Politicians have mastered the art of presenting information in a way that is most flattering to their point-of-view. This is especially true when numbers are involved — see President Trump talking about his inauguration attendance figures or the GOP Congress discussing the costs of the ACHA.
Numbers are cherry picked to emphasize their argument. While we would argue that it’s best to not emulate the worst traits of our politicians, they do offer some insight into how numbers can be used to enhance your prospects as a job candidate.
Finding the Hidden Numbers
Figures almost always add power and credibility to what you claim on your resume, especially when you are applying for a finance job. Let’s say you worked on a special project or initiative such as implementing a new Accounts Payable software.
Make sure you quantify the return on investment (ROI) by thinking of the software investment (monthly cost) vs. time it saved your company multiplied by the rate per hour. What about other costs such as missed invoices and late fees? Add those to the figure and you’ll probably come up with a pretty impressive figure for your resume. You can do this same process for anything, no matter how mundane it may seem.
Put it Into Ballpark Figures
As finance professionals, we often think that the more detailed a figure is the better it looks on our resume. That being said, often times we can’t always determine a precise amount, so go with a ballpark estimate.
Most hiring managers will be ok with a safe, lower estimate and state it in terms like, “Approximately $5,000 annually.” This gives your prospective hiring manager a sense of the magnitude of the impact that you had on your prior organization.
Avoid the Ridiculous
Yes, there’s a limit to all this. Something may look great on a resume, but think of how it will sound when someone asks about it in the interview. For example mentioning that you “increased company profits by 200%” opens yourself up to questions including “what specifically did you do to increase profits?”
If you don’t have a detailed strategy and operational roadmap for how you achieved this, your prospective interviewer will remain very skeptical of your prospects. Make sure that you always filter your claims through a common sense filter.
When to Leave the Numbers Off
Sometimes it’s best to leave the numbers off a particular resume entry. This is especially true when you’re talking about a relatively small amount. For instance, if by your calculations your efforts increased the average $2,000 sale by $10 over the course of a year, it’s going to be difficult to make that sound impressive (even though such a gain can indeed make a difference). In that sort of case, you’re better off putting it into terms like, “Increased average sales figures in key product line.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Look carefully at your resume and apply these methods to add power and boost its strength. You may be surprised at just how much your accomplishments can be enhanced with such techniques. Then the figure you’ll be pondering most is your resume’s enhanced success rate.
In a job interview, preparing for specific questions is not enough. If you want to make a great impression and stand out from the crowd, we suggest you follow the strategies outlined below.
Adapting these frameworks will put you firmly in control of your job interview and improve your chances of landing your dream job.
Develop Your “Elevator Pitch”
The average hiring manager interviews 8 people for every open role. The number is high enough that they generally have to go back to their notes to remember candidates. The exception is candidates with a strong elevator pitch. This is no more than 15-20 seconds about you, your background, or even your goals which answers the questions why they should hire you.
You should weave this into an early response — before you dive into something more factual. Offering a story or narrative that shows what a strong candidate you are helps you to rise to the top of the list of candidates.
Here’s an example:
Interviewer: Tell me about why you are looking for a new job?
You: I’m an accountant with 5-years of experience at fast-growing SAAS companies and have a passion for building accounting processes at a ground-level before companies really start to scale. I’m looking to move to an earlier-stage company where I can leverage that skillset and my interests, and believe this opportunity would be a great fit.
Read about the Company
No matter how prepared you are to talk about yourself, not knowing the essentials of the company you’re interviewing for conveys a lack of preparation and interest. You can’t show an interviewer how you’ll fit in the company until you know the company.
In this day and age, every company either produces content or promotes the content written about them by third parties (i.e. Techcrunch, Business Insider). Make sure you delve deeply into the company’s website or LinkedIn feed so you can see how they position themselves to their clients.
From this, you’ll be able to know who the leaders of the company are, their revenue model, and near-term strategic objectives. Pick something that grabs your interest and ask your interviewer about it.
The Briefcase Technique
This is an amazing technique that will absolutely set you apart from your competition. The following video provides more info of how and why this method works.
