Interview Essentials: Network and Values

In a recent classroom Q&A, I asked the students what they felt was the most essential ingredient in landing a PR job.  Three hands went up and all three had the same answer:  “Who you know.”  I was not entirely surprised with the responses, but I decided to ask a dozen young professionals at a PRSA event how they landed their jobs.   While their responses included college brand, GPA and internships, all 12 agreed they got help reaching at least one of their major career steps by someone in their personal and professional networks. 

As I’ve recommneded in past posts, including Build Your Own Personal Board of Directors, developing and nurturing your personal and professional network is essential for any job search–either now or the one I guarantee you that you’ll be facing sometime in the future.  

Today’s New York Times Corner Office interview features the chairman and CEO of Mattel, Robert Eckert, who confirms the importance of establishing and maintaining a solid network.  But, he also emphasizes the need to know your values and be able to articulate them.   Here are his insightful answers to two of reporter Adam Bryan’ts questions regarding networking and values: 

Q.  Let’s talk about hiring.  If you were interviewing me, how would that conversation go?

A.  There are two things I look for.  First, I’ll find out from you, if you’ve reached a certain level in business, whether you and I have a common acquaintance.  It may take me a while to find out who it is, but I’m going to know a couple of people who you know.  So before you’re hired, I’m going to call those people, and I’m going to hear them talk to me about you.  That works well for me.

The second thing I do is look for values.  I’ll take you back to when I was hired at Kraft in 1977.  I met with Keith Ridgway, who was the C.E.O., and we’re having a chat.  We’re chatting about how he was a World War II pilot, and that my father was in World War II, too, and we’re chatting about things that I found terribly irrelevant.  I wasn’t convinced he had read my résumé.  I worked hard and got good grades, but he didn’t seem that interested in that.  I walked out of that interview and I didn’t feel good about it.  It was just weird.

Then fast-forward 15 years, the kids are sitting on the couch, and I’m asking them about their families, and how they grew up, and who’s important in their life and how did they decide to do this and that.  I’m looking for fit, personality, values.  Is this the kind of person we want around here?  Will they work well?  And I don’t really care how many places you worked at or what grades you got or who your favorite teacher was or what your favorite class was.  It’s about what kind of people they are.

Q.  And what are you listening for?

A.  Stories.  You’re interviewing me now, but we could just as soon be having a job interview.  You’re going to walk away from our session right now with a perspective about me.  And it’s not focused on my career accomplishments, like what I did in 1987 when I was the vice president of marketing in the grocery division.  It’s a conversation about a person.

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