Posts in Job Search
The secret to interviewing - how to get 5x more offers
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Before I learned the secret to interviewing, I was rejected from 25 internships that I applied to during business school.

I received just one offer — and it wasn’t very competitive. But it was my only offer. So I took it.

And I felt like a complete failure.

How had I interviewed so many times and walked away with only one offer? And how did some of my classmates at Stanford Business School have so many offers — at companies I dreamed of working for?

People often think that having a certain degree or company on their résumé will ensure lifelong job search success. Not true. In fact, the way you interview may count for even more. It’s competitive out there, and you must know how to effectively interview to get multiple offers — and ultimately a job you would love, as discussed more in Art of the Job Search.

Turns out that many of my classmates knew something I didn’t at the time: the secret to interviewing.

I really wanted to know how they did so well in interviews. So I asked a friend who got offers at multiple top firms and startups: What was his secret.

He shared this life-changing piece of wisdom:

"Act like you are interviewing them."


Initially, I thought his advice was crazy. But then I realized that I had nothing to lose by trying it. My past interviewing approach had been highly deferential — and highly ineffective.

During my next search, I decided to take this approach, and the results stunned me.

I received offers for five of the seven jobs that I interviewed for — an offer rate of about 70 percent, or five times more offers than I received during my prior job search.

Or to get even more hyperbolic, since my initial success rate was only 4 percent, this new success rate was 17 times higher.

Why You Should “Act Like You Are Interviewing Them”

After taking this approach, I realized that it made sense for a couple of key reasons.

For one, when you act like you are interviewing the company, you’redisplaying ownership and confidence — two of the top traits hiring managers seek.

In a recent survey in Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager, top managers were asked what they seek in job candidates. They responded, “We want people who are problem solvers and are willing to take initiative. We want people…who act like they own the place.”

What better way to show these qualities than in your interview style?

Additionally, you should be interviewing them for your own purposes, not just to demonstrate ownership and confidence.

Most people approach the interview as a one-sided thing: impressing the company. But you should be interviewing the company to gauge their impression on you, too.

Even if the company really wants you, you will have to know if you actually want to work there. The interview is your opportunity to figure this out.


5 Ways to “Act Like You Are Interviewing Them”

1. Own the Introduction

First impressions are critical — the first 15 seconds of an interview can determine whether you get the job. Often, people wait for the interviewer to initiate the handshake and conversation. But you should do this instead.

To make a strong first impression, take control of the interaction with each person you meet. Each time you meet someone new, stand up and offer your hand first — and give a strong handshake. Ask them a rapport-building question like, “How’s your day going?” Be enthusiastic. And smile.

This approach not only shows your interviewers that you are the confident team member they seek, but it also sets you up for success by making you more confident. Acting confident leads to actual confidence — which will make you more effective in the rest of the interview (see #4).

2. Ask More Questions During the Interview

During my failed job search, I viewed the interviewers as the question-askers and myself as the question-answerer. I politely waited to speak until addressed. And this approach failed miserably.

Instead, make each interview a two-way dialogue. This is probably the most effective way to act like you are interviewing them.

So, how do you turn the interview into a two-way conversation?

Ask questions during the interview. From the moment the interview starts, make it a conversation by asking lots of questions throughout the conversation. For example:

  • Beginning: Ask how your interviewer is doing when they sit down.

  • Middle: Ask questions about the role or your interviewer’s background.Ask questions as they come to you during the conversation.

  • End: Ask good questions that you’ve prepared in advance (see #5).

Think about the interview as a conversation with a friend. In other words, if you were chatting with a friend, what questions would you ask her?

In one interview where I asked a lot of questions, the interviewer never got around to asking me a single interview question. I led the conversation, and it ended up being a very casual, informative, and enjoyable conversation. And I got the job.

Note: Interviewers are usually receptive to the two-way dialogue approach (probably 80 percent of the time), but sometimes more-formal interviewers like to stick to their script. If you sense that the conversational approach is not working, let it go.

3. Form a Connection — And Show Your Personality

People hire people they like — according to research.