In a nutshell, you show up to an job interview with a written proposal describing what you believe a company’s pressing problem is and how you would go about solving them. Some ideas for this include:
Create a high-level 5-year model
CAC / LTV analysis based on your understanding of the business
Audit readiness roadmap
Map of chart of accounts
Don’t worry if any of these are not perfect, it is the effort and discussion that you want to foster.
Diligence the Job You’re Applying for
Get to know the job you’re applying for intimately before arriving at your job interview. Don’t just read the job description—study it and research every task required of you.
When you interview, framing your responses so that you reveal your significant knowledge about the job gives you a massive advantage.
Use insider information (via informational interviews ideally with someone in a similar position to your interviewer) to make sure you speak their language — if you are interviewing at a highly metrics driven org, then make sure you speak about KPIs that you believe they should be tracking.
Figure out the Company Culture and Position Yourself as a Great Fit for it
When you diligence the company, figure out what the founding/leadership team emphasize. Do they value ideas, numbers, or design? Once you know that, you can position yourself for the position perfectly and speak to it during the interview.
What makes you special? It could be that you’re an idea machine, or a statistical fanatic.
Whatever they emphasize in a job interview, you can prepare to fit it into your responses. For example, when an interviewer asks, “What are your strengths?” skip the clichés and go right into qualities about you that are unique to the job. You’ll make it clear that you’re the perfect fit.
Prepare a Story Behind Every Answer
While you should outline key points you will touch on if asked these questions, you need to be ready for the interviewer to ask a follow-up question like, “What does this strength look like in action?”
Prepare a story that really demonstrates your work or strengths in action. Make it simple, high-level, and relatable. And make sure you have a great punchline speaking to your impact.
Humans relate to stories which are often more memorable than just listing off facts. We’re confident that this strategy will leave an indelible impression far after your interview.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You, and everyone else interviewing for the job, already know many of the questions you’ll be asked. The difference lies in preparation. Preparing unique and position-specific responses will give you the competitive edge over everyone else.
You don’t need to memorize answers, but instead know certain points of reference about yourself that you can apply to different questions.
Make sure to “mock interview” yourself. Video your responses until you’re able to speak comfortably and flexibly—as opposed to rotely regurgitating answers—about your prepared topics. Videoing yourself will feel awkward when you do it, but it will pay off in spades.
Project a Relaxed, Calm, and Positive Demeanor
Your hiring manager or future colleagues will feel more comfortable with you as a potential colleague if you project a relaxed and calm demeanor. Humans are attracted to confident people and a telling sign of that is someone who is relaxed and calm.
If you show fear or anxiety, it appears weak — while interviews are nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing scenarios, take a deep breath and do your best to stay calm and relaxed.
We also recommend that you smile when starting your interview; numerous studies show that smiling not only increases your happiness and confidence, but it also puts the people you’re interacting with at ease. This is mostly due to mirror neurons in the brain that naturally mimic other people’s expressions and emotions.
Pulling this off requires emotional intelligence (EQ), a skill that employers are increasingly looking for in candidates.
Good interviewers have a way of getting to the crux of who you are. They may have an innate sense for reading people, or they might just be really good at asking the right questions. Regardless, it’s essential to approach your interview with honesty.
If you interview as your non-authentic self, you’ll either not get the job when the interviewer sees right through you, or you’ll end up in a job that’s a poor fit. Don’t focus on what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Instead focus on giving an honest and passionate breakdown of what you have to offer.
Bringing It All Together
Let’s face it, interviewing is still tough. It’s hard to show who you really are and what you’re capable of during a quick sit-down chat. These strategies will help you to eliminate nervousness and anything unexpected that might derail an otherwise great job interview.
No matter how good your job search strategy, there’s always going to be failure and rejection. It’s inevitable. In any job search, you just can’t get to that glorious “Yes, you’re hired” without lots of “No, we’re not interested” responses.
