I spent 12 months going on over 50 interviews at places like Google, Microsoft, Uber, Twitter, and more. These are the exact formulas I used to land interviews and offers at these companies, in some cases, without any connections. This resulted in landing the job of my dreams along with a 216% bump in salary. Now I‘m going to teach you how to do the same!
Looking for a new job? Maybe even the job? Raise your hand if this has happened to you…
After weeks of searching you finally found it. The one. The day-to-day is perfect, the salary is a big step up, the hours are flexible, and the benefits are amazing (not to mention it’s less than 10 minutes from your place!). You head over to LinkedIn looking for connections and….they are all 3rd degree with your mutual being that weird kid from high school you haven’t spoken to in 8 years. Ugh…
We’ve all been there – the feeling of defeat washing over you before you’ve even had the chance to get started. So what do you do next? What anyone else the 21st century would do – Google it!
- “Go to large meetups and network with as many people as you can!”
- “Join professional organizations with like minded people in your field!”
- “Just email people and ask!”
These are all suggestions that popped up when I searched for “how to get a job” (man, most career advice on the internet is really bad).
You know where you won’t find top performers looking to hire the best talent for Google, Facebook, or Apple? At networking events and meetups. They just don’t have time for that, and neither do you. Most of the people at these events are not very influential within their industrial niches and therefore aren’t going to do much for our cause.
You probably also noticed that I didn’t mention submitting your resume online into what I affectionately called the “Black Hole of Doom” (where resumes go to die). That sounds harsh, I know, but how many people do you know submitting 20 applications online hear back? It’s simply not a good use of your time.
So how do you get your foot in the door?
In this article I’m going to show you the exact process you can use to get a job interview at your dream company even if you don’t know a SINGLE person there.
How do I know it works? Because these are the exact steps I used to get job interviews and offers at companies like Google, Uber, Microsoft, Twitter, and more.
If looking for mutual connections was your first thought when looking for career opportunities, then you’re on the right track. Referrals are easily the most effective way to secure a job interview and land the offer:
- 40% of hires come from referrals, the next largest channel is via career sites at 21% (almost half as many!)
- Referrals get hired in an average of 3 weeks while other applicants take up to 7 weeks
- Referrals get paid more on average than cold applicants
Ready? Let’s dive in!
The first step is having a solid idea of the specific role you are looking for, down to the company and title (if possible). Next, you need to make sure that role is available. For today, let’s assume that you want to be an Account Manager in the Technology B2B vertical at Google.
Nice! Looks like a spot is open in New York (where you’re from in this case):
Now you are going to find someone who not only knows about the role, but could potentially have an impact on hiring for it. Time to fire up LinkedIn.
In the search bar, I want you to plug in the company name + all of the information I highlighted above (title, vertical/industry, preferred city). However, before you hit “Search,” we need to remember that you are looking for someone who can influence the hiring process.
With that in mind, I usually use a title that is one level up from the position that I’m looking for.
If you’re not familiar with title hierarchy structures in the corporate world, here is a quick guide (if you are already familiar with how titles are structured, feel free to skip this section):
A Brief Guide To Company Organizational Structures By Title
Every company has a hierarchy starting at the top with the CEO/Founder all the way down to the entry level employees. When researching companies, especially people to speak to within those companies, it helps to know where certain titles fit in the food chain. That way you can ensure you are talking to the right person.
Here is a general list of titles that fits almost any company, starting at the top:
C-Level (CEO, CTO, CFO, COO, etc.)
Vice President (VP)
Coordinator (Entry Level)
Associates, Executives, and Seniors
In many companies, the above titles have some sort of variation that allows for greater segmentation within that level. The most common forms of this are Associate, Executive, and Senior. Here is what those mean:
Associate: this title is usually given to someone who is halfway between positions for some reason (maybe there is typically a 4 year gap between levels and they are 2 years in). A person with Associate in their title is usually one notch below a person with the original title. For example, an Associate Account Manager would most likely be one level below an Account Manager.
Senior: this title is the more experienced version of an Associate. People with Senior in their title are usually one notch above the original title. For example, a Senior Account Manager would be one notch above an Account Manager.
