This is the story of what happened when a CEO decided to hack his way into a job interview.
I’m often asked what sets me apart as a speaker. The answer is very simple. I’m a practitioner. I speak on topics from marketing and social media to leadership and entrepreneurship, but I’m able to do it using real life examples.
A few years ago, I was asked to speak on a topic that I felt slightly less than qualified speaking on – the corporate hiring process.
Our hiring process is far from being corporate. Hell, one of my best hires was a guy I never met face to face. He currently runs all of the video production for The Silent Partner Marketing.
Furthermore, I had never gone through the standard corporate hiring practice as an employee before I ran this company. I wasn’t one to blindly send in resumes. I was one to only go into interviews where I knew I just had to seal the deal.
The conference organizer told me this was plenty to speak on – and that I had six months to prepare. But for true practitioners, we believe in living and breathing our topic.
And so this is the story of how I hacked my way into a job interview…so that I could turn down the position and speak about the experience.
The Long Game
I’m blessed to have learned many lessons about the hiring process by running a company. And so I went into this sojourn knowing two things:
- Sometimes the hiring process is a long game. You need to identify a target, find out the needs, drip market on the right people and strike when the moment is right.
- Standard job seeking practices would demoralize me and help me accomplish nothing more than missing my goal.
And so the process began. I was determined to find an executive position, score and interview and ultimately be offered the job. I needed to be able to demonstrate to my audience how they could also hack their way into an interview and what steps they ultimately needed to take to seal the deal.
But I didn’t want to stack the deck in my favor, or the lessons learned wouldn’t be applicable for most of my audience.
Furthermore, I didn’t want to lie (for the most part). So I eliminated from my resume the fact that I ran a marketing agency, and instead I used my previous experience. I dumbed it down a little to try and make it slightly less polished. It looked a little something like this:
Communications & Marketing
STRATEGY | THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | PERFORMANCE
Outgoing, confident and results-driven professional with proven ability to efficiently align skills and talents to meet and exceed goals and objectives. Demonstrated ability to establish rapport, develop key stakeholder relationships and communitcate effectively with a broad audience.
Areas of Expertise
§ Advanced Communications Skills
§ Social Media Marketing
§ Photography & Videography
§ Attention to Detail
§ Training & Development
§ Public Relations Strategies
§ Media Placement
§ Deep SEO and SEM Knowledge
§ Public Speaking & Presentations
§ Cross Functional Teams
§ Creative Problem Resolution
Key Skills Assessment
- Extensive knowledge of public relations principles and practices as they pertain to internal and external communication needs of an organization.
- Ability to develop a strategic plan that includes the coordination, planning, implementation and management of an integrated marketing and communications strategy.
- Articulate communicator, listener and cultivator of key relationships with all levels of personnel, clients, businesses and executive-level leadership.
- Extensive experience as a journalist, with a background in broadcast, print, radio, Internet and social media journalism. Effective media placement and news coverage of events and stories.
- Exceptional writing skills with a powerful style of storytelling.
- Experience in design and creation of marketing materials, including brochures, coupons, surveys and digital advertising.
Director of Communications and Marketing
Carter of Manchester, Manchester, CT
- Develop, implement and manage integrated marketing, advertising and communication plans.
- Manage a massive database and establish the most effective and efficient ways of targeting potential consumers by delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
- Acquired extensive media exposure by hosting Operation Kid Safe.
- Rewrite all form letters and customer communications to incorporate consistent branding and messaging.
- Implement new processes and staff training to strengthen writing for customers as well as for “Google”.
- Restructure advertising processes to strengthen branding and messaging and incorporate new formats of digital media.
Key Achievement: Successfully guided dealerships through recovery from “Google Penguin” hit.
Director of Communication and Marketing
Vito’s Restaurant Group, Windsor and Hartford, CT
- Developed internal and external communications that aligned with branding initiatives.
- Secured extensive print and broadcast media coverage for a variety of events and topics.
- Extensive photography and videography, including an online cooking competition designed to boost web traffic.
- Provided graphic design for menus, email blasts and all advertising initiatives.
- Ensured operational efficiency and strict adherence to policies and procedures.
The Republican, Springfield, MA
- Obtained and reviewed information regarding newsworthy events and developed stories for print and the web.
- Conducted research to verify factual information.
