Thought you would enjoy a guest blog about the success one of my clients found in the interviewing process.
A few years ago I had an interview with a start up for a marketing leadership role. I was excited about it and I saw so many ways I could help the company while doing my research. My cover letter took a few hours to write but it was worth it… I got an interview with the VP of Marketing.
The day of the interview arrived and I was prepared not only to discuss my leadership experiences but also to share my vision and discuss the ways I would help the VP deliver on his vision. We only had 30 minutes and they went fast! The VP asked some routine questions that I was very prepared to answer. Unfortunately, she didn’t ask the harder, bigger questions I was expecting. It was frustrating and I learned my lesson about interviews for leadership positions: Don’t wait for the question – it’s up to me to communicate what I feel is most important.
At this point, there was nothing I could do about the interview but I wanted to show the VP that I have a plan for marketing and could deliver. So I decided to draft a “marketing plan” of sorts. It started as a Word document and contained a list of all the areas that I felt needed to be in place for effective marketing. In each area, I dove into the tactical details on 1) what was needed and 2) how we would do it.
Unfortunately, I received a “thank you but no thank you” rejection email 1 day later – before I could send in my plan. That’s okay because I learned a lot about how a plan should be used to help the interview process.
When is a plan appropriate to submit?
Submitting a plan is a good idea when you want to demonstrate your ability to fill a leadership role and you feel you need to stand out. Additionally, if your resume/cover letter or your first interview didn’t adequately communicate your full abilities. Finally, if you feel you are competing against stronger candidates in terms of experience or who have more important titles on their resume. A plan is a way to stand out and level the playing field.
What’s in the plan?
There are two ways to approach the content for your plan:
- What goals or objectives are described in the job description?
- What are the likely goals the hiring manager will have for this position?
Oftentimes, these two perspectives lead to the same plan. When they don’t you need to choose which perspective you are more comfortable writing about. Let’s talk about some examples.
Software Developer & Team Leader
The role is straightforward: lead a team to write the code for their next piece of software or for a new web/mobile application. Your boss is then concerned with producing code, fixing bugs and finding creative solutions all within a tight timeline. Therefore, your plan can cover any one or all of those topics. Do you have the experience or a vision for how a to deliver a complex piece of software? Can you describe a workflow model, including turnaround times, for how to deliver the end solution? Show your vision and show that you are thinking about the boss’s business objectives.
The role is for a sales team leader over 10 salespeople spread out across the country. If you are hired for this position how are you going to deliver on your quota? Your plan can include how you intend to manage your team’s time, what part of their performance you will monitor and when, how you’ll help struggling territories, how you’ll keep the team trained, etc. Assuming this matches the job description then this plan will help the hiring manager realize that you already have the know-how to do well in the role.
These examples show that both management and non-management jobs can benefit from a plan. With any plan, ask yourself, “Will the hiring manager (my potential boss) derive some value from this?” and “Will reading this plan be worth the hiring manager’s time?” If the answer is “yes” then you have a good plan.
When do you submit the plan?
Typically you start the plan based on what you research about the company and position. If the position interests you then you should have a good feel for the fundamental things the company is concerned with. Start collecting your thoughts and jotting them down.
After your first interview is a good time to submit your plan. At the end of the interview, tell the interviewer that you have some ideas about how you would approach this job, should you be hired. Ask him or her if they would like to see this plan. When they say “yes”, email the plan no sooner than 6 hours later and no later than early next morning. That window of time is early enough to have your plan reviewed before they decide to reject you or not. It’s late enough so that you can write your plan based on the information you learned in the interview. Sending it too soon may make them think you are using a plan you have used before.
When shouldn’t you submit a plan?
Keep in mind, THIS IDEA ISN’T FOR EVERYONE. It may not be appropriate for the role you are applying for and you may not be a good plan writer. A lot of things have to be in alignment for this to help and you need to consider the ways this can potentially backfire. If any of these examples are a possibility then think long and hard before submitting something:
- Could the hiring manager view you as less interested in the open job req and more interested in his job?
- Your plan may reflect a vision that is quite different than the hiring manager’s vision.
- You could dive into the details too much and make the hiring manager think you can’t do the leadership part.
- Did you exclude an important part of the job description? Not addressing all the components may cause concern that you can’t do the neglected areas.
There are definitely some risks when you submit a business plan during the interview process. However, follow these guidelines and your business plan may just shoot you to the top of the candidate list for your next leadership job!
Amy Wolfgang is a career coach who founded Wolfgang Career Coaching and co-founded Coaching 4 Good. She brings over 15 years of corporate and coaching experience to help organizations boost employee engagement while simultaneously helping her clients excel in their careers. She is a certified PCM (Professional Career Manager) and has a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.
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