Executive: this title is usually given to people who are very senior, or around the level of Vice President. The two most common cases are Sales Executive/Account Executive (synonymous terms for a senior salesperson) or Executive Vice President who is two notches above a Vice President and one notch above a Senior Vice President. That should be all the info you need to make an educated decision around where people stand within the company you are researching!
Since we are looking for an Account Manager role, the next step up would be Senior Account Manager so your LinkedIn search would look like this:
Now, we’re going to reach out and set up an in-person meeting.
What’s that? You don’t have their email address? I got you covered! Here are 3 strategies you can use to find almost anyone’s email address:
This one is obvious, I know, but it’s a big time saver and definitely worth the 10 seconds it takes to check.
On the person’s profile, right under their picture, there can be a button labeled “Contact Info” (I say “can be” because people have the option to remove it). Occasionally, people will have their email address listed right there – voila!
If not, let’s move right along…
Head over to Voila Norbert and enter the first and last name of the person you are searching for, as well as their company’s website. For example, if we were trying to find Larry Page’s email, our form would look like this:
If that doesn’t work, you can try finding someone else’s email at the company and use that format reverse engineering your target email address. For example, using Larry Page again, if I know that my buddy John Smith’s email is email@example.com then I can assume that Larry’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org (it’s not, sorry).
The easiest way to get a hold of a company email address is to reach out to someone in sales or media because both of these departments usually have inbound lead forms and people on the other end ready to pounce on those emails.
We can also use our LinkedIn method here and target salespeople. Salespeople almost always have their corporate email listed on their LinkedIn because it’s a free win for them. If someone is looking for their product and then finds them on LinkedIn, boom! They just got an effortless inbound lead.
Now that you have your potential influencer, it’s time to do some research so you can effectively reach out and build that relationship!
Start with the usual suspects – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and look for common points of interest. To be honest, most people are better at this online research thing than I am, so I’ll get back to the meat here.
One thing I will say is, don’t skimp! The more you get to know this person beforehand, the better your chances of landing a referral from them.
Some people have said to me, “Graeme, isn’t this a little weird? I feel like I’m kind of stalking this person.” I totally get it. However, this information is critical for quickly building a strong relationship and getting that referral!
Also, in my experience, people tend to expect that you’ve done some research on them. The key is to understand what is kosher to bring up out of the blue and what isn’t. People are OK with you checking out their LinkedIn, but they may be a little weirded out if you mention that picture from Saturday’s Bar Crawl that you saw on Facebook.
My general rule of thumb is this: if it exists on LinkedIn, it’s fair game to bring up. If you found it somewhere else (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) use a different method. For example, if I see that my influencer is a skiing fanatic, I may bring up that I went on a ski trip a few weeks beforehand.
Now that you have your potential influencer and their contact info, it’s time to reach out. Not only is this one of the scarier parts of this process, it is also one of the most pivotal. To help you get past that hump, I’ve included the exact email script that I used to reach out to people. In this case, I’m reaching out to Tim who works at Google:
Subject: Quick Question
My name is Graeme and I currently work at Cultivated Culture. I was browsing through LinkedIn and came across your information – I hope you don’t mind me reaching out of the blue here.
I saw that you have extensive experience in Google’s Technology B2B vertical and I’m very interested in learning more about that space. I would love to have the opportunity to run some questions by you, as well as tap into any advice you may have given your knowledge of the industry.
I know that your time is extremely valuable so please don’t feel to need to respond in depth. If you do have 5 minutes to chat, I would really appreciate it.
- Address the person you are emailing by name
- State who you are and make it personable
- Include some flattery that positions the person as an “expert”
As for the subject, Fast Company did a study where they emailed 1,000 C-level executives from Fortune & Inc 500 companies. They found that the subject line “Quick Question” made up 66.7% of total replies. That was good enough for me so I tried it out and saw similar results.