At a past company where I worked, one of the top ways we assessed a candidates was by asking ourselves: “Would you want to be stuck with this person in an airport for eight hours?” Because we traveled a lot. And, well, it happened sometimes.

Feel free to be yourself and show some personality. It’s okay to laugh — and even to enjoy the conversation. You don’t always have to be serious in interviews. Seriously. Take a cue from your interviewers — if they seem more relaxed, then it’s okay to be more informal.

Research also shows that people like people who are like themselves, which is why you should aim to find connections with your interviewers. Research your interviewers on LinkedIn beforehand to find things you have in common (like the same school, past employer, etc.), and then try to subtly drop this into the conversation during the interview.

4. Exude Confidence

Admittedly, this is a tough one. It’s hard to feel confident when you feel nervous and want to impress. But it’s possible.

In her TED Talk, Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggests that your body language can make you more confident. Go into the bathroom before your interview and spread your arms to the sky (no one will know)—strike a power pose. Continue to act confident even if you don’t feel it, or to put it more simply: fake it till you make it.

My friend listened to his favorite Pearl Jam song — “I Believe in Miracles” — before every interview he’s ever had. Do whatever it takes for you.

A confident verbal communication style is important as well, and the best way to nail this is to anticipate questions and practice your answers in advance—here’s a good list to start to use in preparation.

The most important question is “Can you talk me through your résumé?” or some variation thereof. It’s almost always the first one you’ll be asked in an interview — and it’s your chance to make a great first impression.

The key to this question is not to tell your life story in chronological order.Instead, highlight the themes in your background that make you a great fit for this particular job — and keep it short (no more than a few minutes). If interviewers want to know more, they’ll ask.

A few other tips for exuding confidence: Make eye contact, mind your body language, keep your answers concise, and cut the filler words (the “likes” and “ums”).

5. Ask Good Questions at the End

Always be prepared to ask questions at the end of an interview. Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position and that you’re thinking about how you can contribute to the team.

Plus, this is your opportunity to continue interviewing your interviewer. What do you really want to know to help decide if the role is right for you?

Top questions that can offer good insight into the job include:

  • What do you like most and least about working here?

  • What are your top priorities right now?

  • What are your goals for this year?

  • What’s the team structure? How does this position interact with other people on the team and within the company?

  • Can you tell me about some of the projects you’re working on?

A Job Is Only Great When It’s a Match on Both Sides

While taking the approach of “acting like you are interviewing them” will lead to more job offers, it won’t always get you the job. Sometimes, it’s just not the right fit.

During one interview, I couldn’t seem to connect with my interviewers regardless of what I tried. And I didn’t get the job. Even though my interviews felt “off,” it still hurt to get that rejection call.

When I was finally able to get over the disappointment and be honest with myself, I realized I wouldn’t have wanted that job. Not being hired was a blessing in disguise—I later found a job I loved with a team that I really enjoyed.

A job is only great when it’s a match on both sides.

So, continue to own your interviews — and act like you are interviewing them. Because, after all, you are.

Want more tips on how to find a job you love? Check out Art of the Job Search.

Want to learn to negotiate? Start with your Morning coffee.
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When I took my first job, it never crossed my mind to negotiate my salary — or any other component of my offer for that matter. I was so grateful that I had an offer that I just took it. 

Later, I asked a colleague if he negotiated his offer , even though the salary was fixed. “I tried,” he said. “I try to negotiate everything.”

This conversation was illuminating. Unlike my colleague, I didn’t try to negotiate anything — ever. The idea of negotiating felt at best, awkward, and at worst, scary.

Over the next year, I came across some information that made me realize that by failing to negotiate, I was missing out on two major things:

  1. Income (about $500k over my lifetime) and
  2. Equality.

After all, women still only make 80% of what men do. This data inspired me to overcome my fear of negotiation and develop this critical skill — for the next time I had the opportunity to negotiate my salary or a job offer.

To build my comfort negotiating, I intentionally started small. And I made my first attempt in a low-pressure situation, where I had little to lose, for example when I would never see the person again.

My first negotiation occurred about ten years ago — in a mall. I found a sweater I liked at J. Crew with a broken button. So, when I was checking out, I simply said: “This button is broken. Is there anything you can do?”

