Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sherl Sandberg's Advice on How to Get Hired

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Today is the third in a series of posts I am writing though out the month inspired by Lean in. Previous posts discussed What does "lean-in" mean for you? and When Taking a Pay-Cut is a Good Career Move.

Today I would like to highlight Sheryl Sandberg's advice on how to get hired:

Sheryl had received a phone call from Lori Goler, a highly regarded senior director of marketing at eBay.  Lori was calling to ask Sheryl for a job at Facebook.  Instead of telling her all of the things she was good at and all of the things she would like to do at Facebook, Lori asked:
"What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?"
Sheryl's jaw hit the floor.  She had hired thousands of people over the previous decade and no one had ever said anything remotely like that.  Sheryl admitted her biggest problem was recruiting.  She hired Lori to solve it. (Pg. 54)

When I was interviewing for my current position I asked my future boss, "What do you foresee as your biggest project for the coming year."  He answered with "We have a big project in the works but I can't discuss it because it is not public knowledge."  My company was in the process of buying out a competitor. 

I like Lori's question much better:

It gives you an opportunity to ask for a specific job function or task while possibly providing the interviewer with a mental picture of you performing it.  This could give you an edge-up in the hiring process.

It also could provide you with insight into what is really going on at this company.  If their biggest problem is needing help securing financing - they have cash flow issues. Needing help with recruiting or retention could mean fast growth or low morale.  A paper flow or heavy work load problem may mean they are understaffed or mismanaged. You can then ask yourself is this a problem I want to help fix.

This post was inspired by Catherine Gacad who left a comment on my post What does "lean-in" mean for you? stating asking a potential employer, "What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it? is the best interview advice she has ever heard.

What is the best interview advice you've been given?
Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate


  1. I've heard that in relation to sales and entrepreneurship but never really thought about using that tactic as an employee. "What is your biggest problem and how can I solve it?" I mean... who wouldn't want to hear that, in any situation.

  2. YES!!! i had an electronically copy of this book, but i actually found a snippet of this page and printed it out. this is the golden nugget of the whole book. wow, great minds think alike. i was going to write a post on this as well!!!

  3. I think this is a great question to ask, however as an HR Director, I would rather hear, "What is your biggest problem?" Followed by, "Let me tell you how I'll solve it." If I'm looking to hire you, its because I want you to fill/fix a spot in my company and I want to hire you based on your knowledge and experience. If you're asking me how to solve the problem, then are you really a benefit to my company? Impress me by telling me how you'd solve my problem.

  4. That is a great question, but I agree with Nikki S, asking what their biggest problem is then telling them how you could solve it would be even better. I've done it in an interview before and landed the job on the spot.

  5. Catherine,
    Feel free to write about it too. I am all about getting the message out.

  6. I'm not a fan of everything she relates in her book, but this piece of advice is golden! I never would have thought to invert the whole process like that.

  7. femmefrugality,
    I would love to hear what you are not a fan of.

  8. What a good idea. I used to own a company (and hired a lot of people) and I never had anyone approach me in that way. I would have appreciated having an applicant being aware that I was in the market to find someone that could help me. The job isn't about the applicant - it's about the employer needing to have problems solved.

    Thanks for the lead on this book.


    (One of your SITS Tribe members)