How to Turn Your Job Interview into Your First Day at Work

What to bring to a job interview? The standard advice includes  directions to the interview location, a notebook, a pen that works, and a clean copy of your resume printed on high-quality paper.

That’s what all the other candidates will bring too. So if you want to fit it, follow that advice and just show up with those.

Blah Blah Blah

Instead of talking so much, try showing something.

Be a consultant not just an interviewee
I suggest a different approach. If you want to stand out and dramatically increase your chances of getting the job, treat the job interview as if you were a consultant on the first meeting with a potential client. That means bringing a document.

In this post, I’ll explain why to bring a document and what it should include.  In a second post next week I’ll go into more detail on information sources useful for preparing your document and how to use the document in the interview.

This approach works. I use it myself when meeting with clients. When I’ve helped clients interview candidates to fill a key position, the one that follows this technique inevitably gets the job.

Why bring a document
It is easy to make fun of consultants for carrying around a deck of Powerpoint slides like a security blanket, but bringing a document will serve several purposes for you:

  • The interviewer is naturally going to be curious at what is in your document.  She will ask to see what you’ve put together.  This gets the conversation away from questions like “Tell me about your greatest weakness”
  • It shows that you are a self-starter who doesn’t wait for orders. Every boss wants people like that.
  • It demonstrates that it won’t take long to get you up to speed.
  • It is a relevant example of the quality of work you can do.
  • It sticks around in a pile on the interviewer’s desk after you leave, so it is a little tougher to forget about you.
  • It is a tangible product that the interviewer can show colleagues.  In the best case, you might even get asked to stay past the interview to meet with other members of the team to discuss your observations

Most importantly, bringing a document increases your ability to get real work done during the interview itself.  If you can engage the interviewer on content and start sketching out your first 100 days on the job, you’re well on your way to landing the role.

What goes in the document
OK, so what goes in your document? As a consultant in your first meeting with a client, this is what you want to demonstrate:

  • I understand your industry
  • I understand the position of your company in the industry and the products and/or services you provide
  • I’m familiar with the latest news about your company such as recent acquisitions or a new CEO, as well as any publicly announced major strategic initiatives
  • I have some outside-in sense of the issues your company is likely facing
  • I have deep experience in addressing these types of issues
  • I have a plan for what I would do to add value to your organization

The specifics of what charts to include will of course depend on the role you are seeking. Here are just a couple examples:

If you are applying for a marketing manager role, you might include a “Consumer Reports”-style chart showing the company’s major products or services compared to the competition.  How do you evaluate the brand’s positioning? What social media marketing opportunities do you envision? What improvements would you suggest to the company’s website? Buy a product from the company and chart your customer journey.

If you are applying for a plant manager role at a manufacturing company you might create a chart showing all the components that the company uses. You might create a table showing the production issues companies in this industry typically face and how you would address them.

There are two pages that you should include whatever role you are applying for:

  • List of the questions you would be asking and activities you would do in the first week on the job
  • How you would go about creating a 100-day plan and 365-day plan within your first 2 weeks on the job

A reasonable length for your document would be about 10 pages. It will probably take at least a full work-day to create, but shouldn’t require more than three or four days.  If this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. But how much time did you spend getting the interview in the first place?

In the second part of this post next week, I’ll discuss useful information sources and how to use your document in the interview.

graphic courtesy of

 Will Bachman is the president and founder of The Bachman Group, a strategy and operations consulting firm.

Got questions or comments for Will? Spill below.

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Did you enjoy this post?
  • Marie

    Sound basics advice. Should you be hired, It may be incorporated as the framework for defining your success during the assimilation process into your new job. Plus, it is a good way to recruit mentor(s) regardless of the outcome.

  • Catherine Morgan

    As a consultant pitching projects, I have done this kind of document but as a job seeker I haven’t. My friend did this once and they just stole her ideas and didn’t hire her. We later saw the advertising campaign she had suggested in print – but maybe that was a fluke. I can see how the approach might be very effective with a reputable company.

  • Tanuja

    Applies particularly to senior roles.

    Also, this might be a good way for interviewers to understand the prospective manager, his/her style, and priorities better. I find that what is “sold” in a job interview is often not what the job actually looks like.

  • Cabe Franklin

    Great article – even if the slides don’t become the framework for the interview, it’s a great way to get warmed up on the topics you’ll be discussing and to be seen right away as a potential colleague to problem-solve with rather than a candidate to be judged. Will definitely use this approach in future interviews.

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