The strangest thing happened to me when I interviewed at Peppercomm five+ years ago. Ed and Steve, Peppercomm’s co-founders, didn’t ask me any questions. Not a single one.
To this day, it’s one of my greatest success stories – not only because I landed my dream job but because I somehow averted being interrogated for an hour by two senior executives, while still demonstrating my creds. For someone who hates talking about themselves (I’m a modest Canadian after all)*, this was a real coup.
If you’re looking to land a job at Peppercomm, or anywhere else for that matter, I offer the following five tips:
1. Act like it’s the most important test of your life. Oftentimes, people who prep for an interview will tell you all about the “research” they did. They spent 90 minutes on the website reading the company’s press releases, case studies and products/services pages. They looked at the company’s social channels. And, time permitting, they glanced at the competitors’ sites, too. That’s not research. You need to get out the cue cards, people!
When I was prepping for my interview, I created an entire binder that included: information on Peppercomm’s key clients, trends impacting their sectors, deep research on their competitors and information on the senior management team plucked from LinkedIn profiles, bylines, blogs, personal social channels and other sources. I had note cards and cheat sheets all around my apartment so I could remember stats, facts and other vital information that I could pepper throughout my interview (my husband joked that I looked like I was studying for my PhD). I also spoke to a few Peppercomm employees to find out what kept them there, as well as industry leaders to understand the market’s perception of the firm. I probably clocked about 40 hours, a full work week, by the time I was done but, boy, was I prepared.
2. Make it easy for the employer. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and I know how draining it can be. As an employer, it takes a lot of energy to ask the same old questions and even more energy to listen to the same old answers. I decided to make it easy for Ed and Steve. I took it upon myself to lead the conversation and proactively set the stage for why I was there (before they could get their first—or any—question in) and then I asked smart questions that tied back to my extensive research and knowledge. I also painted the picture early on of where I could add value and what my role might look like so they didn’t need to connect the dots themselves. This was critical because there was no specific job opening at the time of my interview. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the heavy lifting – questioning, listening, figuring out where the employee fits in, etc. – away from the employer. It’s really up to you, the prospect, to take control of the conversation and make yourself relevant to the needs of the organization.
3. Flatter. Then repeat. I listened to every single podcast and read every single blog and byline (no small feat) that Ed and Steve had ever produced. So I knew the topics they were passionate about and tried to connect with them on a personal level. I then asked specific questions that I thought would flatter and excite them (“In your terrific blog post #46, Ed, you talk about the impact measurement will have on our industry going forward, can you elaborate…”). And I complimented them on their communications style (“Steve, I loved the witty banter and use of humor in podcast #79 on Britney Spears and our obsession with pop culture. How important is the use of comedy in communications?”). A delicate dose of flattery really will get you anywhere.
4. And then shut up. People love to talk about themselves so if you’re talking more than the employer in the first 10 minutes, you probably won’t get the gig. It’s so important to look for ways to meaningfully engage with the employer and to listen to their responses intently and thoughtfully. Because I had done quite a bit of research, I knew how Steve, in particular, felt about candidates who talked too much during interviews (in a podcast from 2007, entitled “Ted’s talking tips trigger tempest,” he and Peppercomm president Ted Birkhahn debated the notion that talking too much in an interview will kill your chances of getting hired). I paid attention to this and stopped talking.
5. If you’re not “in it to win it”… don’t apply for it. I had a great job before Peppercomm and had no real reason to leave except, well, I wanted to work at Peppercomm and only Peppercomm. I stressed that my decision to interview with the firm was less about wanting to leave my former agency (which was excellent, by the way) and more about wanting to join Peppercomm. I was passionate, effusive and energetic because I really, really wanted the job. And it showed. So if you’re not “in it to win it,” don’t waste your time – or the employer’s time.
If you’re interested in joining Peppercomm, I suggest you try these tips out. A note of caution: when I interviewed in 2007, Steve’s Repman blog was two years old and so I only had to read a few hundred posts. There must be thousands (maybe millions) now and, as an agency, we have generated a ton more content across every conceivable channel. Happy reading!
*So why would this modest Canadian write a blog about how great their interview skills are? The boss who hired me asked me to.