For that reason it’s crucial that you get realistic about the process of getting a job and set the right mindset to handle setbacks. Without the ability to persevere, you won’t be able to power through the challenge inherent in the process of landing your dream job. Don’t fret though, we have some practical thoughts on how to develop the growth mindset for not only your job search but also for your career and personal life:
#1: Embrace the Challenge of a Job Search
The average time it takes to land a new job is 6-weeks; add several weeks to that figure for more specialized work or more senior positions like Director or VP. There’s a lot to do when trying to land your next job, from research, networking, interviews, and a lot of soul-searching. Don’t shortcut any of these items in the hopes that the pain and frustration of looking for a job will go away. Have some faith that if you can commit to approaching this journey with an inspired mindset, hard work, and commitment, it’s impossible not to be successful.
#2: Remember That Finding a Job is a Numbers Game
It’s easy to romanticize one particular job opportunity as “the one”. This happens often when you have one process going and all your eggs are in one basket. Nothing feels worse than engaging in one process, and then finding out that company isn’t interested in you. You will constantly feel like you are starting from scratch. You should definitely be excited to apply to your dream company – particularly if you have some connections there, but realize that your burning desires and the company’s pressing needs don’t always align. Don’t take it personally but it’s a good reminder to have a few processes going at once. Odds are they all move at different paces so you won’t have to start from scratch if one particular door closes.
#3 Persist in the Face of Setbacks and Learn from Them
Bottom-line, it’s easy to get caught up when you get rejected especially when you are deep into an interview process. It’s ok to feel bad about these scenarios (we’re all human after all) but only to a point because then it becomes self-defeating. Make sure that you are able to pull the plane that’s your emotional well-being up and course correct as needed.
Just accept that things won’t always go your way and that this has no reflection on you as a person. Sometimes companies are looking for a specialized skill-set or the job opening gets postponed. Don’t shy away from asking difficult questions to the company as well.
Try and get candid feedback as to why they passed on your candidacy. While rare, there might be some valuable feedback that you can use for your next interview.
Remind yourself that you’ll always have to get through a certain number of failures before getting to success in your job search. Think of the classic Winston Churchill saying: “When going through hell, keep going!”
#4: Stay Positive!
While this is often easier said than done; we have some practical thoughts on how to accomplish this. It’s easy to forget about all the good things that have happened in a job search such as you making it to the case round of interviews or the meeting with the company founder.
Make sure that you write these wins down in a journal that documents your successes and lessons learned as you go through this journey. It will come in very handy when you feel stagnant or when you go through the job search process again.
Try to remember that big successes are nothing more than the product of many smaller successes added together!
#5: Find Lessons and Inspiration in the Success of Others
This might be the most difficult for you as most people are not taught to think/feel this way. However, here’s a quote that really embodies the mindset: “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
Remember, you are just starting your journey and there’s no need to envy your peers that are in positions that you are seeking.
What if you stopped the comparison game altogether? What if the success of others had nothing to do with us, and our own success had nothing to do with anyone else? Why do we need to waste so much of our precious time competing with the people around us and focusing on how we “measure up” to them?
Remember, there are lessons to be learned but to get them takes some humility to ask.
Use these strategies to create the mindset that you need to persevere during your job search for the best outcome. Let us know if you have any questions.
For many of us, the day has come where we’ve walked in to see the boss, only to find out that your position has been terminated. No matter how long you’ve been at the company, it’s going to be a bit of a shock to your system. While you are looking to move your career forward with a new company, it won’t take much to get you into a depressive slump as you spend hours on the computer, looking for another job. It’s hard work, without a doubt.
Here is some advice on what to do when our company leaves you in the cold:
Give yourself space and time to calm down
After you’ve lost a position, you need to take time to calm down from your anger and frustration and figure out what you want to do with your life. For most of us, we are angry and bitter about being let go, so give yourself space and time to get over that. Make sure you keep your current job status to yourself and a few trusted people so that you have someone to rant to.
Put together a good “exit story”
When you’ve taken that important time to calm down, you can start putting yourself together and move towards your next career. The first step: create an exit story. This is something that you would work out with your previous employer in terms of the reason that you left the company, but also with yourself. Develop an honest but positive response to the following question:
“Why ’did you leave your job?”
