Reverse Interview (Get Your Dream Job)

Theft of Spirit

This image is from The Theft_of_the_Spirit by Carl A. Hammerschlag

Three Basic Questions

Taken directly from

Three Questions to Ask During a Reverse Interview

  • Question #1 – How did you get to where you are today? (Or you might say “tell me your story.”) This question breaks open the floodgates. It instantly opens up the interviewee because you are asking them to talk about themselves, which is their favorite subject. So just be up front and ask them to tell you their story. Their answer will help you connect to them and them to you. You will learn a ton about how to get into the business they are in and what to do first. And, because you are asking an expert to talk about their favorite subject, this one question could take while.
  • Question #2 – What do you hate and love about your job?  This is also a question about how they feel. But now you get to hear some pros and cons from their view. You might also learn some things they hate doing in their job that you love. For instance, if interviewing a cake designer, you may find out they hate talking to customers. This information tells you some of their business needs, since this designer might be very willing to hire someone who loves cakes and who also loves talking to people. In other words, you might learn about a job opening they did not know about themselves.
  • Question #3 – What keeps you awake at night? (You can change the wording based on the conversation, perhaps to say something like “What is your greatest challenge?” or “What keeps you from making more profit?”) This question is literally a million dollar question. It has been used to find a niche in a market in which many a company were formed. Listen closely.  Some things to watch for with this final question: – If they struggle with this question and seem to not have a real clue about the business challenges they have, you might be talking to a middle manager or someone who is not the real decision maker. The true leader can usually tell you instantly where the challenges of the business lie. – As they tell you the answer, think about cost. How much financial pain does their problem bring? If you are talking to the true leader, they are likely to share this information with you. For instance, I had an occasion where someone told me their problem and it generated a $2.5 million risk. Another friend of mine was told of a problem which generated a loss of $5 million per month for his interviewee. We call these losses and risks pain. People will pay to make their greatest pain go away.

Why Do This?

This is the most effective way of find a new job.   Searching the job boards and sifting through recruiters alone will yield a low return on your investment of time.   Being thoughtful in your approach and targeting a company / industry that you are interested in will increase your chances of success.   When you reverse interview also known as an informational interview, you can find out a lot more information about the organization you are looking to join.  This will help you determine if the organization is a good fit.

I asked for an informational interview with a large company a few years ago and I met with one of the senior managers for their technology architectures.  He was willing to talk to me about his organization and his frustrations.  After I listened to him over a few cups of coffee, I realized that his company would not be a good fit for me.   Not long after, he was looking to relocate and leave his company, he reached out to me for some contacts (which I provided).   He found a new organization not long after and seems much happier today.    You never know who you will meet and how they could help you or how you could help them.   I have found over the years that I can help a lot of people as well as myself though these interviews.

How to Start

  1. I use services provided by the library.   For example, when I lived in Virginia Beach I used as part of their services to look up information about companies.   Most library systems in the US offer similar services.   Big or small it is good to learn as much as you can about an organization before making a decision to ask for an interview.
  2. I will use search services to look up news articles about the companies and their history.    I also like to read about the CEO past and present or any mergers or buy outs.   It helps to provide a glimpse of the culture or maybe cultural challenges.
  3. I like to use services like which can show some org chart information.  Chances are they are less than 100% accurate but you can use services like LinkedIn to figure out if the person is still part of the organization.
  4. I will also ask friends if they know people in the organization.  It is a small world and more often than not we are only 3 degrees away from someone that can help us.
  5. The number 1 most effective thing I have ever done relative to this kind of networking is take or give training.   This provides an opportunity to learn and demonstrate knowledge in a subject area.   The training itself was valuable but the opportunities through interaction where unbelievable.

There is a lot more that can be done but this is a good place to start.   If someone allows me to interview them I always follow up to thank them.   When people give me time, I look at it as a gift and I am thankful to them.   I have met with a lot people over the years and off hand cannot think of any time that I had a bad experience.

–Hope this helps you as it has helped me!

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