The Million-Dollar Race: An Insider's Guide to Winning Your Dream Job

The Million-Dollar Race: An Insider's Guide to Winning Your Dream Job

by Kirk Hallowell

Do you want to land your next mid- to senior-level management position? Get ready for the race of a lifetime! An outstanding resume and superior interview skills are just the beginning. You will need to set yourself apart from hundreds or even thousands of other well- qualified applicants. Social networking and web- based data mining have leveled the playing field


Do you want to land your next mid- to senior-level management position? Get ready for the race of a lifetime! An outstanding resume and superior interview skills are just the beginning. You will need to set yourself apart from hundreds or even thousands of other well- qualified applicants. Social networking and web- based data mining have leveled the playing field and fundamentally changed the way companies source and hire candidates. Learn how companies use the latest technologies from a professional who has designed and implemented job candidate selection programs for dozens of organizations— from startups to elite Fortune 500 firms.

The right training and tactics will position you for success as you build your personal online presence and run your own customized job-hunting and networking campaign. Whether it’s finding a position that enhances your career or increasing your compensation package, The Million-Dollar Race prepares you to compete and win in this remarkably tough job market. You will

• Understand the new science of job selection
• Discover dream opportunities that may save you months of time in your search
• Know exactly what kind of company you want to work for
•  Elevate your performance on each hurdle of the race with a few key strategies
• Prepare for the questions you’ll be asked and avoid traps that destroy interviews
• Recharge your job campaign even if you hit a slump
• Get what you deserve when you negotiate a job offer

There are many obstacles ahead, but with the right preparation and inside information, you can beat the competition. The race begins now.

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Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
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Read an Excerpt

THE Million-Dollar RACE


Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2013 Kirk Hallowell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60832-400-2

Chapter One

The Perpetual search for a Job of Your Dreams

Andrea didn't see it coming. Her boss requested a meeting with her on short notice. The ninety-minute afternoon appointment was not unusual. It could have easily been about the upcoming budget cycle or the new ERP system migration. It was not.

As she walked into her boss's office, Andrea caught the distant gaze of the vice president of human resources. "Please, have a seat," her boss said in a dry, even tone. "As you may know, we have been conducting a study on workforce planning with Cooper and Schmidt, and we have been looking for ways in which to improve our workflows and efficiencies." Andrea instantly knew what was happening. She was struck with fear and disbelief. Of course she knew what was going on. Her staff had been working on salary reports for weeks. She never expected that the reduction in force would start with her.

Andrea froze. Her boss's voice drifted away. The vice president's occasional interjections didn't even register. All Andrea could imagine was what it would be like to be out of a steady job for the first time in twelve years. What would she say to her husband and children? Where should she begin?

Organizations grow. They hire people. Boards and investors demand financial performance. Business conditions change. Mergers and acquisitions take place. Reducing headcount is a knee-jerk reaction that yields an immediate impact on the bottom line. The continuous flow of "workforce optimization"—outsourcing, offshoring, industry consolidation—ensure this cycle will continue regardless of economic conditions.

What this means for the mid- to executive-level manager is that the idea of job security within one, or even a few, companies is a thing of the distant past. With a temporary exception in the 2008 economic downturn, the average tenure for a management position has dropped steadily for decades and there is no indication that this trend will change. Chances are that even the most capable and productive of leaders will encounter a job transition due to changes that are out of their control.

As the competition for top-paying management positions continue, more people have access and are vying for a limited number of positions. The new ecosystem of open access to the job markets has leveled the playing field for both organizations and job candidates. Some of the interesting trends that have emerged for this new environment include:

• Smaller firms are attracting executive talent from Fortune 500 companies, getting a level of experience and sophistication not previously accessible.

• Executives and senior managers are more flexible in compensation expectations and willingness to relocate.

• There is extreme competition for desirable jobs and remarkable access to job candidacy. A typical $120,000-plus per year management position may attract 1,500 to 5,000 applicants in this market.

For organizations, the process of selecting top managers and executives must still be as precise as possible. Organizations need to find the correct balance between overlooking the right candidate because their selection processes are too exclusive and hiring the wrong person because they have not been stringent enough. This demand has led to the development of sophisticated and scientifically based selection processes that are continually evolving.

If you are competing for a senior-level professional, manager, or executive position and plan to hold that position for five years, you are in a race for a million dollars or more in compensation and benefits that you would earn during that time. If search fees, bonus structure, relocation, and comprehensive benefits are included, a position with a salary of $150,000 can actually cost the organization well over $250,000 to fill.

Through the power of job boards and social media, there are thousands of people applying for each of these jobs. Organizations are increasingly sophisticated in the way they source, assess, and select talent. The senior-level job interview is only part of the equation. Organizations, search firms, and consulting practices have implemented consistent, rigorous, and highly effective selection processes that provide the predictive success essential to justify this investment.

