What The Interviewer Really Look For In An Applicant

Interviewer observing applicant

Photo Credit: Gabby K

“You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for what you put in an hour.”

Jim Rohn

“You have to convince an employer that what they are looking for is exactly who you are.”

Many of the best career opportunities are never advertised. That may sound ridiculous, but I’ll convince you of that if you give me the time. This may go against the grain of your thinking, but it will make sense in a moment.

Suppose you were a Fortune 500 company and you were looking for a Vice President to helm your international shipping operations for one of your divisions, here’s why you probably won’t advertise the position.

  • You would be tipping your hand to your competitors that you are possibly expanding.
  • You might be attempting to lure a key competitor employee.
  • It might raise the question as to what is going to happen to the employee at the company who is currently in that position.
  • An advertisement could overload your human resources director with unqualified applicants and possibly overlook the right applicant.
  • That’s not the way big-business does things.

Finding A Key Employee

One way a company could find a key employee is to contact a Headhunter, someone who specializes in finding high-power executives.

In simple terms, the Headhunter spends thousands of hours talking to executives who aren’t quite at the level that they would like to be and are open to a possible move. Over months and years the Headhunter builds up a roster of qualified people and then on the other side of the coin places calls to Fortune 500 companies to inquire if they would have interest in interviewing a particular candidate.

The company may say no, but the Headhunter is hoping for a reply like, “If you should run across someone with international currency experience, speaks Spanish fluently, not averse to relocating, and has at least ten years experience in the field of geology, get back to me.

Bingo! The Headhunter didn’t sell a prospect he had in mind but got a lead to find a particular candidate for a company. This game goes back and forth every day with hundreds of Headhunters and companies. Jobs, great jobs, and careers are out there, but you’ll never see an ad in the classified section.

As a Financial Consultant for a number of Wall Street firms, I would regularly get a call to see if I was interested in making a move. Most executives have gotten a call from a Headhunter at their current position and many have accepted the offer to proceed to the interview stage or move to a new company.

“If You Can Make Money For A Company, You Get To Demand”

Keep in mind that companies are always interested in people that can join their company and fatten the bottom line, which is to say, if you can make money for a company, somebody will hire you.

In my youth, I worked for a personnel company in San Diego. This is how it would work. Lots of little ads were run in the Sunday classified section of the local papers with a job description and usually, a starting salary or the well-known, make up to $$$$ annually verbiage.

The reaction was always the same. On Monday morning all the lines were ringing off the hook. Whoever answered the phone would evaluate the caller with a few questions and either invite them in for an interview or tell them that a more qualified candidate is needed, but probe to see if this caller could fit another job description before hanging up.

Another part of the business was calling companies asking if they were seeking employees and if so, which qualities would the job candidate need. There would be a fee, of course, sometimes paid by the company looking to hire, sometimes by the job applicant who would get hired, or split between the two.

Granted, not every job candidate fit the job description perfectly, but our job was to convince both sides that it would be a perfect fit. Fees always had negotiating room, just as long as the company made money, and the rep was satisfied with the commission and either the company and/or the job candidate was willing to pay, which was my first introduction to really creative ways to finance items. Pawn jewelry, refinancing a car, in-house financing, and borrow money from the parents who want the kid out of the house and working, and credit cards of course.

Having a Headhunter is a great advantage if you are high on the food chain. If you’re on the lower end, the personnel agencies can come in handy. If you aren’t afraid of rejection you should go after what you want. This would include those with selling skills, recent graduates, and people in a so-so job who want more.

I don’t know what type of job or career you’re after, but I don’t have to. I’ll give you ways to approach the job or career that you really want. I’ll have to cover some basics, perhaps things you already know, but I’ll share my stories with you and my experience to save you some false starts and get you closer to your ideal income situation.

Let’s start with what I can’t emphasize enough and that is, you have to decide what it is what you want to do with your life. You must also realize that it may take a couple or a few, or a few dozen steps to get there.

How do you decide what it is that you want to do with your life? The short answer is that you seriously think about it. This is about what you want to do with your life, not what your parents want you to do with your life, or what your friends think you should do with your life. It’s about you!

If you’re married or married with a family there are other considerations, but you must focus on one area that you can make a living, you enjoy, and have the potential for an increase in earnings as time passes.

If you currently get paid by the hour you’ll never get rich at that job. If you’re salaried, there are limitations as well. A salaried employee is someone who has agreed to work extra hours for no extra pay.

You don’t have to agree with me, but hear me out. I speak from experience. When you’re out in the job market and telling everybody you run into that you’re willing to do anything because you just need a job, don’t expect a flood of offers.

