How to Conduct a Reverse Interview | Guaranteed Method to Find a Job

The reverse interview is one of the most powerful methods I have found to find a new job. It is also a very powerful tool for uncovering new business opportunities. I learned of this tool when reading What Color Is Your Parachute? 2010: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. (Actually I had read a version many years ago.) In the book, Richard claims that you will get job offers even though you have never asked for jobs. Finding this idea preposterous, I had to try it – mostly as a challenge. I was sure he was an idiot – and set out to prove him wrong. What I found was a whole new way to discover the world of opportunity.
The basic idea of the reverse interview is that you will contact someone who is where you want to be in a few years, ask them to talk so that you may learn what it takes to get where they have gotten. Nothing fancy.

Steps to doing a reverse I only work on podcasts in the AM on Monday and Wednesday mornings. So if you see another slot, please let me know.  1. Podcast is live. See at Dalecallahan.com. Title of podcast is Company of One.  2. Anything you would like to share including links you would like to have and a photo to use for the blog part of the post should be sent before the show. See  http://www.dalecallahan.com/048-how-to-create-and-run-a-mastermind-group-interview-with-jonathan-milligan-podcast/ for my typical treatment of podcast interviews.  I try to keep the timing down to 30 minutes max - so if you have some particular talking points/questions that you would like to drive the conversation, please shoot those to me as well.  Dale

“Creative Commons Stepping Stones” by oatsy40 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

 

The Six Steps of a Reverse Interview

  1. Decide where you want to be in a few years. This sounds simple and obvious, but I find most people lie to themselves on this one. If you struggle with this, sign up fro my free ebook on How to Find Your Calling at the bottom of this post!
  2. Find people who are where you want to be – from step 1. Who is already doing what you want to be doing. Contact them and ask them for 15-30 minutes of their time. Tell them you simply are trying to learn what it takes to get to where they are today. Do not ask if they are hiring – in fact – you do not care if they are hiring.
  3. When you meet with them, remember you are interviewing them, and not them interviewing you. DO NOT TAKE A RESUME. DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOURSELF AT ALL except to explain why you are there. For instance, you might say “I have been working in the telecommunications industry for the last 10 years, but I have gotten interested in doing something different, and I think I would like to be where you are in a few years. I would like to learn how you got to where you are and what you love and hate about your current work.”
  4. Listen, ask questions, and finish on time.
  5. In the end ask them who else they would suggest you talk to.
  6. Follow up with a thank you note or email. This is very important! While it may sound cheesy, I really take note when I get them myself – and I normally would not care about such things as thank you notes. So, if it works on me, it must REALLY work. (Not that I am insensitive or anything.)  But at very least it helps keep fresh the new networking contact you have made. And just in case you have missed it so far – DO NOT SEND A RESUME.

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What to Expect in a Reverse Interview

  1. Information. You will get a wealth of information. You are asking them to talk about themselves, which everyone loves to do. In talking about them, they let their guard down. You are asking how they feel about the work. So you might discover the company is a terrible place to work. You might discover what you thought would be a neat job really is not a fit for you. You might discover a lot of things – and that is the point.
  2. They will like you. Yes, I said they will like you. How do I know? You have asked them to talk about themselves. In case you have not read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People let me summarize – if you want people to like you, get them to talk about themselves.
  3. You are likely to meet many people on that day. I have seen these interviews take 30 minutes with one person, only to get introduced to another then another. I had an undergraduate engineering student who did this with a company and spent four hours in their offices, walking away with business cards from multiple vice presidents and multiple offers.
  4. You might get offered a job! Yes – I said you might get offered a job. First time I did this the company was not hiring and I made no mention of getting a job. But when I was walking out the guy told me ”Dale, we haven’t hired new people in this firm in 10 years – but would you be interested in working for us.” I was floored – not because I got offered a job, but because I HAD CREATED A JOB.

Get my list of MUST ask interview questions!

What If They Offer You a Job?

Do not take it! Certainly do not start jumping up and down screaming like a schoolgirl! Act like you expect it, thank them, and remind them you are searching right now and not ready to take this step. The key here is to mean it. This “searching” is exactly what you are doing. You have moved from the person who is looking for anything to the person who is intentionally looking for the right thing. Just as you might shop for the right clothes or the right shoes, your job (or company) needs to be right for you also.

Fact is, if you decide their job offer is what you want to do, they will be there later. You will have their phone number and email address. You can later contact them and tell them that you loved what you heard from them and want to go after an opportunity in that field. Ask them if they know of anything you should approach. Notice – you still do not have to ask for a job. Remember, they like you!

Get my list of MUST ask interview questions!

What next?

  • Before you take a job, do this a number of times. I suggest at least ten times.
  • When you get a job, keep doing this to learn new things. When you need to learn something new for the job, start with the experts.
  • Never hate work again!

 

Need help with step 1? Sign up for my free ebook on Finding Your Calling!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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28 thoughts on “How to Conduct a Reverse Interview | Guaranteed Method to Find a Job

  1. Great Idea and it’s so easy to do, takes the pressure off both parties. A good open ended question is “Describe a day in the life of …”. This will result in a completely open ended description of the job position, the company culture. From there you can hone in on interesting and also areas of concern that you might not otherwwise hear about in a “job interview”.

    Thanks Dale!

  2. Reverse interviews can work WITHIN a growing company’s framework too. The approach demonstrates interest, initiative and requires effective communication skills – in both directions. While I don’t think Dale’s suggesting that the technique is confined to job hunting outside of the current employer, it is important to point out that the same method can open to – or create new – opportunities “at home.”

    Successful consultants practice a similar approach when laying groundwork for future business. It’s not a gimmick or a “ploy” but a skill that helps establish a rapport along the way towards “trusted advisor.”

  3. Dale,

    This is good stuff. We try to teach the students here at UAB to do this. The students that land the stellar jobs with the attractive companies do this, although we call it informational interviewing. The people loving to talk about themselves is so true. As an extension of this, one other thing i have found is really great, where possible, is to come back to that person in the future with something i.e, i’d really like to feature you in our student magazine, your advice would be great for many students like me, or asking for their expert advice in a project. Some of the best professional connections you can make are founded ni this way.

  4. Thanks for the information on reverse interviewing !!

    I am interested in gaining a job in recruitment and i am about to research companies so this is an excellent start.

  5. Thanks Dale for the proposal!
    In the past while searching for a major/career, I went about this approach a lot of the times to see the paths people had taken and if they really enjoyed their jobs. After reading this blog, it reminded me of how this method worked for me then. I going to give it a couple of runs for my future career plans. I will let you know how it goes!

  6. The reverse interview works well. I have used the technique three separate times with individuals who provided immediate positive feedback and distinctly useful information.

    Whether you are looking for a new career/job or looking to explore another path, I am a true believer moving forward. I will add this one to the tool belt for decades to come-simple and effective. Who would have thought?

  7. I am currently unemployed and looking to change career direction. I will apply this and beleive it will work for me.

  8. Should really open up some doors for you. Over and over I hear about people who have found new opportunities through this method. Let me know how it goes for you!

  9. Do you ask any other questions besides the three key ones you mention on the blog? If you are interested in a certain field but are wondering how much time away from family it requires, is it ok to ask those kinds of questions too? I am wanting to learn more about “a day in the life” of a particular profession–can I ask my real questions?

  10. Yes – I would ask anything that makes sense – all are about getting advice. Some of these questions are details about “what do you love and hate”