Take the time to make the right exit story that works for you, and focus on what you’re going to do next.
Prioritize your goals
You can’t move forward until you’ve identified your goals. Is it to be your own boss? Is it to have a certain job title? Is it to work for a certain company?
Take this time and figure out what those goals are. Once you’ve narrowed down your career goals, it’s time for action. You’ll also find that you will be more energized about the job hunt, too, because it will get you excited about what it is you are working towards.
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” — Yogi Berra
Have a “to do” list and stick to it
You need to make sure that you put together an itemized list of the things that you need to focus on. This needs to be a detailed list with deadlines for each one (apply for 2 jobs a week, for example). And stick to it!
Crossing things off your list keeps you on the right path (getting a new job), and it’s very satisfying feeling, knowing you’re on a steady course to a better career.
Additionally, make sure you take a few days off here and there from job hunting. There is such a thing as burning yourself out, and you need to take time to step back, admire your progress, and re-energize yourself. Time in between jobs is all about self-reflection: who you are, who you want to be. and how can I get what I want.
Go to LinkedIn, and find professionals, working in an area that you’re interested in. Contact them and set-up “informational interviews.” You shouldn’t ask for a job in these meetings, but it’s a chance to connect with an “influencer” who can introduce you to other influencers. These other influencers could be people who are hiring or simply an HR contact at his or her current firm.
Set-up an account with Quora. Answer questions on Quora, and show your expertise. Dozens of people ask questions everyday. Prove that you’re good at what they do, and connect with Quora users.
Write on Medium. Make videos on Youtube. If you have time, create an on-line course and start selling it on Coursehorse.com. As you become more active online, people will start coming to you.
Bottom-Line: Get active in your search
Use technology to help you search
The world is changing now, so make sure that you change with it. Make sure that you hunt for your future career using social media, especially LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not only great for social networking, but it’s a great job board.
You can also search through jobs using online websites such as Kijiji, Indeed, Monster, etc. When you use these search engines, you’ll find that you are going to see more than you would have by doing it the old fashioned way.
Finally, if you’re looking into joining the startup industry, you should look into Hired.com or Vested. Hired.com does an excellent job in placing engineering candidates to technology firms, and here at Vested we focuse on connecting accounting/finance professionals to technology startups.
“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” — Steve Jobs (2005)
We won’t be like Steve Jobs. However, we can all learn from Jobs’ experience. Losing one’s job is a low point in one’s career. Rather than wallowing in the pits of despair, Jobs became more active. He used the time in between jobs, as a time for self-reflection and introspection. Then he put a plan in place, and started Pixar (creator of Toy Story movies) and NeXT (bought by Apple).
If you recently lost your job, take the time to reflect on your career. Assess your goals and take action.
According to recent box office results, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is on pace to surpass $1B of gross sales worldwide, and its success ensures more Star Wars movies to come. Since 1977, Star Wars has captivated the world with its rich world and operatic storytelling. It’s one of the few movies that has no barriers. Anyone, anywhere can see a version of Star Wars in any language.
I remember watching Star Wars in Madrid, Spain. I was on a consulting assignment, and came home to relax and unwind in my hotel room. I turned on the television, and couldn’t understand all the soap operas in Spanish. I kept flicking the channels, until I came across the greatest Star Wars movie of all time – Empire Strikes Back. At this point, this instance was likely my tenth viewing of the movie. I vividly remember watching the Dagobah cave scene and realizing then why Star Wars resonates with so many people.
If you look past the flashy lasers and lightsabers in Star Wars, you’ll find valuable life lessons, which can help anyone’s career.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The Dagobah cave sequence is a perfect example. In Empire Strikes Back, young Luke came to the Dagobah planet in search of Master Yoda, the last, living Jedi Master. Yoda takes on Luke as a pupil, and puts him through grueling challenges, such as using telepathy to lift Luke’s X-Wing fighter out of a swamp. Perhaps, the hardest challenge of all was the Dagobah cave. After running through the swamp with Yoda on his back, they stop right outside a mysterious cave.