- Provided photography for a wide variety of stories.
Producer of News and Special Projects
NBC Connecticut, West Hartford, CT
- Managed the overall content and flow of news distribution.
- Produced daily newscasts, including assigning packages, writing stories, building graphics, determining liveshots and managing all on-air and production staff.
- Completed special projects for our sweeps period, from feature pieces to investigative reporting.
- Reported for nbcconnecticut.com and played a major role in recreation and branding of website and expansion of social media.
- Received full scholarship from The Poynter Institute to attend a seminar in FL.
Key Achievement: Successfully developed and implemented a sponsored featured segment that generated more than $150,000 in revenue in the first year.
WGGB ABC 40, Springfield, MA
- Oversaw a staff of photographers, on-air talent and assignment editors through completion of daily newscast.
- Worked closely with production staff to ensure smooth execution of daily newscast.
- Worked with managing editor to train interns in news and production.
Key Achievement: Increased ratings by 1.1 share in the 11pm newscast.
Assistant Marketing Manager
Team Enterprise, Springfield, MA
- Created and maintained branding and product placement for Bacardi throughout Western Massachusetts.
- Assisted in promotions and event planning to increase market saturation.
- Conducted interviews and training for new promotions staff.
- Worked with Marketing Manager to oversee and control promotions budget.
WWLP 22 News, Chicopee, MA
- Provided assistance with daily operations and content management.
- Ran DEKO graphics and operating system for production and broadcast.
- Planned and produced two seasons of Big Y Backyard BBQ’s with live remote broadcasts.
- Edited stories for nightly newscasts.
Promotions Assistant / Board Operator
Clear Channel Radio, Springfield, MA
- Provided trusted and reliable assistance with a range of tasks.
Associations & Community Involvement
Provide extensive training in Digital Marketing and Social Media for business owners at free seminars.
Volunteer Member, Manchester Chamber of Commerce
Volunteer Member, Downtown Manchester Special Service District Marketing Committee
The Job Hunt
I decided to look for a position that was a senior level manager in the marketing department of a Fortune 100 company. Having intentionally dumbed down my resume, I’d have my work cut out for me. I knew that many of the keywords that the hiring algorithms pick up on wouldn’t necessarily be activated with my new and not improved documents.
I also would NOT have one of the most valuable weapons at my disposal – my large network of contacts. Why not? Simple – I didn’t want someone to jeopardize their relationship with THEIR contacts by introducing me as a prospect for a position when I wasn’t serious.
Now with that being said, I didn’t mind sharing my secret mission with a few reputable contacts and asking them for a reference when the time came (which is something that EVERY job seeker needs to leverage). And so the game began.
I hit all of the major job-hunting websites. I signed up for their email alerts. Just 24 hours into the search – I found it. A position for Director of Communications for a huge organization based in New England.
The first step was the cover letter. This is what I sent in:
To Whom It May Concern:
Eric Hoffer once said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” His words inspired me while I was producing for NBC. They have stuck with me, driving me to stay on the cutting edge of technology while still incorporating the core values and skills I’ve had for as long as I can remember.
As a dynamic and skilled professional with experience in communications and marketing, I am enthusiastic about new opportunities and challenges. After reviewing the job announcement for the Communications Director position, I am confident that my knowledge and experience will be a great asset in this role.
My passion is writing. My hobbies are storytelling with words, pictures and video. My hunger is knowledge. And my energy is endless (although occasionally supplemented with a Venti latte from Starbucks!).
My areas of strength include stellar communications skills, social media marketing, photography and videography and deep SEO and SEM knowledge. For years, I was a gatekeeper in the media. Now, I’m the deliveryman with the knowledge of how to get in the front door.
I am adept at building cohesive relationships and communicating effectively with a broad audience and across all levels of an organization. A critical thinker, I am consistently able to provide solutions to complex problems. My dedication, combined with strong analytical skills and commitment to excellence, has contributed to success in progressively responsible positions.
You will find a more detailed account of my qualifications in the attached resume. With my background and exceptional work ethic, I wouldn’t just be an asset to your team – I’d raise the bar and level of excitement to bring the entire team to a greater level of success than you ever thought possible.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Kyle S. Reyes
Step one was done. It was time to start doing some homework.
