Mod Note (Andy) - We're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #10 and was originally posted 10/4/2015.
In 2007 I made my hardest career transition.
After leavingand taking eighteen months off work, I decided to head back to Wall Street. As if having a big hole in my resume wasn't hard enough, after eight years at and leaving as a VP, I had my sights set on making a transition to the buy-side.
As many of you know, moving to the buy-side as a VP is no mean feat. Transitioning to the buy-side is competitive and challenging at every level, yet it's even harder when you are making a move at a somewhat senior level.
But that didn't deter me. I had an ace up my sleeve. A decade of researching personal development and building a certain set of skills, I was sure that I could land the jobs I wanted. I was so sure that I applied for just two. At what I perceived the top of the credit bubble, I focused on distressed investing jobs at theand Oaktree.
After I was awarded both jobs and joined Carlyle, my boss said to me--"Of all the candidates we interviewed you were by far the worst on paper, but you easily beat out the others. How did you do it?"
I didn't share with him what I'm about to share with you:
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation
Over the course of a few months I spent more than 500 hours preparing for my interviews.
Having already spent a career on Wall Street I could have walked in somewhat cold, but in my work on personal development I had learned quite clearly that the key to all success is preparation. So, while I focused on networking and figuring out what opportunities might be available to me (it was limited because I wanted to stay in Los Angeles), I went deep into preparing myself for my interviews, developing nearly 100 pages of notes.
Now, of course, like preparing for an exam, you don't want to simply throw hours at your preparation, and you want to focus on the preparation that has the most impact.
The WSO products are the best on the street. The case studies and interview guides give you an excellent head start on your preparation. But like a text book doesn't prepare you for your exams, you want to create for yourself a detailed set of review notes, including personalized Q&A.
Work your way through the interview guides and work your way through your own resume. Carefully think about the questions you will likely be asked and how to position your answers. In particular think carefully about your key selling points (the things that make you a great candidate) and the objections to hiring you, including your framing and responses.
For instance--imagine you went to a less than top-tier school. You know it is a weakness relative to other candidates. You know the interviewer is thinking this, and you want an answer that satisfies their question (whether they ask it or not). So, what do you say?
You might say--You know, relative to the other candidates I didn't go to a top school. Truth is that [insert reason: in high school I was more focused on XXX], but you see from my grades in college how seriously I have taken my studies while still doing XYZ in school. And I'm here because I'm hungry and I want this job and I assure that if you give me the opportunity I will prove to you that....
No matter the question, Preparation, Preparation, Preparation is the answer!
2. Know the GAME
Look, you have lived long enough to know that the best and smartest and most qualified person doesn't always win.
The most beautiful woman doesn't win the beauty pageant. The woman who wins is the one who can get more of the judges to like her. A job interview is a popularity contest, and your job is to make the interviewers want you.
Humans are humans and a top rule of influence is that--us humans like people who are like us. That means a basic level of influence is to become an expert at building rapport (trust, comfort, respect) with people. While we all do this naturally, this is a skill you can expertly train (including unconscious rapport such as matching and mirroring).
In interviews this is tricky because you are meeting different types of people who are evaluating you in different ways, and your job is to profile them, figure out what they are looking for, and be able to position you and your experiences according to how they are evaluating you.
I didn't say this would be easy. It takes practice and wicked skills.
3. Develop wicked skills
Many people believe that effective communicators are born that way. That's as false as assuming that some humans pop out of the womb and start walking. Every thing us humans do can be seen as a skill and can be learned, if only you are willing to put in the effort to learn the skill.
Many people lament that they don't have great communications skills. Or they say, I'm not confident meeting new people or speaking in public. But, how many of them have actually done anything to train those skills?
How many of them learned to write without scribbling for years? Or ride a bike without falling off a bunch of times?
When you step into the interview (or even a networking coffee or lunch), your job is to use all of your skills to build a relationship and sell yourself. This takes time and effort yet these three tools will take you a long way:
i. Read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People: If you have read it, read it again. And also take the time to practice every single one of the principles over and over again. You can become excellent at communications with this one book, but if you are ambitious, also check out Influence by Robert Cialdini.
ii. Master selling: Again, people think of selling as something you either have or you don't. WRONG. Selling is a skill that brings together preparation and the skills of communications and influence. Read How to Master The Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins. If you are serious, consider creating a Selling Black book to sell your most valuable commodity--YOU
iii. If you're bold, dip your toe in the water and learn the most advanced skills of influence--NLP and conversational hypnosis. Here you will learn nuances of language and non-verbal communications that few people even know people do. It's hard to learn from a book, so check out courses on NLP.
4. Mental rehearsal
The trick to extreme performance is to see yourself succeeding long before the task.
Since age seven, every night before bed Michael Phelps watched a videotape of his perfect swim. He would close his eyes and imagine himself swimming faster and stronger every time.
This is deep unconscious programming and it is the key to unlocking confidence and top performance in your interviews.
Close your eyes and imagine seeing yourself in your interviews. See yourself shaking hands, sitting down, and answering all of your questions with confidence, building a great relationship with the interviewer, and walking out of the room with the job. Then step into the scene imagining yourself in the interview, feeling confident, answering with flow, and feeling yourself walk out with the job.
Do this over and over again until you literally expect this is how it will play out for you.
5. Physical rehearsal.
It is said that Will Farrell will stand for hours on end and crack jokes at himself in the mirror. By just doing it over and over again he's becoming loose. A boxer will shadow box for hours on end, practicing his moves as though he has an opponent in front of him.
The icing on your cake of all of your preparation is to physically rehearse over and over again. Dress accordingly. Run through your script. Imagine yourself in the heat of the moment nailing the interview. Do this with a friend or family member and have them really grill you as though you are in the toughest interview of your life.
Of course everyone does this to some extent, but do it to an extreme, and watch yourself CRUSH your interview.
About Geoff: A former investment banker atand investor at the , Geoff Blades is an advisor to senior Wall Street executives, CEOs, and CFOs, on corporate and strategic matters as well as topics of personal and professional development.