How to Clinch a Job Offer, with Jan Melnik

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 165:

How to Clinch a Job Offer, with Jan Melnik

Airdate: November 14, 2018

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the publisher of Mac’s List, an online community that connects talented professionals with meaningful work.

I believe everyone can find a job they love. But to do that, you need to learn the skills to build a successful career. From professional networking to personal branding, you’ve got to get good at job hunting.

This show helps you do this. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I talk to a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find your dream job.

This week, I’m talking to Jan Melnik about how to clinch a job offer.

Before we get started, however, I want to ask you a favor.

I want to make sure you get the most useful job search advice possible. To help do this, we’re doing a short listener survey.

We want to know what you like and don’t like about the show. And we want to hear your ideas for topics we should cover in future episodes. We also want to get to know you better.

It’s a quick poll. It has just a handful of questions. I’d be grateful if you filled it out. And if you do so you’ll be eligible to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Go to macslist.org/findyourdreamjobsurvey And please let us hear from you by November 20, 2018. That’s when we’ll close the survey.

Thanks in advance. And now let’s get back to the show!

Our guest this week is Jan Melnik. She’s a master resume writer and career strategist.

Jan is also a closer. She teaches people how to turn a job interview into a job offer.

Jan calls her number one tip the “Mulligan.” It’s a killer strategy that helps you stand out. And she says 75% of all job seekers don’t use it.

Here’s another tip from Jan to increase your odds of getting a job offer: tell the employer what you will do after you start work.

This shows your value, Jan tells me in our interview. And it gets the boss thinking about you as a member of the team.

And in our conversation, Jan says there’s no substitute for preparation. To avoid appearing nervous, she recommends you practice answers to the common questions employers always ask. This will let you show the confidence hiring managers want to see.

Do you want to learn more? Join me here in the Mac’s List studio as I talk with Jan Melnik about how to clinch a job offer.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Jan Melnik. Master resume writer and career strategist, Jan Melnik founded her company, Absolute Advantage, in 1983. For 35 years now, she’s been writing resumes and helping clients find careers they can love.

Jan speaks frequently at conferences and companies nationwide. And she teaches business classes at the University of Florida and Bay Path University.

She’s also the author of seven career books. And she recently published her first works of fiction on Amazon.

She joins us today from Durham, Connecticut.

Jan, thanks for being on the show.

Jan Melnik:

Thank you so much for your generous invitation, Mac. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a pleasure to have you. This topic is one I know we’re all going to experience as we go through our careers and that’s how to clinch a job offer. Just to be clear, Jan, we’re talking about that point of the job search where you’re a finalist and you want to move to the top of the list. You want to make sure, if you’re competing against one or two other people, that you’re the one that gets the call back that says, “We’d like to make you an offer.” Is that right?

Jan Melnik:

Exactly correct. There are a number of things candidates can do but a few things rise to the top.

Mac Prichard:

Well, we had a chance to check in with each other before this interview and you said there’s a step, it’s your favorite, that every interview finalist can take to increase the odds of a job offer. You told me, Jan, that three out of four applicants, or 75% of folks out there, don’t do it. Now, Jan, what’s your secret weapon?

Jan Melnik:

Well, interestingly enough, you don’t have to be a golfer to know it. It’s called the Mulligan though. Referencing the game where you effectively have a do-over and it is in the form of a very powerful thank you note that should follow every interview along the way.

In particular, the strategy that makes this unique and so effective is the candidate should take that opportunity to revisit anything in the interview that didn’t quite go as he or she wished. That inevitable kick yourself in the elevator moment. “Why didn’t I tell them this?” Or, “ When they asked me how I would turn around a team’s performance, I neglected to share this success story.” Or, “Different ways of optimizing production quality, I forgot all about mentioning Lean or Six Sigma and the value I can bring.”

