This post is by Raghav Haran, who’s worked with entrepreneurs like Ramit Sethi and Hiten Shah.
Raghav used free work to get job offers at publicly traded companies (like Shutterstock). His “Pre-Interview Project” concept is similar to the Gift lesson in the Land a Job You Love course. Raghav also just started his own career course (free) called Land Any Job You Want.
Here’s his story…
How many times have you opted out of applying for a job because you saw the words “2-5 Years Experience”?You shouldn’t weed yourself out, because employers will hire people who they are confident will get the job done.
When you can give an employer what they really need — reliability and quality work — their “2-5 years experience” can become practically irrelevant.
This is the case whether you’re trying to find a partner, a job at a small company, or a role at a massive corporation.
So how do you prove to a big company that you can give them what they really need?
Do the job before you get the job.I call this the “pre-interview project.”For example, if you’re applying for a sales/marketing role, a good pre-interview project could be selling some of the company’s products and writing a report about your results. If you’re applying for a design-related role, you can mock up some new designs for the company and tell them why you made those decisions. (Of course, you must do this delicately, to show your not some big shot who thinks he knows everything).I used this EXACT strategy to land interviews at a bunch of companies, both small and big – and I even got Shutterstock to create a position specifically for me.
In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how I did it.
Mistake #1: I spammed out a bunch of resumesI started off my job search late last year by sending out resumes to a ton of different companies online.
I was stressed out every single day, checking my inbox to see if any companies got back to me with good news.
Here’s how it worked out for me:Multiply that by 20X.It sucked. Horribly. But the weird thing is, I knew that spamming out my resume wasn’t going to work! I knew that there was a better approach. I knew that taking initiative and “doing the job before you get the job” could work. But I had a lot of fears…What if I pick the “wrong” pre-interview project? What if they don’t like what I send in? Is it really worth doing? Or would I be wasting my time?So I kept sending out resume after resume, thinking “maybe THIS time I’ll get lucky,” even though I never did. Eventually, I hit a breaking point. I decided that I would actually do what I KNEW I should have been doing all along.
Step 1: I narrowed in on a just a few jobs
Instead of spreading myself too thin by spamming my resume out to a bunch of different companies, I decided to pick just a few jobs that I was really interested in, and go all in.I wanted to do biz dev or product development. So I picked a few companies with roles I liked:
Even though I didn’t fit the job description exactly for any of these roles (i.e. for Quora I lacked some of the skills, for Kiip I lacked a couple of years of experience, etc), I was certain I could do the job well if I was hired. So I went for it anyway.
Step 2: I outlined what I’d be doing on the jobI looked at the job description for each of these companies to get a good idea of what I’d be doing everyday on the job. This way, I’d know exactly what pre-interview project I should do to prove that I’d be the right fit.
I made a note of special tasks I could do right away. For example, I could “form partnerships with businesses” for Kiip without being at the company, but I wouldn’t be able to “analyze churn data” or something else that requires internal information.
Step 3: The Pre-Interview ProjectThis is where the magic happened. Because I knew the type of projects I’d be doing day-to-day in the jobs I was applying to, I could actually DO them ahead of time to prove that I’d be the right fit. Since I was applying for a business development role at Kiip, I decided to pitch a few companies on forming partnerships with them. (Another example of this is what Ina Herlihy did to get a job at Zumper.)For the product design / UX roles at Quora and Shutterstock, I ran a usability test on the product, wrote a document about my process, and mocked up new design suggestions based on my results. (Here’s an in depth example of what my friend Francine Lee for Dropbox, which is very similar to what I did.)
For small companies (like Quora or Kiip), I used this email script to send my project in to the director of the department I was applying for. You can customize this for any entrepreneurial company you’re applying to:Hi [name],
I noticed you’re hiring a [position], and I’m interested. I thought it would be helpful for me to [insert a good description of your pre-interview project] to show my interest and the value I could bring to [company].[Present the project here — if it’s a writeup (i.e. a design suggestion) then a link or image would do. If you pitched businesses for partnerships, ask if the person you’re emailing would like to be introduced, etc.]Quick background on me: [insert a quick 2–sentence summary of your background as it relates to this job]Thanks so much for your time — hope to hear from you regarding next steps!RaghavFor Shutterstock, I sent in my project only after I’d gotten an interview. Because it’s a larger company, I wasn’t sure whether everyone in the same department would know each other (so I didn’t know whether my doc would get shared with the right person if I sent it in advance). After I got my interview, I sent my project to all my interviewers:
Here’s a more general email script you can use if you’re applying to work at a larger company:
Hi [name],[Employee name] mentioned that I’d be chatting with you on [date] as part of my interview for the [position] at [company][Present the project here (insert link, ask if they’d like to be introduced to a potential partner, etc) ]Just thought I’d sent it over now in case you’d like to chat about it during the interview (if you think it would be appropriate, of course).
[your name]This is when things finally started to change for me. After I sent an my project to Quora’s Director of Product Design, he emailed me back in a couple of days to set up an interview.
And Kiip ended up giving me an offer.
Shutterstock not only gave me an offer, they actually created a position for me in their product management team.
Instead of spamming my resume to a bunch of random companies and rarely hearing back, I was able send out just a few applications, and crush them all.
Conclusion: Pre-Interview Projects WorkPeople want to work with others who are already working on solving their problems, instead of someone who MIGHT solve them if the conditions are right (i.e. only after they’ve signed a contract, gotten trained, on payroll, etc.)I’ve used this strategy to work with New York Times Bestselling authors, famous entrepreneurs, some of the biggest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, and much more. I’ll teach you exactly how you can find and land your dream jobs through my free private email list
Tell us in the comments: What’s one way you could use Raghav’s strategy to get a better job, or a promotion?