Without blinking, the cashier said “Sure. 30% off.”

That was my first success. It was so easy — and inspired me to keep negotiating in low-pressure situations, like at stores, at the coffee shop, or on my cable bill, so that I could build the skill for when I really needed it.

I later used the negotiation skills I built in my career — most notably to negotiate job offers. In my last job search, I successfully got seven companies to raise their salary offers by up to 20%.

Why you should negotiate in your career

A fear of negotiation is so common that almost half of all job candidates never try to negotiate their initial offer.

But here’s the thing: most companies expect you to negotiate. In a recent study, half of all companies say that they would be willing to negotiate a job offer.

People who don’t negotiate their salary miss out on $500k — or more — over a lifetime. Negotiating your salary from $50k to $55k — merely an extra $5k — can lead to half a million dollars of additional earnings over fifty years. You can also use this calculator to see how much your negotiations could generate over the course of your life.

On average, women miss out even more. According to Women Don’t Ask, we are four times less likely to negotiate than men — and when we do negotiate, we ask for less and receive 30% less than men. This is likely a contributing factor to the pay gap — currently, on average women make only 80% of what men do.

So, how do you learn to negotiate — especially if you’ve spent a lifetime avoiding it?

1. Start by negotiating the small things

To get comfortable negotiating, start small. Ask for a discount on a product. Or, ask for two stamps on your coffee loyalty card. Or, negotiate a discount on your monthly cable bill. For other ideas on things you can negotiate, check out this list.

You will probably end up being shocked at how often you’re successful negotiating, not to mention that it always feels good to get a deal.

By negotiating small things frequently in your personal life, you will gain the comfort and skill necessary to negotiate larger things in the future — like a job offer or a raise.

2. Use friendly language — and questions

A common misperception is that negotiations must involve language a la Wolf of Wall Street — words like: “I’m worth this, or “if you don’t pay me X, I’ll take my talents elsewhere,” or “this is my final offer.”

But this perception of negotiation couldn’t be further from the truth.


Negotiation does not need to be Wolf of Wall Street style. (Source: GIPHY)

Negotiation language does not need to be hostile — in fact, using amicable language gives you a better chance of succeeding in a negotiation. According to Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra, being likable in a negotiation leads to a higher success rate.

I definitely have felt more comfortable — and authentic — using a friendly approach to negotiation.

Recently, I was purchasing a couple new couches for our living room and had sticker shock when I received the quote. So, I called the salesperson and said: “I saw that you had a 20% off Summer clearance promotion that ended last week. Any chance you can still honor this?” Without hesitation, the salesman said: “Sure.” Success!

What I’ve found is this: Negotiation is often as simple as

  1. Providing convincing data and
  2. Asking a question.

Next time you are buying something — anything — try to negotiate. Here are some ways to practice negotiating with data and/or a question and get great discounts along the way:

  • Is there a promotion going on right now? If they say no, try: “This is a large order — any chance you can offer XX% off?”
  • I found the same product listed on Amazon (or another retailer) — can you offer it to me at the same price?
  • I noticed this small defect — can you offer a discount?
  • I saw that you were offering X% off last week — any chance that can still be applied here?
  • Would you be willing to provide this service for less? Ideally suggest a number.

3. Always try to negotiate

Getting comfortable negotiating in your personal life is good practice for negotiating larger things in your life — like a job offer or a raise. So, start looking for opportunities to negotiate on a daily basis — then, try.

I almost always ask for deals and discounts, and I’m shocked at how often people unblinkingly just say: “Yes.” I would estimate that I’m successful about 80% of the time.

And when they say no, the relationship always stays cordial. If you approach the negotiation in an friendly way, how can they be upset with you?

So, why does negotiation work so often?

Think about it: negotiation is mutually beneficial for both parties.

In the couch example above, they wanted me to purchase this large order. And, I wanted the product — and to feel like I got a good deal.

We both won.

In a job offer negotiation, the company wants you to work there. And you want to be paid fairly. If you negotiate, you both win.

As a result, you may make an extra half a million dollars — or more — over your lifetime.

