Talented people frequently ask me in frustration, “Why do I keep coming in second? I have all the skills, but I don’t seem to get picked”
If there is any secret in being the one who wins the job — it’s to make yourself be the obvious choice.
If you are not the obvious choice, it will be harder for the decision maker to choose you. You’ll be in a pack of close contenders. You might win or you might not.
But if you can do these two things to make yourself the obvious choice you will become the easy choice. You’ll become the choice.
1. Start doing the job before you are in it
2. Get on the decision maker’s list
1. Start doing the job before you are in it
Do your first month on the job before you get to the interview.
Learn everything you can about the company, the people, the competition, the customers and the market.
Go into your interview with your deliverables:
- An assessment of the current state
- Challenges and opportunities
- A desired outcome description of the future state
- A straw-man list of strategic priorities
- Key initiatives to fill the gap
- A list of problems to be solved
- One or two actual work products, like a plan or a deliverable that the role would produce
This give you key advantages:
1. You are already adding value. You become a more obvious choice for the job because you are already doing the job. It lets you showcase your talents in a tangible way instead of just talking about them. People can start to see you in the job because you are already doing it.
2. It shows them how you think and work. It’s hard to truly know people in an interview. Your work will give them a way to really understand how you will perform. This will make them comfortable about what they will “get” if the get you. You start to become the obvious choice.
3. You will have already added value to their business. If you do this well, they will see you in the job, doing the job, and they will get addicted to the work you are doing. You become the obvious choice because they will want you to keep doing it!
2. Get on the decision makers list
For any notable position, there is a short list.
How is this list created?
This list is created by who the decision makers listen to. The decision maker will ask a close circle of colleagues, “Who should I consider for this job?”. The names the decision maker hears become the list.
If you are not on that list, you are not getting the job.
This is the thing that frustrates talented people who think that they are being short changed for not being political enough, and that the good jobs are only being given to “friends”. Yes, there is a political element here, but it’s not about a closed, political friends network (not all the time).
It’s not only about negative politics, it’s about positive visibility. You need to have enough positive visibility to get on that list.
OK, How do you get on the Decision Maker’s short list?
The way to get on the list is to learn who the decision maker listens to. This is more relevant when you are going for an internal promotion, because as part of new search you typically have a recruiter or a colleague put you on the list. But it certainly does not hurt if there is another person who is saying that you should be considered. Work your network. If you can find a connection use it.
But for an internal promotion this is critical.
You can find out who the decision maker is listening to by getting to know the HR person, or their assistant. You can ask people in their organization, “Who do you think your executive goes to for advice and listens to the most?” You’ll find some answers.
Then find a way to meet someone who can put you on the list.
It’s important to do this in a way that does not seem self-serving and political. So the way to do that is to not be self-serving and political!
Find something of value that you can share. Or kindly ask them for some advice. This creates an opportunity to connect. Have a smart conversation, offer to help them. Get yourself on the radar in a pleasant and value-added way.
If you are interested in learning more about how to increase your visibility without being annoying, I did a whole webinar on this topic: Be Visible, but not Annoying Check it out.
Reduce the risk
Every hiring choice is a risk. The more that you can do to make yourself the obvious choice by doing the job before you get the job, and by being known in a positive way by the influencers of the decision the more likely you will win the job.
Don’t give up
It’s also vitally important to remember that people who get promotions also get turned down. In my own career I had about 4 significant promotions and about 4 big job wins. But I probably told NO at least 20 times along the way. The people who win, win at that particular time. Your win will come if you keep at it!
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)
You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.