I’ve screwed up my fair share of interviews, not because I didn’t know enough or wasn’t qualified, but because I didn’t know the “secret handshake.” A friend who got a job at Colgate right after b-school told me, before her interview, an alumna told her to go to CVS and the A&P and study all the SKUs in the toothpaste category. That little piece of advice set her apart from other candidates who knew the theory but didn’t have the on-the-ground knowledge and helped her win a 6-figure offer. That seems so OBVIOUS in retrospect but when you are running around prepping for graduation sometimes you miss the obvious. Know your client is,
I’ve pitched to hundreds of clients and whenever possible I always use their terminology, i.e. if they say constituents rather than clients, refer to their servers as data lakes or have a special term for employees. It subtly conveys understanding and knowledge of what they do, helps remove abstraction, and demonstrates that I’ll be aligned from day one. An act as simple as a “find all replace” that may take 10 minutes can be the difference between winning a contract and not winning a contract.
Personally, I suspect having the right vocabulary is more important to winning the work than doing the work. That said, most clients and mentors are happy to share their insights and help you get the work.
So what’s the “secret” to learning “secrets”
You research web & social content and read annual reports, but the best way I’ve found to get to the “secret sauce” is to ask for it from a friendly resource or mentor, data can’t tell you where to focus or help you prioritize like a person can.
And it never hurts to get creative, get off your computer and see what you can learn IRL.