I was recently hiring for a new position at my company, Charm House. Every time I’m in the position of hiring, I’m reminded of how the hiring and interview process works in “the real world” and it actually makes me laugh. Like seriously, laugh out loud, at how stupid it is.
Location independent entrepreneurs (I’ll be labeling us as “LI entrepreneurs” below) have totally different objectives, goals, and interests when hiring candidates. I get a kick of out taking my candidates by surprise when they apply for a position with me.
But no matter how fun it is for me, I think it would be more fair if I published a guide to applying for a job with my company or any other location independent company.
Furthermore, I must have been doing something right because I have the best team anyone could ever have the privilege of working with. When other entrepreneurs go on about “how hard it is to find good workers,” I have nothing to contribute. I just have to sit awkwardly and wait for them to change the subject because I really can’t relate.
So here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in applying for a job with an LI entrepreneur. If you read what’s below and think, “That’s messed up!”, then maybe you should consider not applying for that location independent job.
But if you read what’s below and think, “YES. This is how it should be,” then you’d probably be a great fit at a location independent, bootstrapped, or lifestyle company. So check out the tips below and use them to your advantage the next time you’re preparing to apply for a job with an LI business.
1. Get out of the “money” mindset.
Location independent entrepreneurs are incredibly goal oriented and our primary goals don’t involve money. Most of us walked away from plenty of money and security in a traditional job to be broke for a few years while we built up our businesses. Therefore we know firsthand what a poor motivator money actually is.
If money isn’t our primary motivator, why would we use money to try to motivate others? This is fundamentally incompatible with the way LI entrepreneurs think. An employee on my team is going to be most motivated when what they are doing is helping them, not just helping me.
I know that even if I could compete with the amount of money offered by other companies, money doesn’t spur motivation in people in a sustainable way.
So what does? In my experience, these things:
- Working for me helps them meet their long-term goals and is consistent with their desired life trajectory – personally or professionally. It’s ideal if the skills someone is learning benefit them more than solving an immediate problem for the short-term. When skills contribute to their body of knowledge that will help them start a business or land a job in the future, team members see the value and are motivated to do that task well: not for me, but for them. I literally just turned down a candidate by saying, “You working for me would benefit me a lot more than it would benefit you.” And that’s why it wasn’t a good fit.
- Having a desirable lifestyle. Lots of businesses can offer a high salary. But not every business is offering:
- The ability to live wherever you want – to the extreme: you can live literally ON the beaches of Hawaii for all I care as long as you have consistent internet access.
- The ability to do your work whenever it suits you.
- Making a difference in a company. If you feel your work is truly making an impact on a company or with your clients, your work will be substantially more rewarding in a sustainable way. Your voice matters. Your opinion matters. But if you feel as if you’re just pushing paper and that the business would be unaffected if tomorrow you threw yourself off of a building, you’re going to wonder (and rightfully so), “What am I even doing here?”
It boils down to this: if your team member wakes up to go to work and says to themselves, “I’m really lucky,” then you’re on the right track and people will line up to work for you.
2. We care about your future more than your past.
I was recently sent a resume from a job candidate and I didn’t even open it. I hope that illustrates how little I care about your previous work experience. The reason that employers have traditionally looked to your past when considering hiring you is because they think it’s a good indication of what you are capable of in the future. But I disagree.
Read this if you read nothing else: you are capable of INFINITELY more than what you have done in the past! This is true for everyone, but especially true if you are still early in your career.
Of course, this doesn’t work for every industry. I would naturally prefer to hire a surgeon who had actually performed surgery before. But I don’t hire surgeons. Instead of looking for candidates with experience in the position I’m hiring for, I look for people with the right attitude and the right transferable skills.
Some of those skills include:
- Critical and independent thinking
- Good at dealing with people
- Has good visual taste
- Flexible and adaptable
- Most importantly, willing and able to learn new things
I know that the purpose of looking at past experience is to find evidence of these things. But I personally don’t believe it tells me anything. For example, maybe they worked for a huge asshole or someone who was extremely ineffective. That would affect their work productivity and promotion opportunities.
I was once in a terrible work situation in which I answered to two different entities with two different agendas. Making one happy made the other pissed and vice versa. I essentially acted as a pawn for the goals of those above me.
Clearly, I was going nowhere in that position and I’m glad no one looked at my performance there as an indication of my competence. Therefore instead, I hire people on a trial basis and see how they do once they start. If you have a great company that lots of people want to work for, you’ll have your pick of the best if your first person doesn’t work out.
3. It’s all about the growth mindset.
When I hire, I’m looking for someone with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Here are some signs that you have an undesirable attitude for a new hire – a fixed mindset.
You say to yourself:
- I have never done that before, so I have no reason to believe I can do it now.
- It’s not okay to make mistakes in a new job. I can best avoid this by sticking with what I know.
- I don’t like learning new things because it is usually difficult and time consuming.
- I already know what I like, so why venture into new territory?
- I wouldn’t be good at that [new thing]. That’s not “me.”
Here are some signs that you have a desirable attitude for a new hire – a growth mindset:
- I’m always open to learning new skills because I’ll never know what I like until I try it.
- I’m not embarrassed to make mistakes because it probably means I’m learning something new or trying something different.
- I know how to research and think critically, so learning new skills or information isn’t intimidating.
- The most important of my career skills is the ability to adapt to new situations because things are always changing.
- I don’t look to my past to determine what is possible in my future.
This mindset is perhaps the most important thing I look for in a candidate.
4. We don’t care about your education level (for the most part).
I went to college, too, so I know what you did there. You probably went to a lot of house parties; you joined meaningless clubs because they paid for your dinner once a semester; you did as little as you had to do to get the lowest grades possible and still please your professors and your parents and yourself.