All of this said, the script is just a framework. You will most likely need to tweak your emails to fit the situation. When that time comes, I recommend checking out Sam Parr’s incredible guide on how to cold email like a boss (Sam has started conversations with Jeff Bezos and Brian Lee (aka Jessica Alba’s co-founder) via cold email!). It’s the same guide I used to help craft my email templates.
Now hit Send!
In order to prepare, we have to know what we’re preparing for. The goal of your meeting is to position your influencer as an expert, make them feel special, and build a relationship.
You will not and should not mention anything about the opening at their company. People innately enjoy helping others and if you follow the steps above, they will bring this up naturally.
You will want to prepare a list of questions that gets them to open up about themselves and the company. I like to ask them several softballs to get things warmed up and then hit them with a few questions they are guaranteed to remember.
Here is a quick set that I’ve had success with in the past (I’ve found the last one really seems to stick):
- I saw you worked at [Previous Companies]. How did you end up going from [First Industry] to becoming interested in [Current Company]?
- You hear a lot about [Current Company] in the news, but I’d love to hear more about why you love working there. What’s your favorite part?
- What is one totally unexpected lesson you’ve learned from working at [Current Company]?
The “Million Dollar” Question
Regardless of the questions you choose, there is one that you must always be sure to ask:
“What is the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?”
Really dig in here, get them to be specific. This information is going to be critical in helping you land a referral from this person, as well as getting the offer further down the road.
Okay, so you met with your influencer, things went great, and you identified a major pain point that the team is having. Now we’re going to focus on that last part.
Over the next week you are going to research the crap out of your influencer’s problem. Then you are going to come up with a solution and draft up a proposal for how you would solve it. Your proposal should include:
- A summary of the problem (to illustrate that you understand their pain)
- A step-by-step framework of how you would solve this problem
- A brief outline of how your skill set positions you as an asset to implement that solution
Truthfully, this process deserves a post of its own (I am drafting it now – stay tuned!) but this should give you a good idea of what you need to do. If you’re the type of person that likes concrete examples, check out this guerilla usability test Raghav Haran ran for Airbnb.
Once you have all of this information, consolidate it into a Word document, head over toUpwork, and hire a graphic designer to make your proposal look amazing. If you’ve never hired on Upwork before, here is an amazing guide by Dave Nevogt on how to do it right.
Now we’re going to reach back out to our influencer with the proposal. Here’s the template I used:
Thanks again for taking the time out to chat last week!
I spent a lot of time thinking about what you said regarding [team’s biggest challenge]. In fact, I created a short framework that should help you solve it! Please find that attached.
If you have some time, I would love to chat about it in more detail.
Please let me know if you have any questions, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
Ok, now we’ve got the in. Our influencer passed along our resume to HR and they reached out to set up a phone screen. Once we get past that, we’ll be on to interviewing with the team, and then getting the job! Easy though, we still have a lot of work to do.
Interviews can be daunting, especially at companies like Google, Amazon, or Uber. I’m sure you’ve read the horror stories about crazy questions they ask people like “Quick! How many golf balls can fit inside a school bus,” or, “how many gas stations are there in Manhattan?”
The truth is, most of these companies have done away with those questions. They crunched the numbers and found that the answers didn’t correlate with high employee performance (shocker, I know). In fact, Google’s own Senior Vice President of People Operations called them a “complete waste of time.”
These companies have since reverted back to the standard style of interviews, which is great for us because it makes it much easier to identify patterns. We can essentially “guess” what questions will be on the test and prepare answers that will blow our interviewers away (it works way better than it did in college, I swear).
Here is the process I used to prepare for each one:
According to renowned career guru Penelope Trunk, one of the easiest ways to be a better interviewer is to prepare for the most obvious questions. You may be saying “well duh,” but you’d be surprised by how many people spread themselves too thin by trying to prepare answers to every possible question.
99% of the interviews you go on will follow the exact same template. If you can master the format, your confidence will skyrocket and you’ll be prepared for almost any situation you get thrown into.
The Universal Job Interview Format:
- Tell me about yourself (your experience, why you are interested in this role, etc.)
- A mix of behavioral questions, which we’ll dive into shortly
- What questions do you have for me (the interviewer)?