In this market, job candidates can expect extensive preemployment screening, psychological and cognitive testing, in-depth access to their employment history with verification through the Internet, immediate access to references, and an extensive series of interviews. Without a clear, disciplined approach for preparation and execution of a competitive job campaign, the chance of you landing a job that fully fits your career and income needs is minimal.


This book is based on the Olympic hurdles race as a metaphor for the intense competition involved in every race to win a top management position. To win, each hurdler must be remarkably fit. The competitor not only has to run quickly but also must coordinate each step and jump each hurdle with precise timing and grace. It's not enough to simply clear the hurdles; the successful runner needs to execute each hurdle in succession with consummate pacing. This book is organized around the preparation and conditioning necessary to prepare for the race, followed by ten specific hurdles that the successful candidate must clear to win the race.

The first part of the book is focused on conditioning, which is absolutely essential to competitive athletes. Hurdlers will invest a hundred hours in practice for every minute in an actual race. Unfortunately, most job seekers jump into the process without proper conditioning.

They blast down the track to job selection with poor form, knocking over hurdles and wasting valuable time.

The first half of the book is focused on four critical conditioning routines essential to preparation for the selection race:

1. Managing fear. Overcoming fear is the foundation of competitive conditioning. Understand what fear is and how you can systematically overcome fear to be successful.

2. Defining your ideal job. One of the most common mistakes that competitors make in running the race for selection is not starting with a clear description of their ideal job. Clarify your career objectives as the basis of deciding which jobs you will choose to purse and the opportunities you will actively avoid.

3. Defining your ideal organization. Pursuing job opportunities in organizations that are not a fit for you wastes precious time and energy. Determine what types of organizations will be best suited for you, your style, and your career aspirations.

4. Assessing yourself. Throughout the job-selection process your interactions and behaviors will be rigorously and persistently scrutinized. Take stock of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, especially from the perspective of others.

The second half of the book is represented by the ten hurdles of an Olympic hurdles race, starting with shaping your résumé and by nine additional hurdles that are typically encountered by job candidates.

Each chapter focuses on the nature and technical construction of the hurdle from the company's perspective and provides specific strategies for approach and form to enable you to clear the hurdle with grace and accuracy. Each of the hurdles is organized in a logical progression and should be addressed one after another. If a particular hurdle is not relevant to your particular situation, you just have one fewer hurdle to jump.


All successful hurdlers have a clear strategy and a clear vision for winning the race. They know the "big picture" of the competition and what it takes to win. Begin your race with the same foundation by embracing these realities.


Lack of alignment among your ambitions, skills, and experience with the demands of a particular job serves absolutely no one, most importantly, not you, the candidate. This book gives you a structured approach to prepare and deliver the best possible performance in your selection campaign. This is not about playing games with the hiring process or misrepresenting yourself. An unsuccessful hire is not only costly for the company but for you as well. A bad hiring decision could negatively impact your career far more than the challenge of an extended job search.

What you can expect from using the information in this book is that you will be prepared to present the best possible representation of yourself to the hiring organization of your choice. You will be far less likely to make a significant error or to leave a significant gap in your preparation. This serves both you and the hiring company by enabling both parties to make the most accurate assessment and decision possible.

Reality Two: Race Preparation and Execution Is a full-time Job

This book will provide you with a framework for preparing for the selection process, but it cannot do the work for you. In order to be successful at applying the principles in this book you will need a dedicated time to prepare and execute race strategy every day. This may seem excessive unless you fully consider the consequences of not being fully prepared. This book will suggest the best things to do to use that time efficiently, but without a commitment to the preparation and a disciplined plan to implement, no set of ideas will have significant impact on your success.

Reality Three: Expect Quick Results and Prepare for a Long Haul

The race to obtain a high-paying job that directly meets your career objectives can be achieved in as little as a few weeks. It is also not uncommon for an executive to work through a job campaign of twelve to eighteen months. You must prepare quickly for the possibility of an ideal opportunity emerging in the early stages of your search. You must also enter the race with a level of commitment, persistence, and tenacity that will see you through to the finish in a long-term effort. A key opportunity to achieve this level of resilience is to remember that the big race is made up of many smaller races, and every contact, meeting, and interview should be celebrated and appreciated as a necessary stride to the eventual victory.

With these realities in mind, this book will help you to prepare and execute your race for selection in a planned and disciplined approach. Your immediate need to take action may tempt you to skip over the thorough preparation activities listed in Part One. As in the case of any competitive event, the eventual success or failure of your race is determined by your level of preparation. In fact, experience with job candidates who have become derailed in their job search invariably points to errors or omissions in their preparation routine. Make a commitment that you will approach this critical competition with diligent and thoughtful conditioning.

Chapter Two

Managing Fear

Being out of work can be a frightening experience. You are likely to endure emotionally low points as you transition into being unemployed. You might experience periods of doubt, anger, frustration, and even betrayal when an organization chooses to let you go. This is all normal and healthy. And you have an opportunity to work through this quickly.