You use the Mulligan, the thank you note, to revisit, literally, very briefly, any of those moments. What it does, going into any interview, it empowers the candidate to recognize they’ve got this valuable do-over once the interview is over to really solidify their candidacy and what differentiates them.   

Mac Prichard:

A couple of clarifying questions: these are the things that are going through your head when you’re a candidate when you’re in the car or in the bus going home and you’re kicking yourself and saying, “I wish I had said that,” or maybe you’re telling your partner or your spouse, “If only I could get on the phone and tell her this.” Is that right, Jan?

Jan Melnik:

Exactly. It’s the things that inevitably human beings, we forget. We are not computers, and so there will always be certain points that can be solidified and further detailed and really bring value to that candidate. Obviously, tying to the things that were most important in the interview.

Mac Prichard:

I can imagine listeners saying, “Thank you notes? That’s the secret weapon? I send thank you notes.” What makes this different?

Jan Melnik:

Most people, of the 25% that do write thank you notes, typically go with, “Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you, Mr. Prichard. It was a pleasure to learn more about this job. I’m very eager to move into the next step and will look forward to hearing from you.” Very short, very succinct, and they really bring no further value to the candidate other than that they listened to Emily Post along the way.

What this is doing, and it can go a full page on an email as needed, three, four, five core paragraphs that speak to some of the very specific things that came out in the course of the interview and what the candidate can bring to that opportunity that is going to make a difference and deliver results. It is very much a pragmatic and strategic tool.

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, because I know you’ve worked with so many people in their careers who are looking for work or want to move ahead, do most people write these kinds of detailed notes, Jan?

Jan Melnik:

No, frankly, I would say they don’t. Many folks do opt to retain a strategist. A writer to a system, a career writer typically. It can be anyone with a great command of the English language, who can help elucidate some of those details that can be crafted into very concise messages.

Even the most rudimentary of writers should be able to craft a document that goes beyond the courtesies expressed in a thank you. To talk about some of the very specific things that did come out in the interview and where their experience aligns.

They can do things such as, “You may have noted on my resume that when I worked at XYZ I did have a chance to build a team that provided XYZ,” as it relates to what the new employer might be looking for.

It’s just going a little deeper. Taking a little more time, an hour is not too little to spend on this type of Mulligan thank you, that is a do-over and add on to their great interview. We hope.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so anybody can do this; you don’t need an MFA in creative writing.

Jan Melnik:

Correct.

Mac Prichard:

I want to dig in a little into this, Jan, because I’m sure you know because you work with candidates a lot, that many people are looking for ways to stand out from other finalists. What I’m hearing you say is, if, say, in a typical selection process it’s down to you and two other finalists and you send in a letter like this, you use the Mulligan,that does give you a chance to stand out because most other finalists are probably not doing that, are they?

Jan Melnik:

That is very true. Actually, a candidate can use this strategy right from the get-go with the very first round of interviews. They typically will progress through multiple interviews in today’s hiring climate, which can extend over weeks and sometimes months. By using this strategy consistently throughout every step of the interview, this individual is serving to differentiate himself or herself and the value he or she will ultimately bring to the workplace.

Mac Prichard:

This is, as you mentioned, as people go through a selection process, there’s often one, two, three or maybe even four or five interviews. They should take advantage of this at every step. What about format, Jan? Is it an email or a handwritten note?

Jan Melnik:

I strongly recommend an email for the timeliness. We don’t want any time to separate the candidates rising to the top from decision making on who makes it to the next level or to the offer. Two or three days in the mail is too long to wait. Even though a handwritten note or a handwritten letter or a typewritten letter might have been the approach years ago, today email is the expected means by which someone will communicate.

It should be individualized to every individual who participated in the interview. No copying, no mass production of the same letter, the candidate should take the time to individualize each letter, bringing in the appropriate Mulligan stories to support that candidate’s interview with that person.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Don’t leave the room without knowing who you’ve spoken with. It’s common to have, perhaps, several people on a panel but know their names and be sure that you can communicate with them by email. Is that right?