Let’s tackle each individually.
This is your first impression. More importantly, it’s the only part of the interview that you totally control. Do NOT rattle off your resume like a grocery list.
In order to nail this part you need to craft an interesting story – your story. You want it to be concise (around 2-3 minutes) and you need to think about what you want to convey. I recommend:
- Choosing 2-3 themes to build your story around (for me, those themes werePersistence, Agility, and Success)
- Including quantitative metrics whenever possible
- Addressing the question of why you want to leave your current position (they are going to ask you this anyways, addressing it early shows that you’re aware it’s a concern of theirs and helps put them at ease)
To help get you started, here is what my story looked like. To give you some context, I was a biology major who was interested in landing a job in digital marketing:
Growing up, like most people, I wanted to be a doctor. I went to [college] where I majored in biology and planned my course to medical school. Not long after, I decided that pre-med wasn’t for me. I wanted to get into digital marketing, and I wanted to be in New York. I set my sights on this goal and created a plan that would get me there.
In 2013, I graduated with my biology degree and took a job in medical device sales where I worked from 5:30am – 12:30pm covering surgical cases in the operating room. Then, every day, I would come home and study digital marketing until 8:00pm. In order to gain relevant experience, I got certified in Google Analytics & AdWords and created my own consulting firm that focused on using search engine marketing to generate leads for private golf communities. We were able to increase home sales by an average of 20% while reducing the cost per lead by around 10%. Armed with my new credentials, I began to look for positions in New York.
Eventually, I was offered a position at my current company (a promotional analytics company in New York). During my tenure there I have grown my book of business by 467%, spearheaded the creation of an internal group dedicated to marketing the company on the internet, and helped close the 2nd largest deal in company history.
However, the company has restructured several times since I was brought on. I’ve had 3 different managers over the past year, as well as 3 titles with different sets of responsibilities. I’m looking for something a bit more stable and [company I am interviewing at] has been somewhere that I have wanted to work since I got into this industry. I’m really excited to have this opportunity.
Pro Tip: You are telling a story. Don’t be afraid to embellish a bit. I’m not saying you should lie or make up stories, but you want to sell yourself and you can bet your butt that your competition aren’t afraid to inflate their credentials.
Next up is the dreaded set of behavioral questions. The ones meant to tease out your thought process and your ability to be a “team player.” This is the part where our educated “guesses” are going to come in handy.
The behavioral section is broken down into two parts that I call Standard Questions and Company Specific Questions. Let’s start with the former.
You are going to be asked a variation of one, if not all, of these questions in every single interview you go to:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Tell me about a time you exhibited leadership
- Tell me about a time where you had to work as a team
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to work with a difficult person, or difficult people
- Tell me about a time you failed
- Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle
- Tell me about a time when you had success
If you can answer these 6 questions, you could handle 9 out of 10 interviews with no other preparation and be totally fine. Just follow the same set of rules I mentioned above in the Tell Me About Yourself section:
- Craft a concise story
- Make sure to include quantitative metrics that illustrate your success
- Anticipate and address objections
Company Specific Questions
These are questions that fall in the middle of the 7 listed above and “why are man hole covers round?” Never fear though, we can anticipate these too.
Head over to GlassDoor. If you’ve never heard of GlassDoor, it’s a great resource for any job seeker that includes salaries, reviews, and interview information for almost any company in the world.
First, you are going to search for the position you’re applying for. In keeping with our theme, we’ll search for “Google” under Companies & Reviews:
Finally, once they are done peppering you with questions, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. In my opinion this is the most crucial part of the interview.
Why? Because so many people neglect it. If you can ask some questions that are even slightly outside of the box, I’ve found that really sticks with the interviewer more than any other part of the meeting.
After every interview I’ve been on, I asked for feedback. Without fail, the interviewer made a positive comment about the questions I asked. The good news for you is that I asked the same exact questions in every single one! Here they are:
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
- Let’s say that, in one year, you are looking back on this hire. What has that person done to exceed expectations on every level?
- Ask about a current event (for example – I saw that [Competitor X] came out with this product. How do you see that affecting your business?)