How I Got promoted twice in two years
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When I changed jobs a few years ago, I worried about being promoted.

The position I interviewed for was at a senior manager level, but when the company made me an offer, they downgraded the role to manager — based on my “experience level.” I tried to negotiate the title but ultimately decided that salary was more important. (According to research, the best approach to negotiation is to consider the whole package and make tradeoffs.)

But I still really wanted to be a senior manager — which would require a promotion.

So, before I accepted the job, I called my manager and said, “I’m excited about this role and want the opportunity to make further contributions by becoming a senior manager. Can we set up an informal review in six months to assess my performance and a potential promotion?”

He consented to my request. And I accepted the job.

I initially planned to wait to discuss promotion with my manager until our informal review in six months. But after talking to a friend, I realized that this approach would be a mistake. She had recently been promoted after having regular (in her case, weekly) discussions with her manager.

If I waited six month to discuss my performance, I would have no idea in the interim if I was meeting expectations and on track for promotion. So I decided to take a bolder approach than I ever had in the past: I resolved to have direct discussions around my performance and promotion in our scheduled development conversations. Every. Single. Month.

I was apprehensive before initiating our first discussion about a month after I started. My manager was a direct communicator—not my natural style. As a self-identified introvert, I hesitate to act in ways that could be construed as aggressive.

So instead of directly asking how promotion worked, I made the conversation about performance management and my interest in long-term career growth at the company. I kicked off our first conversation by saying, “I’m excited about the opportunities at this company and would love to learn more about how career development works here.”

I progressed to asking him about how the performance management system worked and what it would take for me to reach the next level. Then, each month, I consistently asked for feedback and whether I was on track for promotion. (See #1 and #4 below for the specific questions I asked, both in our initial meeting and regular follow-up meetings).

Surprisingly, I found that our frequent, open conversations improved our working relationship. And I realized two things about asking for what you want: 1) It doesn’t have to be aggressive, and 2) when done appropriately, it is extremely effective.

As a result of our regular conversations, coupled with the strategies below, I was promoted to senior manager after only six months and then promoted again in a year (under a different manager) to director, a much larger role.

Through these experiences, I realized something critical about effective career management:

Job performance is important — but it’s not enough simply to be good at your job. To be promoted, you must understand how promotion works, be strategic in your approach — and, most important, advocate for yourself.


1. Get Clarity on What Is Required to Be Promoted

Before my first performance discussion with my manager, I couldn’t identify any clear or consistent standards for promotion. I wasn’t sure why some people were promoted quickly and some never made it to the next level, even after 10 years at the company.

This uncertainty led to my first revelation around promotion: If you don’t know what’s required to get promoted, you must ask.

So, in our first monthly performance management meeting, I asked the following questions:

  • “How does performance management work?” (e.g., Are there performance criteria that determine promotion?)
  • “Who assesses my performance?” (Just my manager? The whole team?)
  • “When do performance reviews occur?” (Annually? Semiannually?)
  • “What would it take to move to the next level?” (Specifically, what do I need to do? Is promotion possible in my current role?)

Having this conversation early gave me a tangible goal to work towards I learned about the company’s official performance matrix — and which characteristics were most important to my manager for my role (in his case: strategic thinking, influencing, and executive communication).

This conversation will also allow you to understand if it’s possible to be promoted in your current role. Promotion requires: 1) a role for you to be promoted into, 2) the budget to pay your higher salary, and 3) often, a consensus decision by several others. If you’ve performed well, sometimes your manager cannot promote you — even if he really wants to. In this case, figure out what the other long-term options are for you at the company.


2. Act Like You’re Already at the Next Level

When I asked my manager about the key drivers of promotion, he said people who are promoted have: 1) excelled in their job, and 2) already proven that they can operate at the next level.

I realized that the best way to earn a promotion is to: Act like you are already at the next level.