The ambiguity, stress, and potential frustration associated with entering the race for a competitive job can take a toll. Fewer things will impact your performance in the selection than the thoughts and feelings you bring to the process. A consistent state of fear will inevitably diminish your performance. All successful athletes recognize that fear is part of the competition, and they develop strategies to manage it.

A positive and relentless mindset is the foundation for any challenging life endeavor. Without addressing the way you think and feel about the race, understanding the mechanics and strategies of the selection process will have relatively little impact.

If you have had a successful career and lost your position due to factors outside of your control (downsizing, merger, acquisition, reorganization, etc.), you may feel nothing but an intense desire to have a job. If you have lost your position due to a perceived mismatch with culture, performance concerns, or poor boss relationship, you may feel deeply vulnerable. This chapter is devoted to actively managing that sense of fear and need.

Recruiters and hiring managers have a distinct interest and appreciation for working with individuals who are currently in jobs. Companies that contract external recruiters or search firms frequently require that a percentage of the candidates presented are currently employed. Justified or not, this line of thinking is driven by the assumption that employed people are more prized than people who are out of work. There may even be a subtle or overt assumption that people who are out of work are in some way responsible for their situation. Your challenge is to overcome these perceptions.

It takes consistent discipline and strength of mind to truly form a winning mindset when reality (e.g., bills and checking account balance) points you in another direction. Just as in preparing for the Olympic hurdles, there are some basic, proven approaches that will build your strength and endurance.


Fear is the deepest and darkest of all human emotions. Created by billions of years of natural selection, fear is the basic instinct and drive that has kept each species from slipping into oblivion. It is important to understand fear from its mechanical and biological nature. Without digressing into an entire discourse on brain and endocrine function, understand that the sense of fear and the resulting behaviors driven by fear are deeply rooted in our physical structure.

Our instinctual need to face or retreat from perceived danger—fight, flight, or freeze—is remarkably powerful and consistent. Rooted in the limbic system of the brain, fear limits our repertoire of responses to perceived threats and often leads us to take actions that immediately reduce risk. The significant challenge for you as you approach the selection race is that you absolutely must overcome these natural reactions to fear to be successful.

The good news is that you have moved through a successful career to this point. You have inevitably faced fearful and stressful situations in the past. The fact that you have persisted and demonstrated success in a competitive arena indicates that you do have the capacity, intellect, and drive to manage fear and overcome adversity. The ability to actively manage fear will help you become a more resilient, vibrant, and resourceful person. This capacity will also make you a strong job candidate.


Fear is a reaction that is deeply wired into our psyche and our bodies, and it is difficult to deny, fight, or overcome directly. When feeling fearful, a natural response is to rationalize or escape the fear through denial or distraction. A more successful approach is to acknowledge fear for what it is, a healthy, natural, and instinctual response to a situation, and then employ a strategy to move beyond it.

You can become more successful at managing fear if you practice a simple, three-step reconditioning technique every time you become aware that you are experiencing fear. Incorporate this discipline into your daily activities, and you will quickly develop a greater sense of control and well-being in your life:

1. Awareness: In many cases fear can be a gnawing, uncomfortable feeling that lingers just below the level of perception. This increases our stress level because we experience the fear reaction without knowing what to do about it. The first step in being able to control the fear is to acknowledge it by simply saying out loud, "I am feeling fearful. This is a very normal and healthy reaction given the situation I'm in right now." Make it a habit to say this clearly, loudly, and repeatedly.

2. Acceptance: This is a very brief but important step, and it is a matter of choice rather than any kind of rationalization. Acceptance simply means making an active choice to accept the situation you are in and that fear is part of that situation. It is also helpful to accept the circumstances that surround the fear. This by no means makes the fear go away. It simply allows you to accept that the fear is real and has an impact, and that acceptance clears the way for you to move on to the final step of reconditioning.

3. Action: Any time that you take a planned and thoughtful action that directly challenges your fear, you are, by volition and intent, taking control of the situation. Every action that you complete that challenges the fear, moves the fear control backward and moves you closer to the driver seat. Taking direct action against fear is challenging and, as with any discipline, with practice it can be extremely rewarding and even fun. All successful athletic competitors realize this and use this dynamic challenge to drive their performance.


Excerpted from THE Million-Dollar RACE by KIRK HALLOWELL Copyright © 2013 by Kirk Hallowell. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kirk Hallowell, Ph,D., is a nationally recognized expert in corporate talent management specializing in high-potential executive selection and succession planning. Kirk’s experience includes positions as senior consultant for Personnel Decisions International and Lominger International (now Lominger-Korn/ Ferry). Kirk has designed and implemented organization-wide executive development programs within Fortune 500 companies and taught psychological assessment at the graduate level. With fifteen years of experience in the executive talent management industry, he has provided individual assessment, feedback, and performance coaching to more than two thousand executives.

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