Why That Guy Doug Got the Job

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Liz Ryan Speaker, writer, soprano and mom; founder, Human Workplace

My friend Mollie called and she was mad, mad, mad. You won't even believe this, she said. I've been waiting for this job interview for two weeks, and preparing, and stewing over it, and so I went to the interview on Friday and now I've been waiting for almost a week.

And they finally called you? I asked.

No, they haven't called me, she said. But I found out I didn't get the job, in the most random way, through my boyfriend's brother, who said his friend Doug got the job - the same one I applied for!

Are you sure it's the same job? I asked her.

It's the same one, Mollie said. This company hasn't had an opening in Marketing in eighteen months. Believe me, I've been paying attention.

So tell me the story! I said.

Okay, said Mollie, I had the interview and I thought it went fine. Only thing, the two guys who interviewed me are both part-owners of the business, and they're both kind of fast-moving ADD types. They couldn't really settle down. They're go-go-go type guys and I'd be in the middle of answering one question when they'd cut me off to ask another one.

Did they interview you together? I wanted to know.

No, they met me one after the other, but one guy had maybe twenty minutes and the other spent an hour. Mostly he talked about non-work related stuff, so I don't even know if he cared about the interview or if he heard anything I told him.

And so what about Doug? I asked her.

Well, John is my boyfriend, said Mollie, and his brother is Todd. John calls me and says that Todd says his best friend Doug got a new job, and he ran down the details to me, and it's definitely the same job. And then John had Todd call me on my cell and tell me what Doug had told him about the interview he had, and I got really steamed.

Why? I wondered.

This Doug has no Marketing background at all, said Mollie. He's a biz dev guy. He waltzed in there and talked to these guys and he got hired.

Hmmmm...I said.

I had an idea why that guy Doug got the job. Doug is a biz dev guy an he's used to scoping out new-client situations. My guess is that Doug waltzed in and used his abbreviated interview time to learn all about the pain these two entrepreneurs are facing. He didn't talk about his SEO experience and his market segmentation and research background, I'll bet, because he doesn't have any of that stuff. He interviewed them, is my hypothesis.

That's what good salespeople do. When job-seekers can interview business leaders to get at the business pain behind the job ad, they can get the job, the same way Doug did.

Mollie has the skills listed in the job ad. But do these two go-go ADD entrepreneurs really care about the skills? Maybe not. They want to cut to the chase -- can you, Mollie or Doug, ease my business pain? Doug convinced the two guys he could do it. Mollie may have stuck a little too closely to the script and to the job spec.

Job specs are beside the point. Pain is the point of the job ad. Somebody needs morphine, and if you show up with the syringe, you can get hired.

We're not taught to interview the interviewer, but it's not hard to do it. Here's how:

Interviewer: So, tell me about your experience in Online Marketing.

You: I'd love to -- that's a lot of ground to cover! I wonder, rather than keep you here all day -- can I ask you a couple of questions to make sure I speak to what's most relevant here?

Interviewer: Sure.

You: So, as a web applications designer, you're marketing to demographics A and B and reaching them primarily though channels D and E, correct?

You're quizzing them about their business to figure out what's not working -- because if everything were working, there wouldn't be a job ad. When you find the pain -- and you can get a pretty good idea of it right outta the job ad -- don't start talking about solutions. Zero in on the pain point. What have they tried -- why didn't it work, do they think? What is the pain costing them a week, a month? If someone could solve that problem, what would it mean for the business?

That's why Doug got the job -- I predict. I don't know him. I know a million other Dougs who get jobs every day, like breathing. They don't show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to talk about their six years of this and certification in that the way we've been trained to do on job interviews.

It's more fun being Doug, let me tell you.

Doug doesn't understand why people make such a fuss about job-hunting and the tough job market. Doug hasn't read this article, either -- he quizzes people about business pain because that's what he's interested in. The more interested we can get in figuring out what's ailing the employers around us, the less time we'll spend on the job market -- I predict.