You are your worst enemy
Using the Force, Luke senses the evil within the Dagobah Cave. He asks Yoda what’s in it.
“Only what you take with you.” – Yoda
Of course, young Luke doesn’t understand so he picks up his belt of weapons and proceeds forward. In the cave, he faces an image of Darth Vader. He slays him easily and decapitates the Sith Lord. Vader’s head tumbles to the ground, and the mask explodes, revealing the face of Luke.
At this point in time, Luke identifies Darth Vader as his main nemesis. However, he doesn’t realize that his true nemesis is within himself. It’s his fear and lack of training (maturity) that will be his demise. Hence, Vader may be the immediate threat (image of Vader), but the real threat is Luke, succumbing to the dark side (Luke’s face underneath the mask).
In real life, everyone has encountered this kind of inner conflict, especially in their careers. We focus mostly on the immediate threat or challenge, when we should be turning inwards for the solution. We hesitate when having to speak in front of a large crowd. We hesitate to make that career change. As a consultant to entrepreneurs, I see brilliant business leaders doubt their ideas and make excuses about their being too much competition. In all of these cases, the root cause of self-doubt is fear: fear of failure, fear of “looking silly,” or fear of “why me?”
Once you overcome your fear, then and only then can you find success. Luke didn’t understand this in his first encounter with Vader so he lost his hand. In The Return of the Jedi, Luke finally “gets it” and defeats both Vader and the Emperor.
Trust in the Force
By bringing weapons into the Dagobah Cave, Luke already failed the test. Even Yoda explicitly said he will not need weapons. But like any young acolyte, Luke doesn’t listen and takes his belt of weapons. He’s focusing on the immediate threat (Darth Vader), and doesn’t understand that being a Jedi is a journey.
“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never attack.” – Yoda
The greatest “weapon” for a Jedi is inner peace: to know oneself to be incorruptible by the dark side. Again, this Yodaism is so true of the real world.
Especially, in this world of Snapchats, SMS messages, Tweets, and Facebook updates, we are often distracted by so many things. People tend to focus on what’s immediate and lose sight of the long-term. We worry about how to pay the next month’s rent. We fret about what car to buy, or what’s the best job right after school.
In business meetings, I’ve seen managers fret over the font of their presentations. I’ve seen meetings cancelled because no one understands why numbers don’t add up due to rounding. We tend to get focused on the minutia of the details that we forget why we have meetings in the first place.
What Yoda suggests is so very simple, yet it’s neglected time and time again. The real journey is not the day-to-day tasks and challenges. The real journey is inwards: knowing what we want and how our actions will get us there. Once we find this “inner peace,” we become incorruptible to the many distractions in this world.
Lack of training leads to disastrous results
After failing the Dagobah test, Luke learns that his friends are in trouble and need his help. Yoda insists he’s not ready to face Darth Vader, and Luke should focus on his training. However, he doesn’t listen and ends up losing his duel with Vader, his friends, and his hand.
As Yoda predicted, Luke wasn’t prepared mentally for the challenge. Not only was he outclassed in the duel, but Vader succeeded in his mind games with Luke, culminating in the famous “I am your father” sequence.
Granted, it’s very hard to neglect the pleas of help from one’s friends. But Empire Strikes Back shows if you’re not mentally prepared, bad things will happen.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda
I remember not understanding a word of what’s being said in the Spanish, dubbed version of Empire Strikes Back. I also remember how odd it was to hear Yoda’s lines, spoken in that typical, baritone Spanish voice. Although the Spanish version of the movie was hard to follow, Luke’s hero story and transformation was a universal message that transcends language and poor cable reception.
It’s a message of finding oneself, and living true to that vision.
I went on to stay another week in Madrid to complete the consulting assignment, and I couldn’t get Yoda’s voice out of my head on my flight back to Barcelona. It might have been a message from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… But still true to this very day and on this side of the Milky Way.