If you are one of the few people who actually does a job for which you studied in university, that information is probably already obsolete. If you’re like 90% of people (myself included), you studied something that is no longer relevant to your career at all.
So why would I care about your degree? The typical retort to this is that university shows that a person can see goals through to the end. But I know plenty of people who are perfectly capable of seeing their goals through and who decided that college was a big waste of time.
I will pause to say that I am in a minority among LI entrepreneurs in believing that college does hold some value in the process of maturing. I’ve noticed substantial differences in maturity among those who went to college (even if they didn’t finish) and those who didn’t. But for the most part, and unless you got into Harvard, I’m uninterested in hearing about your educational qualifications for a job.
5. Don’t tell us you want the job. Show us you want the job.
Say you really, really like a girl. So you ask her out, but she turns you down. Do you give up? Hell no, you don’t. You try again, and you tell her all the reasons why she should date you. You look at your competition and see what you could do that would stand out from the boring propositions that others might offer her.
Anything you can do to be different and stand out from the crowd. Now before my fellow feminists get mad at me, I’m not suggesting you harass women (or men, for that matter). And if someone says to you, “Seriously dude. You need to go away and fuck off.” Then you should do just that. She (or he) is just not that into you.
But there is a difference between someone who says no and someone who just hasn’t decided yet. I once dated a guy for more than 2 years. But when he first asked me out, I turned him down. I turned him down 3 times actually. I wasn’t trying to play hard to get. I legitimately had my reasons. (In sales terminology, we’d call these “objections”.) But he addressed my reasons, one by one, and showed me that he really cared by not giving up. And eventually, I said yes.
Getting your dream job is like this. Show me that you really want this position by going above and beyond the other candidates. Don’t be reserved and unassertive. Most LI entrepreneurs aren’t interested in having a docile person on their team and they certainly don’t want to work with someone who could “take it or leave it” when it comes to the job.
Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Sales Machine takes this to the extreme by flat out rejecting candidates multiple times before hiring them. He simply says, “I don’t think you have what it takes.” This is a pretty personal thing to say, and the weak among us would waddle off with our tail between our legs in shame. (Don’t feel bad; I would have done this myself just 2 years ago.)
Here’s how Holmes says the conversation goes:
YOU [the person doing the hiring]: Okay. You read our ad and it said, “Don’t even apply unless you think you’re the best.” So tell me why you think we should interview you.
THEM [job candidate]: Well… uh… Can you tell me a little bit about the job?
YOU: That’s a much longer conversation. I’m happy to have that conversation if we determine that you’re someone we want to interview. So tell me, why should we interview you?
THEM: Well let’s see… In my last job, I was the new guy and I had never sold widgets before, and, within three months, I was bringing in bigger accounts than they had ever had. In six months I was outselling people who had been there for five years. (See how they start selling right away.)
YOU: That sounds good, but I’m not sure I’m hearing top producer.
THEM: Well, maybe you’re deaf.
You can see how nothing is going to stop the candidate who believes the position is right for them. That’s the kind of chutzpah I want on my team. So how do you go above and beyond and make sure that you stand out? Here are some ideas:
- Submit application materials that weren’t requested, such as a short video application. This is a favorite among LI entrepreneurs. You can also submit work samples (if you have them) that were not requested. This is a super easy way to stand out because most people are going to do 100% of what was asked of them, but 0% of what wasn’t asked of them.
- Do free work. I know a guy who did a website redesign mockup for the job for which he was applying. He certainly wasn’t compensated for that work and he wasn’t even asked to do it. Don’t wait until you’re asked. Show initiative.
- FOLLOW UP. If you really want a job, you’re going to follow up to get an answer. This is the simplest and most overlooked way to show your interest in a job. Follow up more than once. Follow up until you get a definitive NO.
- Address their objections before they are mentioned. For example, if you clearly don’t meet one of the qualifications for the job, don’t wait until someone mentions it. Be the one to bring it up and tell them why it doesn’t matter or what other qualification you have that makes up for it.
Things you probably shouldn’t do to show your interest in a position:
- Stalk people.
- Stick around or keep trying to get in touch once someone gives you a definitive NO. i.e. “We’ve already hired this position” or “Sorry, the answer is no. But thanks anyway.” The “definitive” quality is often in the tone more than the word choice.
- Refuse to leave the office until someone offers you a job.
- Post a billboard on your prospective manager’s work route that says “Please hire me! Love, [your name]”.
One more thing: a lot of job candidates try the “playing hard to get” approach. Unless you are the one being pursued by a company rather than the other way around, this is not going to work. If you want that job but your potential employer could take you or leave you, congratulations. You are in the “pursuer” role. So pursue.
I used to be intimidated when applying for jobs. If only I’d known then what I know now! The truth is that most job applicants are less qualified than you, less prepared than you, less enthusiastic than you, and generally just care less than you. The trick is to not let stupid social conventions get in the way of letting that shine through.
Keep in mind that you are not being hired by a machine or an institution or even a business. Ultimately, you are being hired by a person. A person who checks their email, a person who is swayed by people they genuinely like, a person who sometimes makes less logical and more intuitive decisions. And a person who has their own goals. Those goals could mean looking good to their boss, making their own job easier by hiring competent people, or increasing their business’s revenue.
Consider that person when you apply for a job and make it so that hiring you is a win for both of you. When you’re applying for jobs, it feels like you have no control and that feeling sucks. I know that feeling. But the truth is you have all the control. The person looking to hire you is bored to tears just waiting for you to show up and make their day way more interesting and make their job way easier.
Follow the above advice and you will be employed at a kickass company in no time. You can send your thank-yous to firstname.lastname@example.org. 🙂