Jan Melnik:

Most definitely. If there had been someone in HR, say, coordinating the interviews that individual would be pivotal in providing the contact, names, correct spelling, and email addresses. The candidate should never hesitate to go back after the fact to the person coordinating the interviews to get that critical information. Even if they left the interview and, oops, forgot to get business cards, definitely make the follow-up call or email to the person coordinating the interviews.

It’s really important that every person be thanked in a way that has substance using the Mulligan.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, we’ve talked about who you should write to and what you should say and the length. Any other tips about sending a Mulligan?

Jan Melnik:

Well, I always think a call to action is great to include in any correspondence. Recapping what the next steps are in the interview, which should be one of the questions the candidate asks when the tables turn and they inevitably say, “So, Mac, do have any questions for us?” You would never say, “Oh, no thank you. I believe you’ve answered everything.” Instead, you would have these carefully thought through questions that you would moderate, depending on what has already transpired but always ending with, “What are the next steps in this process? When shall I expect a phone call from you to move on to the next level?”

That should be recapped at the bottom of the Mulligan thank you letter.   

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you brought that up. I know many candidates forget to ask that or are afraid to ask those questions, either in the interview or the follow-up notes. It’s perfectly acceptable to do that. In fact, employers expect you to do that don’t they, Jan?

Jan Melnik:

They certainly do. It almost conveys a sense of, “Of course, I know I’m moving on. There’s no question.” It relays a confidence that’s important to convey.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and I know we’re going to touch on that later in the interview. The importance of demonstrating confidence and how that can inspire more interest in hiring you from an employer.

Before we do that, though, we’re going to take a break. There are a lot of other points, I know you have about how people can clinch a job offer. I particularly want to talk about ways, and I know you feel passionate about this, that people can find out more about the employer’s needs and show what they can do for the hiring manager.

We’re going to pause now and be back in a moment with Jan Melnik, a master resume writer and a career strategist. We’re talking this week about how to clinch a job offer.

Are you uncomfortable talking about money? You’re not alone. Especially if you’re doing a job search.

Too many job candidates I meet wait for employers to bring up salary, usually after several interviews. That can waste your time and your energy.

You may not learn, for example, what a job pays until you receive an offer. You may discover that it’s an amount far below your needs.

It happened to me once.

Many years ago, I was the finalist for a position with a trade association. In what I was told was a final courtesy interview with the CEO, I was asked if I could accept half of the publicly posted salary.

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I’ve got a new guide, it’s called How to Talk About Money in an Interview. In it, I show you how to do salary research before meeting a hiring manager.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s list studio. Our guest expert this week is Jan Melnik. She’s a master resume writer and career strategist.

We’re talking…our topic, Jan, is how to clinch a job offer. You made a terrific case for the Mulligan. Using letters, or rather emails, to communicate to hiring managers additional points that you might want to make after an interview.

Let’s also talk about other things that people can do to clinch a job offer. How important is it in these interviews, in any job interview, Jan, to draw an employer out about their needs?

Jan Melnik:

It’s absolutely critical to do that. It’s the only way a candidate can really then circle back and demonstrate alignment between their experience, their background, their education, training, credentialing, with what the employer is seeking to do.

That is absolutely imperative. It requires a good memory in the course of the interview to…well, combating normal nerves, to retain what some of those key needs are, to have questions that help the employer describe what the challenges are, whether it’s a newly created position because of growth, whether someone has been promoted. Really trying to get that inside story.

That gives the candidate much to work with both in the interview, in conveying their value and how they can really deliver the results the employer is seeking. Perhaps how quickly they can hit the ground running because they’ve got the experience that the employer is seeking backed by good examples.

I always say quantifiable, throw in numbers where you can. Let’s suppose it’s a position in finance, accounts receivable. If you’ve got a track record of bringing down the day’s outstanding and collecting monies that had previously been uncollected for months, things like that, you would want to quickly share examples with numbers supporting that.

