Today's landscape for job seekers has been anything but a walk in the park. Typically, hiring companies have created standard interview processes which can range from 2 to 7 steps, including phone screens, several meetings with company executives and sometimes a "day in the life" or a field ride. A "day in the life" is fairly standard within an outside sales role, but this trend has recently been adopted for inside sales roles. These "shadow" days can range from a few hours to an entire day depending on the hiring company and are tools to asses your ability to listen, ask questions and catch on to their day to day routine. However, "shadow" days are not only for the employer, it's also a great opportunity for you, as a candidate, to find out if it is the right job for you. The day in the life can be very informative so make sure you take advantage of it! It's a great way to meet a representative that has first hand experience in the role as well as important insight as to what it's like to work for the company. You will hear about the success stories and of course all the hardships that one has to go through to make a sale. This step in the interview process can either reinforce your desire to work for the company or send you running for the hills. As an executive recruiter, I have seen it all. With that said, let me share a few tips (and stories of what not to do!), but also keep you in check on why it is extremely important to have the same positive attitude as meeting the hiring manager.
- GET SOME REST!
A day in the life can be several hours out on the road shadowing or on the inside listening to phone calls. Often times you are the observing party and you are there to watch, listen and ask questions regarding what you witnessed. As a sales professional, this can be draining so make sure you get some sleep and eat an energy filled breakfast. You do not want to be the one who falls asleep on the ride back or zone out during a phone call.
- BE PREPARED
You are going to be a representative of the company you are interviewing with for the duration of the shadow day, you must act like it and it all starts with your dress. Regardless as to whether the company's dress policy is casual, put on your best suit and don't forget to shine your shoes. Make sure you also do your homework. You may be observing for the day but ask if you can jump in on a few calls utilizing the research that you've done regarding the company and their product/service. This is your chance to show them that you can do this!
- YOU'RE A PASSENGER, NOT THE DRIVER.
The day in the life is an observation, so never get involved with any type of sale unless specifically asked to. Building rapport and formal introductions are always recommended, but if an employee is in any part of the sale your best move is to sit back and take mental notes for later questions about the call. Never, under any circumstances, interrupt the sale or attempt to involve yourself. Every call is a potential deal, therefore if you cause a rep to lose a deal by your involvement, you can guarantee the fact that you will not be asked back for another interview.
- ASK QUESTIONS AT APPROPRIATE TIMES.
As an observer, wait until you and the representative are in a private place to ask questions and give feedback regarding a sale. I once had a candidate make a inappropriate comment regarding an executive's "personality" in the elevator after a sales call, only to have another executive from the same firm in the elevator with them. Long story short, it was not a great situation and needless to say the candidate did not get the job.
- BE INQUISITIVE!
This will be your opportunity to ask any questions that you want. I would stay away from personal, but anything that pertains to the company, the position and the representative should be asked. This is valuable time and should not be wasted.
- CLOSE EVERY REP YOU SHADOW
It's a MUST! They may not be the final decision maker but they will report back about their experience with you and your ability to do this job. Ask him/her if they have any questions or hesitation about you or your background and more importantly, ask them for their recommendation. Their part of the interview process is a key piece as to whether you'll be moved forward or not.
A "day in the life" may seem like a significant commitment of your time but in the grand scheme of an interview process, it's the pivotal point which will make or break your opportunity with the hiring company. Prepare yourself for every minute of that day and make sure you're on top of your game. Take notes, make observations and get ready to take a backstage look at your potential career. Good luck!