I studied what was required at the next level and tried to do it. From my experience, here are a couple powerful ways to display your promotion readiness:

  • Ask for “stretch” projects: When I was promoted, I requested — and received — a high-impact digital strategy project that enabled me to engage with leaders who were involved in promotion decisions. My performance on this project was later cited as one of the reasons I was promoted.
  • Own your work: As a manager, one of the top things I look for in promoting members of my team is the ability of each employee to “own” their work. Can they problem solve on their own? Can they influence others? Can they complete entire work streams without constant guidance? Here are some powerful suggestions on how to “own” your work.


3. Ask for It

For people like me who liked school, sadly, work is not like school, where you could sit quietly in class, do solid work, and get an A. At work, sitting back and hoping someone notices all the great work you do is unlikely to lead to a promotion.

Instead, you must make it very clear that you want to be promoted because: 1) It shows ambition, that you actively want to take on the challenge of the next role, and 2) not everyone wants to be promoted.

When I was promoted the second time, my management responsibilities and scope of work doubled. While the role was exciting, it was also a lot more work — and more stressful. Some people, understandably, don’t want to take on expanded career responsibilities at certain points in their lives. I’m sure I’ll be there at some point in my life, too.


4. Discuss It Regularly with Your Manager

Research shows that 80 percent of people feel uncomfortable discussing employment terms like promotion. People often find these discussions intimidating because they think they must be aggressive (e.g., “I want/ deserve a promotion!”)

But these conversations can, and should, be done in an agreeable way and on a regular basis. In my monthly promotion discussions, I focused on personal development by asking for feedback and what I could do to enhance my performance.

Each month, I asked my manager the same questions:

  • “Do you have any feedback for me? (Note: Providing feedback was not common at my company, so this was a new request for my manager. I gave him advance warning that I would be asking for feedback so he could prepare — and so he wasn’t thrown off guard. I also prepared feedback for him in case he asked for it (he did).
  • “Am I on track to move to the next level?”
  • “What do I need to ensure that I stay on track?”

These regular conversations with my manager ensured that we were on the same page throughout the process.


5. Show Why You Deserve a Promotion

No one knows how much you contribute at work except you. Your manager is busy with his own worries. She’s probably more concerned about her next promotion than yours.

In his book Power, Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford Business School, says:

Your first responsibility is to ensure that those at higher levels in your company know what you are accomplishing. And the best way to ensure they know what you are achieving is to tell them.

I realized that I needed to show my manager my contributions, visually and regularly — and here’s how I did it:

  1. I wrote down and reviewed goals and accomplishments regularly. For each monthly development conversation, I prepared a document listing my goals and accomplishments for that time period. We reviewed it together, which ensured that we were on the same page about priorities and that he was aware of what I had done.
  2. I sent weekly update emails. Another way I have kept my manager apprised of my work is by: 1) sending him an email each Monday with my top priorities and goals for the week, and 2) sending him an email on Friday highlighting what I had accomplished that week. If you take this approach, have a verbal conversation with your manager first to establish this process. And make sure your emails are bullet-pointed and easy to read quickly.


6. Get to Know the Decision-Makers Who Determine Promotions

In each of my promotions, I quickly realized that my manager was not the only one involved in the decision.

So, I started forming connections with the key promotion decision makers through regular coffee chats and work projects. Despite initially feeling anxious about reaching out to leaders that I did not know, I found that I enjoyed building these personal relationships and learning about their work.

Figure out who is involved in your promotion decision. Ask to grab coffee with them. Get to know them. If you can, try to work with them so you can demonstrate your talents.

People promote people they like, so start forming strong connections early with the people who hold the power to promote you.


What to Do When You Get Promoted

Celebrate! Grab a glass of champagne, go to a movie, or have a nice dinner.

Then, make sure you take the right steps to set yourself up for continued success.

Being promoted is an optimal time for negotiation. What do you want? Ideally, try to negotiate your base salary (since annual salary increases are based on this number.) Then, consider other things: bonus, stock options, extra vacation days, etc. (Here are some tips on how to negotiate effectively.)

Most important, what do you need to succeed in your new role? Extra team members? A larger budget? Support from certain leaders? Ask for the things you need, and make a clear case for why you need them.

It is critical that you do all you can to set yourself up for success in your new role so you can succeed in your new role — and put yourself on track to achieve that next promotion.