When an employer hears that you just need a job, they know ahead of time that you won’t stick around once something better comes along and the employer really has to weigh the advantages of training you. Who wants to train someone on a job and after six months of the learning curve and the cost of mistakes they move on to something else because of a fifty cents per hour wage increase?

Never ever tell anybody that you’re willing to do anything just to get a paycheck. However, don’t be afraid to tell an employer that you’re willing to join the company in any capacity in order to come on board with your dream company. Read that again so that you have a clear understanding of the difference. You are not going to beg for a job for the sake of a paycheck, but you’ll do any task that you’re asked just for the opportunity to prove yourself that you would make a valuable employee and benefit the company.

Companies have no problem with training good people if they know that the person is in it for the long-haul. Once you’re trained you have value and you add value to the company’s bottom-line and as I’ve said before; Companies can use people that can make them money.

The more skills you can bring to the table, the more valuable you are. Don’t be surprised if you hear the phrase, “you’re really overqualified for this position.” I’ve heard it a few times in my life. You just have to be ready with a great reply in a respectful way, “I know that by looking at my cv I appear to be over-qualified for this position, but I’m willing to accept this position so that I can join this company and grow with it. I know it won’t be immediate, but I’m confident that the company will be able to utilize my full potential. In the meantime, I would become familiar with the different aspects of the company and the employees and be ready to fill a higher position should one open up due to promotion, attrition, or transfer. When can I join the team? Who else do I have to speak with to make my intentions known? I’m ready to go to work right now?”

Don’t let an interviewer swat you like a fly. Sometimes they’re just testing to see if you really want to work for the company and also fishing to see if they can get an over-qualified employee like you at a discounted price. The worst they can say is no and you can re-apply in thirty days, or sixty days, and so on.

You have to be willing to commit to the job and or career that you are chasing. If you’re not committed to the task at hand, it just isn’t going to work. Keep in mind you have to have a strong commitment to every company that you approach and don’t be afraid to approach a few companies at the same time. Just because Company A doesn’t have an opening right now, doesn’t mean that in three weeks a guy from Company A takes a job with Company B and creates an opportunity for you.

Stay in touch. If a company says that they just filled a position that you would be ideal for, don’t hesitate to tell them that if the new hire doesn’t work out, you’d be happy to talk with the company in the future. Most companies have some sort of probation period and not everybody makes it.

That probation period can be a big plus for you, especially if they find out if the candidate they hired lied about employment, criminal record, driver’s license status, former experience, etc. Be ready, be polite, and don’t be afraid to keep at it.

I’ll share this story with you. I was working for SmithBarney in Beverly Hills, Ca. as a financial consultant, but after about a decade of the industry, my heart just wasn’t in it. I wanted out.

What did I do? I did what I’ve recommended to you. I thought long and hard about what I really wanted to do at that time in my life and came to a decision. I’d always had a love of broadcasting ever since elementary school when I heard my voice being played back from a tape recorder. I would listen to disc jockeys, Reverends, commercial announcers, and radio theatre and just dream about how cool it would be to be on-the-air.

I set my sights high. I shied away from sports, because it seemed to me that everybody wanted to be a sportscaster. My background was in finance, so I decided to go after business news.

I began my job hunt in February of 1991 and applied to every major network for radio and TV work. There were lots of rejection slips and lots of embarrassment. Friends and family thought I was crazy for even trying to get into broadcasting, but I was determined.

One by one I was being discarded and with every rejection, I became more aggressive with the remaining prospects. I reassessed my efforts and concluded that I had a real talent for broadcasting with years of experience, I was more qualified than many of the broadcasters in the business, and I had a passion for the airwaves.

At the time I was frustrated and consumed by my desire. I almost threw in the towel, but after nine months I was hired by CBS, rising to the position of Business Editor in Los Angeles and also doing television and talk radio for two other CBS stations in Los Angeles.

Being offered to work for CBS as long as I wanted was a just reward for my efforts and an offer from Bloomberg news was a nice stroke, but after ten years, I was ready to move on to more adventurous endeavors.

If you really want it, go after it, because even if you don’t get it, you may be lead to something that you enjoy that you never even thought of, or walk away satisfied, knowing that you gave it your all.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

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Lazz Laszlo

Lazz spends a decade working for such firms as PaineWebber, E.F. Hutton, and Citigroup's SmithBarney. Lazz gave hundreds of presentations and seminars on finance, investing, and sales techniques to individuals, companies, and M.B.A. students attending business schools.

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