Being able to know their needs and trying to hone in on your background and what matches. Again, using the Mulligan we’ve previously discussed to bring out additional points that maybe didn’t get represented during the interview.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. It’s important to understand the employer’s needs and it’s important to walk into the interview room with examples that will demonstrate your areas of expertise.

‘sitting in that interview chair, Jan, and you’re talking to one or several people across a conference table. What do you do to… what kind of questions do you ask to draw them out so that you can get those insights?

Jan Melnik:

Well, of course, it would be linked to whatever the particular position was, the discipline, the industry, and the research that you’ve done prior to going in. You can ask questions such as, “What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with this department or in this role? What are some of the things you’re looking for a candidate to bring in immediately to help make a difference? What would you say from reviewing my background most interested you about my candidacy and how I can be the solution?”

You would try to bring it back and try to align it with your experience as a candidate by imploring them to share with you any challenges, opportunities, perhaps, “What areas have not worked out so well for you? What are areas that we can help turn around here? I’d love to know more about the organization because it allows me to think creatively about how I might be able to bring in some ways to start turning this around for you.”

Mac Prichard:

As you ask those questions and the employer responds, what should you be listening for as that manager across the table talks to you?

Jan Melnik:

Exactly. A great question. You want those little light bulbs to go off. You want to have little things populate in your mind that you can immediately weave into your next questions or responses.

Then, more importantly, you want to retain this so that when you use my second greatest strategy to clinch the job offer, you’ve got content and material to further flesh out in building a case for your candidacy.

Would you like to know more about that?

Mac Prichard:

I would. Tell me more, Jan.

Jan Melnik:

Well, it is a tool that I won’t necessarily say that I created it, but I think I did because I had never heard of anyone doing this years ago and I’ve probably been doing it for fifteen years. It’s called the 30/60/90-day follow up to job interviewing. What it is, it’s a tool that’s best used after generally the second or third interview. You’re moving up as a semifinalist and maybe close to being a finalist, again depending on the type of organization and the level. It’s where you really want to make a difference in your campaign by taking the time to develop a plan.

Generally, it’s about 3-5 pages. It’s a Word document that would be attached to an email. It would articulate, based on what you’ve learned, based on the research you’ve done, everything from the first or second round of interviews, you embed and draw a line between what you can do to address and what you can deliver across a timeline.

The 30/60/90-day works for many. I’ve done them sometimes where they’re three months, six months, nine months, or a quarter. Depends on the organization and, again, the level you’re going in. You would articulate in such a way based on information shared to date. This would be my preliminary plan around what I might expect to do in my first month in the job. Then in month two and in month three.

The document should have enough specificity so that the decision maker, the hiring manager, recognizes, “Wow, this is something that absolutely practically positions this person as being on the team already. She clearly has a good grasp of what our needs are and what the challenges are. She’s done a great job in articulating what she can do and the experiences she has. She’s a great listener; she captured all this in one or two interviews and now is giving us something that demonstrates what she will do.”

There’s no worry about the candidate’s ideas being stolen because the document does not have the depth of detail. Typically it’s missing names of the key players in the organization that would be part of the plan. It does outline and demonstrate the candidate’s creativity, the way they go about problem-solving, and the fact that they are very proactive and action-oriented in crafting such a strategy.

Again, this document is developed right after the second interview or maybe the third if they know that there are going to be multiple more interviews; it’s the perfect time to truly separate them from the field of semifinalists.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. It’s a relatively short document, 3-5 pages I heard you say, and it focuses on three time periods typically. How do you recommend people structure it? Is it as simple as saying, “Here are three to five key challenges that I heard you raise and here are my ideas about how to address them?” Within this document?

Jan Melnik:

Yes, and the way that you just said that goes back to the conversational nature of it. It’s not a fully amplified business plan or marketing plan but rather it’s a working document. It can actually serve, once employed, the individual with a great game plan going forward. Words that you use that make it very approachable.