- What is the most unexpected lesson you’ve learned while working at [company]?
- Tell me a little bit more about you, what do you like to do outside of work?
The first four are fairly standard questions, but the last two really seal the deal. Don’t be surprised if you get a “wow, I’ve never been asked that – give me a second” when you drop the unexpected lesson.
The final question opens up a personal dialogue with the interviewer that allows you to establish a connection that moves you up from “interviewer-interviewee” status to “personal conversation” status. Plus it will give you great content to put in your thank you email.
While we’re on the subject, be absolutely sure to send a thank you note to everyone you interviewed with. Also include a personal touch to each one (something that you gained from that last question).
Many people I talk to say “but I don’t have their email Graeme!” Ask for it!! At the end of every interview always, always ask for a business card or write down the person’s email in your notebook (you did bring a notebook, right??).
If you do end up in that bucket, try using the techniques I outlined above for finding people’s emails and you should be fine.
Whoa, whoa easy there. This is one of the most common mistakes I see from job applicants. I understand how nerve wracking it is to sit there and wait while everything is completely out of your hands.
One of the toughest things I had to learn throughout my interview process was that, while this is a HUGE deal to you, it’s really just another agenda item on the hiring manager’s schedule.
They will get back to you, and if they don’t? You don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t have the courtesy of replying to the people they do business with.
The rule of thumb is one business week. If you interviewed on a Tuesday, wait until the next Tuesday to email them (as JT O’Donnell says, never send a nudge on a Monday!). When you do, don’t push or be blunt. Keep it short and sweet:
I hope you had a great week!
I wanted to quickly follow up and see if there was anything else I could help with regarding the application process. If so, please let me know!
Ugh. The worst case scenario. Don’t get down just yet though, we’re not done here!
I have this quality where I have trouble accepting “no” as an answer. When I was interviewing with Google, the initial screener told me that she wasn’t going to put me through because she “didn’t think I was qualified, and didn’t want to waste the team’s time.”
I was not happy. So I sent her this:
Thank you again for carving out the time to speak this afternoon. I really appreciate your feedback, and I wanted to add one final note:
I completely understand your concerns regarding my experience with [skill]. You are correct that I didn’t have much experience with that at [previous company]. That said, this doesn’t stem from an inability to produce results, but rather a lack of opportunity to do so.
While my experience on paper may not match up to the initial expectations of the position’s description, I have do have two qualities that work in my favor: I am an extremely efficient learner, and am also very effective at translating those learnings into practice. Second, I’m much more tenacious than your average individual. My career has hinged on these two qualities.
I left college with no digital experience and a biology degree – all of my digital knowledge was obtained through self study. I spent 8 months selling myself without the on-paper experience to back it up. When I was finally given the opportunity to apply my knowledge in a business setting, I playing a critical role in landing the company’s 2nd largest deal in history. I am confident that I can have the same success in this role. I have the resources necessary to learn what I need in order to be successful at [company], and am prepared to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
I understand that [company’s] interview process is extremely challenging, and that only the top talent ends up with an offer letter at the end. I also believe that I am worthy of a shot at that letter. [Company] is known for hiring people who excel at the intangibles, as well the ability to learn new things and apply them to existing knowledge. That is my forte.
I am not asking for an offer. I am simply asking for the opportunity to speak with the hiring manager to make my case for the position. I’m sure you will find the best person for the position, I would just like to have a legitimate shot at being that person. If you give me that chance, my next set of answers will not disappoint.
Thank you again for your continued consideration.
Ok, it was pretty aggressive. But she wrote me back an hour later and pushed me through to the next round! Mission accomplished.
The moral of the story here is, don’t give up if you get a “No.” Try to identify why you were turned down and then send a note to hiring manager addressing those items (feel free to copy mine!).
There you have it. The exhaustive, step-by-step guide to landing an interview and then getting an offer from the company of your dreams. What are you waiting for? Get out there and start researching!
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out. I started Cultivated Culture and wrote this guide to help you land your dream job. I can’t wait to connect with you. Until then, cheers!