Portfolio, $25.95) Mackay reveals a number of strategies he says can get anyone a job. In fact, he’s so sure his strategies will work that he’s offering a refund on the book if “you do not have a job in six months,” he says.
“It’s amazing that when people are looking for jobs they are such babes in the woods,” Mackay says. “When you’re going for a job, you’re selling yourself. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have the first idea about what to do.”
Among his suggestions:
- Don’t be the first interview. The strongest contenders for a job are often those interviewed last, because they’re recalled easier by hiring managers. “Try to find out if anyone else has been interviewed when they call you for an appointment. If you’re one of the first ones, tell a little white lie and come up with an excuse why you need to be interviewed later,” Mackay says.
- Study while you wait. Check out the reception area to get a feel for the company culture. Are awards displayed for the company’s softball team? You may be able to mention to the hiring manager how you are a great shortstop. Or, maybe you observe that people are quiet and reserved – a hint about how you should behave when meeting others.
- Chat up the receptionist. These employees often are influential and can either get your call to the right person – or not. Take note of the person’s name, and listen for cues about hobbies or families so you can make a more personal connection.
- Remember, it’s not about you. During an interview, focus on what you can do for an employer. Do your research and then talk about ideas you have to help face industry or company challenges, or use search engines such as Pipl.com to find out more information about an interviewer. “Remember, the sweetest sounds a person can hear is his own name, and a way to endear yourself to anyone is to compliment her on her work and the recognition she’s received,” he writes.
- Read upside down. When you enter an interviewer’s office, look around at books, photos or memorabilia that are displayed. This gives you an opening to start a conversation that makes you more memorable and likeable. “Read the desk. Read the wall. Read upside down,” Mackay says. “Go the extra mile for the person interviewing you by taking an interest in them. Very few people are willing to do that.”
- Interview the interviewer. While you don’t want to ask about benefits or salary in an initial interview, hiring managers will favor those who come prepared with questions about the company. “Successful companies, just like successful people, usually do not count modesty among their greatest virtues, and they not immune to skillful flattery,” he writes.
- De-brief. As soon as you can upon leaving the interview, write down your impressions, thoughts, questions and ideas about those you met at the company. Note things such as the difficult questions you were asked, what concerns the interviewer expressed about you or what you believe to be the job’s biggest advantage. This information will be critical for a second interview, “and second interviews land jobs,” he says.