I always say, couch it in such terms as, “…based on preliminary information that I gathered. Certainly once on board, I would have an opportunity to meet with the other team members and gain their idea and really build up a collaborative plan. Based on what I know today, here are some of my thoughts on how I can make a difference in helping to drive this initiative. Or lead the organizational change.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, keep it humble and keep the door open to lots and lots of input but again, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate what you can do for the hiring manager, isn’t it?

Jan Melnik:

Exactly. Professionally formatted, proofread, proofread, proofread, and be very careful; it must be perfect. Even though it has a tone that’s very accessible.

Mac Prichard:

I have to add, as an employer, I’ve actually have received something like that, I believe, twice. I don’t remember what those documents said, it’s been some years, but I’m still thinking about them and those people. Years later, it helped them stand out.

Jan Melnik:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Well, again, our goal here is to clinch a job offer. Why is this going to be persuasive to an employer when they get an email with a file like that attached?

Jan Melnik:

Clearly, this candidate is someone who goes above and beyond, 110%, all the cliched expressions many folks might use in an interview when describing themselves. This person is demonstrating a real commitment to joining the team. To understanding and asking the right kind of questions. Being that catalyst to action that the company probably would value no matter what the discipline, what the industry is. It really serves to separate a candidate because they can walk in the door with a possible working plan to get started.

Let’s face it, in these days many, many organizations, do not have well-amplified job descriptions, they don’t even have necessarily a great performance evaluation or even an appraisal process that would spell out actions for the next six months to a year. This is a pivotal tool that can be used across an organization. It can drive real interest and truly separate any other candidate, this individual, from anyone else competing for the same role.

Mac Prichard:

We’ve talked about two strategies here, the Mulligan and the second one is this 30/60/90-day follow up plan.

The third one I know you feel passionate about as well is preparation. This is an old-fashioned one but you don’t think people should walk into an interview room just winging it, do you, Jan?

Jan Melnik:

I certainly do not. Even the most talented sales or marketing person who’s got that gift of gab is doing themselves a disservice to not prepare thoroughly. Probably my best tip on preparation for interviews is to force oneself to go through every question, anticipated, researched, that’s stumbled them before, and do their responses out loud and record themselves. Most people cringe when they hear themselves but it’s a really effective way to know the type of question that might catch you in the interview.

While the preparation is important, the rehearsal should never be to the point of memorization. The idea rather is to become very familiar with how you are going to respond to certain types of queries. Almost always you can anticipate, “Well, Mac, tell us something about yourself.” It’s the classic icebreaker. It gives the interviewer a chance to remember which candidate you were.

Glance down at the resume they probably only spent five seconds with earlier and revisit why you’re sitting there. While you kind of walk through the reasons for being there and why you’re the right candidate.

Know the other answers. Yes, people still ask about three greatest strengths and what are your weaknesses? You should have something prepared.

Think about those funny, oddball questions. “If you were a tree what would you be?” Or, “If you were a color or a cereal brand what would you be?”

The answers do not matter to those questions by the way. It’s how you creatively respond to an off-putting question that can sometimes rattle a job seeker.

Know the way in which you would respond to curveball questions. Think about things that have tripped you up in your career. When might you have failed? What would be an example of something that happened? What did you learn from that? Really try to…Google if you must, the 50 most popular interview questions. Make yourself do them out loud so that you can ensure a 90-second, maybe 120-second response, that is clear and articulate.

Mac Prichard:

How does this kind of preparation, Jan, help you clinch that job offer?

