Happy almost Valentine’s day!
In honor of the excessively commercialized Hallmark holiday we celebrate this week that will fill overpriced restaurants and heart-shaped chocolate boxes to the brim, The Distracted Goldfish brings you tips on how to show a hiring manager that you love them — and want to marry them.
“Love them? Marry them?!” I hear you saying, “But I hardly know them!”
Ok, so maybe not love exactly. But if you’re hoping for a job offer from me, I need to see your sincere commitment and passion for my company and our vision to change the world. This is a universal truth across start ups. Don’t worry, though, you can skip sending me a box of chalky, heart-shaped candy embossed with romantic phrases.
Commitment is carving time out of your day to have a proper phone interview
Let’s start with the basics, because I’m always surprised how many candidates either don’t pick up their phone or seem startled that I’m calling them.
One Friday afternoon at 5pm, several months ago, I was eager to head into the weekend. I called my last candidate of the day, Melissa, and waited through a few rings. She answered enthusiastically, clearly expecting my call, and then said “I’m actually on my bike about 5 minutes away from home. Can I call you back?”
I’m sorry, what?
The Distracted Goldfish: “No, unfortunately I have a meeting in 20 minutes” (true story)
Melissa: “Ok, let me see if I can get my headphones to work.”
What she didn’t say — but what I quickly deduced — was “so I can talk to you while I continue to ride my bike.”
Hmm. Phone interview while riding a bike. That’s a new one.
Melissa fussed around with her headphones (unsuccessfully) for a minute while the wind from riding her bike made a loud whooshing sound in my ear. Fortunately, she eventually declared defeat and hopped off her bike to talk to me.
Here’s something to keep in mind before your next interview. Start up recruiters and hiring managers want to work with team members who are genuinely over-the-moon excited about what the company is building and how it’s going to transform the world. Enthusiasm is critical sustenance when it comes to late nights and the myriad of frustrations that plague start up employees on a daily basis, not to mention that start ups simply can’t pay as well as the Googles and Facebooks of the world. But you can’t fake it. Great hiring managers have the noses of drug-detecting Beagles when it comes to sniffing out candidates who care more about the paycheck than the company’s mission. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve seen candidates rejected because they just didn’t seem that interested in what the company was doing.
So, dedicate the time. Answer the phone. Don’t seem surprised when the recruiter calls. And keep in mind that start ups care a lot more than big companies do about your passion for their mission and vision.
Passion is overlooking inconvenience. Passion is sacrifice.
Like most hiring mangers, I always save time for 2-3 questions from the candidate during a phone conversation. I distinctly remember one that went like this:
The Distracted Goldfish: “Do you have a question or two I can answer?”
George: “So, your office is in Palo Alto?”
The Distracted Goldfish: “Yes, and we’re opening one in San Francisco soon, too.”
George (said very seriously): “Oh good, because I would have had to cut the conversation off right there. I don’t do commutes.”
I’m 100% with you, George. Commuting sucks. I know this because (at the time) I was spending 3.5 hours a day commuting to and from work. I hardly saw my husband. I almost never saw my friends. And I certainly never did anything “fun” on a weeknight.
I understand that this kind of start up schedule isn’t for everyone. It’s completely reasonable to drop out of an interview process if you’re going to have an insane commute. But be careful about how you drop this bomb on your recruiter. For all George knew, we had the most incredibly flexible work from home policy and a second office close to his home. But, he let the cat out of the bag. He just wasn’t that into me, the company, or the role. We weren’t even interesting enough for him to continue the conversation.
5 great ways to show a hiring manager your commitment and passion
Here are a few simple ways to demonstrate how excited you are about the company, role, and team you’re interviewing with.
1. Ask excellent, informed questions
As I’ve mentioned before, there’s nothing that impresses me more than a fantastic question or two. Start by investing a significant chunk of time to research the company you’re interviewing with. Use what you learn to craft nuanced questions about the company and role. And make sure it’s clear from how you phrase your questions that you’ve done research. This shows me that you care enough to dedicate the time.
2. Give specific reasons why you’re interested in the role, company, and team
At some point you’ll probably be asked “Why <this company>?” or “What are you looking for in your next role?” Next time you get one of these questions, tailor your answer very specifically to the individual company you’re talking to. Your answer should imply that the company, team, and role is exactly what you’re looking for! The more precise you can be, the more your passion will come through. Don’t just say that you’re excited about healthcare and so working for a healthcare start up would be great. Say why you’re passionate about healthcare; what impact do you want to make in the healthcare industry?
3. Write a thank you note
After you talk with the hiring manager, send a quick thank you email. I’m always surprised how few candidates take this easy step. Writing a quick note is an opportunity to emphasize your excitement. Reference specifics from the conversation you had with the hiring manager or follow up with an idea helpful to the company. More on thank you notes another time.
4. Be responsive. Follow up if needed
Rightly or wrongly, I interpret delayed responses to my emails as you just not being that into me. So, stay on top of your inbox and reply in 24 hours or less — preferably less. And if a lot of time passes without you hearing from the hiring manager, be proactive in reaching out to him/her.
5. Go above and beyond
There are plenty of other ways to demonstrate just how interested you are in the company you’re talking to. Here’s an email I once received from a candidate —
“I’m actually in the airport now about to head to the east coast for a wedding this weekend. If you think there is potential for me to move forward in the process, and you think there is also possibility for that to happen before Friday afternoon, I can switch my flight (I have flight insurance- and I am very interested in this role and will do what I can to show that). Otherwise I won’t be back in town until Sunday night.”
No, of course I don’t want you to rearrange your travel plans! Please go take your vacation and enjoy yourself. But the fact that you would even suggest this demonstrates an incredible level of passion and commitment. Noted.
How will you demonstrate your excitement and passion in your next start up interview?
The Distracted Goldfish