I needed a massively competitive edge. I needed to find out who was starting the hiring process, who was completing the hiring process and who the key decision makers were.
The search began on LinkedIn. I identified those employees within the company who seemed like they’d either be THE people…or KNOW the people. I wasn’t far off.
72 hours into the search, my resume and cover letter were in and I had both confirmation of who the influencers were and I was connected with them on LinkedIn thanks to some well maneuvered introductions.
But professional stalking only begins on LinkedIn, it doesn’t end there. It was time for a little cross-social marketing research.
Next up were Twitter and Facebook. I quickly found the profiles of all four influencers on Twitter and two on Facebook. Did I connect with them directly? Not at all. I researched their profiles on both platforms as extensively as I could so I could learn about their likes, their hobbies, their education and more. In the quest to conquer, knowledge is your most powerful weapon.
The next day, I started dripping on the most powerful influencer that I needed through Twitter. I jumped into his conversation about his former college football team. 15 minutes later, we were direct messaging each other. (Note: I was doing this through a private Twitter account not connected to my other profiles or my business – and at this point, I hadn’t built up a massive amount of social or brand equity…so I wasn’t terribly worried about my cover being blown).
Another 48 hours later, he tweeted out the job posting publicly. And….I was in.
The best leaders are those who operate in two places: 40,000 feet high and in the dirt. They guide the vision and the direction of the company, but they aren’t afraid to work side by side with their employees to ensure that the team maintains forward momentum.
The first two people I met with embodied these leadership qualities. Armed with my data and my knowledge about them personally and professionally, these first two interviews were a walk in the park. It wasn’t even fair – it was like fishing with dynamite. Which is, of course, exactly how you want every job interview to go. As a matter of fact, we arguably spent more time talking about everything from Syracuse sports to Billy Joel than we did about the position.
By the time the third (and final) interview went down, I knew I was golden. This wasn’t presumptuous – the hiring manager told me the rest of the process was just a formality.
Mission accomplished. It was time to blow it.
All I had to do to seal the deal was go into this third interview and keep turning on the charm. But I knew that if I were offered the position, I’d be in trouble. I didn’t want to have to turn it down and come up with some B.S. excuse. And frankly, I knew I’d blow the opportunity to be able to share with my audience yet another lesson.
And so I walked into the third interview with the attitude and entitlement of someone who felt they deserved the job.
I bragged about how great I was. I asked how much money the position was for and said I expected more vacation time than my “current” position. I told the interviewer that my biggest weakness was that I was always late and I didn’t like to iron.
But the interview was still going well. Really well. I was starting to worry that I was in trouble. It was time to reverse the charm.
“So – where did you go to college?” he asked.
Knowing – not from my research, but rather from the obnoxious amount of sports memorabilia on the wall – that this was an individual who valued his Ivy League education, it was time to place a knife in the heart of the interview.
“I went to Westfield State College,” I said. “But frankly I went there because I believe that college – especially ritzy, Ivy League colleges, turn people into a bunch of intellectuals who are out of touch with reality.”
I think you can imagine how the rest of the (very short) interview went.
Two weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail.
Dear Mr. Reyes,
We appreciate you taking the time to interview with our company. We received many applications from extremely well qualified applicants. Unfortunately, we’ve decided to hire another candidate. We wish you the best of luck.”
Like I said, practitioners often give the best speeches. This experience gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share my story…and my lessons learned.
- Have a strong resume. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it SHOULD be vetted by someone in the business community who you respect and trust.
- Your cover letter needs to be strong and it needs to be tailored and customized to the position.
- Lock down some individuals whom you respect and admire to give you rave reviews. ASK them in advance. And leverage the networks of those around you to find open positions.
- Research, research, research. It’s not just about the position. It’s about the people.
- Sometimes the job doesn’t matter (as much as you think). It’s about the connection. Sometimes the position calls for a hammer. Sometimes it calls for a genius. Sometimes it calls for someone who you’d trust to have a beer with.
- Social media can make you or break you. If you leverage it to grow your contacts, drip market on influencers and grow your knowledge…you’ll win every time.
But perhaps the most important lesson I can share with you from hacking my way into a job interview was the quote from Eric Hoffer in my cover letter:
“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Kyle Reyes is President and CEO of The Silent Partner Marketing. He's also an acclaimed Keynote Speaker on entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing and social media. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.