Jan Melnik:

It really cements your value proposition in a way that demonstrates a confidence and a competence in what your capabilities are. Someone able to do that across every step of the way of the interview really defines themselves as a professional who belongs on that team within that organization. Rather than someone who is stumbling, who is grasping to come up with answers, who is overly nervous for having not prepared well. That can make a big difference when it comes to the job offer.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I love the practicality of your advice here and, again, it hits on something that I hear so many job seekers talk to me about, which is how can I stand out? What can I do to show that I’m different? The strategy you’re sharing with us require effort and time but they’re uncommon.

In your experience, do you find that they do help people distinguish themselves from the other candidates?

Jan Melnik:

They really do. It’s an investment when you think of this time put in. You are correct, every one of these things takes a little more time than skipping a thank you note altogether or dashing one off that’s so short it does nothing to differentiate. Every one of these things takes time to do but if it is a position that a candidate covets and it aligns beautifully with their career planning, their goals, and their experience, it’s well worth it. It truly will be something that most of the other people they’re competing against are not doing.

I can almost guarantee that.

Mac Prichard:

Well, thank you, Jan. Now tell us what’s next for you?

Jan Melnik:

Well, I’m very excited to be going into a new book writing. I’m bringing out a new edition of “The Popular Executive’s Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes in Job Search”, with my coauthor Louise Kursmark. We begin our writing next week, actually. We intend this to be available in the first part of 2019. First edition of that book is, gosh, just over ten years now. It’s still available on Amazon and helped a lot of people but we knew it was time to get back to the drawing board with an all-new edition.

That’s what’s on my plate.

Mac Prichard:

Good. I know people can find the first edition of that book on Amazon and they can learn more about you and your other seven books at JanMelnik.com.

Jan, thanks for being on the show this week.

Jan Melnik:

It’s been my pleasure. A lot of fun.

Mac Prichard:

For me as well. Take care.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Jan Melnik. One of the reasons I wanted to have her on the show, is I hear from people again and again, “What can I do to stand out?”

Jan’s laid out three very practical steps you should take that will help you stand apart from other applicants in any job interview process, even when it gets down to the final two or three.

Again, her advice takes some time and effort to implement but if you are passionate about that job, if it’s the one you really want, it is, I think, time well spent. I hope you’ll take her advice to heart if you’re going through a job search right now or the next time that you do your own search.

When you’re ready to clinch that job offer, money’s going to be a big part of it and you don’t want to wing it. Again, whether it’s going into an interview or having a conversation about money. You need to get the salary you deserve.

You also need to prepare for those conversations. Our new guide How to Talk About Money in an Interview will help you do that.

Be ready the next time you’re negotiating salary, whether it’s a job promotion or an interview.

Go to maclist.org/moneytalk to get your copy of How to Talk About Money in an Interview today.

Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

Join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be Laura Gassner Otting. She’ll explain how to build your network so opportunity comes calling.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

It’s not enough to get an interview; you need to turn that interview into a job offer. There are several things you can do to clinch a job offer, including preparing for the most common questions employers ask, drawing an employer out about the needs of the company, and sharing how you will meet those needs after you begin work. Our guest this week on the Find Your Dream Job podcast, Jan Melnik, shares her top strategies for how to clinch a job offer and her strategy for standing out before and after a job interview. Learn how to show your value and why a specific call to action gives you a better chance of getting the job offer.

About Our Guest:

Jan Melnik is a master resume writer and career strategist who teaches job seekers how to go from interviewee to employee. Jan is the author of “Executive’s Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search” and is a frequent keynote speaker at industry conferences nationwide. She also makes regular appearances on both radio and television. Her company, Absolute Advantage, provides job seekers the absolute advantage when it comes to job search, resume and LinkedIn writing, and career management.

Resources in this Episode:

  • For help in creating a resume that demonstrates your value to potential employers, be sure to check out Jan’s book, Executive’s Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search.
  • If you are a job seeker looking for specific help in your search, you must read and implement Jan’s 3-part series on job search strategies.
  • We want to hear from you! Please share your feedback about our show in a short listener survey and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Visit macslist.org/findyourdreamjobsurvey and complete by November 20, 2018.