The One Phrase That Will Unlock Interviews With Any Hiring Manager You Contact

In 2013, after 8 years working in various senior roles for Nike, I left my job to take a chance on a small, unknown brand. 3 months later, I was fired. Suddenly, for the first time in my career, I was without a job. For 8 years I had been climbing the corporate ladder with no end in sight. Now I was unemployed and faced with re-building my career.

After 8 years working for one company, my network was much smaller than I would have liked. Internally at Nike I had a strong network, but externally it was weak. Knowing the best jobs in town were unlikely to be advertised, I had to get busy making contact with people in my industry that were hiring the best roles.

But how do you make contact with complete strangers when you are unemployed and have nothing to offer? I thought back to my days at Nike. At least once a week I would be contacted by someone relatively unknown to me, asking for help in getting a job at Nike. Some I took meetings with; others I didn’t. What was it that set some apart from others?

I soon realised exactly what it was and why it was so incredibly powerful. And for the next 2 months, I set about using this same ‘technique’ to gain access to hiring managers and jobs at all the coolest brands in town including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Bacardi, Asos and Topshop.

I realised from my time at Nike that the people who wanted to learn were the people I took meetings with, not the people that were looking for a job. If I was contacted by someone asking for help in getting a job at Nike, I was unlikely to bother meeting them. It put too much pressure on me. What if I couldn’t help them? What if there wasn’t a job for them? What if they weren’t any good? I didn’t want to take a meeting with someone where the pressure was on me to help them find a job.

On the flip side, it was the people who wanted to learn from my experience that I always said yes to. Having a coffee with someone who wants to hear your story and learn and be inspired is much less pressure than having to help someone find a job. And in most cases, I found that by the end of these meetings we had connected in such a lovely way that I was scanning my mind trying to think of how I could help find them a job!

So I took this same approach. I reached out through my current small crop of connections and asked them to introduce me to anyone they knew that was working for the type of brands I love. And then when I was introduced, I asked for a face-to-face meeting by saying:

‘I would love your advice on what you think I should do next’

 And suddenly everyone I contacted was offering to meet me for coffee! From my own experience there is nothing more flattering than receiving an email where the underlying message is ‘you are awesome, tell me how to be awesome like you!’

However, the key to this is that it can’t be disingenuous. You aren’t flattering people for the sack of trying to get yourself a new job. You really do need to be interested in them and what they have to say. This is an amazing opportunity to learn and be inspired. Don’t ruin that be being self-centred and thinking only of your next job. The job will come. But right now you have an amazing opportunity to connect with some incredibly talented and smart people. Take advantage of that.

Recently in my current job I received an email from a young girl I had met once about 2 years earlier. She worked in the same building as me but for another brand. Her current contract was coming to an end and, due to the fact we had met once before, she reached out to see if we could meet for coffee. Her opening line?

‘My contract is coming to an end and I’d really like your help in getting a job in your department’

My response? I sent her the email address for HR.

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