Updated: Oct 5
My initial interview with a tech giant (who shall rename nameless) was fun and conversational. It was my very first time interviewing for a full-blown Customer Success Manager (CSM) job and I was hopeful. My next interview was with a Senior CSM so I did my usual:
Did additional research on the company
Dug up my interviewer's social media profiles – LinkedIn & Twitter
Practiced my answers to some common questions
I jumped on the Zoom link and started doing a bit of small talk but I could hear my heart pounding through my headphones. This interviewer was NOT like the last one. They were no bullshit, straight-to-the-point type of person. The tech company was… very technical. And my interviewer led with an ultra-technical Customer Success related question. Technical issues? Emergency phone call? I was contemplating what sort of excuse I could summon to get myself out of this call. But I stuck it out. I went the entire 45 minutes serving as a punching bag, saying things like “I’m not familiar with that BUT in my current role I…” and “I don’t know but I’m a very fast learner.”
^ Literally me the entire time on that interview. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that the rejection email came through 12 hours after my disastrous performance. Here’s the thing... That interview set the bar for me. I knew that Customer Success was what I wanted to focus on but I didn’t really know Customer Success like that. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Each rejection is a painful learning opportunity. If you’re thinking “that’s easy for you to say, you landed the CS job!” I don’t blame you, I’d tell me to shut up too if my inbox was riddled with rejection emails. But I can tell you this because I lived it and in retrospect, learning from each interview is what finally got me the job. So I’m going to share three things with you to help you make sense of these rejections: #1 Get a game plan What was I doing applying to a job in an area of tech I had 0 interest in? That was my first mistake. Before you start applying, you need to get clear on your story. The fields you’ve worked in, your education, the tools you’ve used, and the skills you’ve acquired. Knowing this can help you identify the field in tech that aligns with your story and then find jobs within that area. If you’re a bartender applying to a pharmaceutical tech company, you’re not only having to learn about SaaS and Customer Success, but you also need to know about the pharmaceutical industry. #2 Find your gaps That interview taught me that I didn’t know enough about long-term relationship building, Customer Success concepts like Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), and the commercial side of Customer Success (i.e. renewals and upsells). I got all of that from my interview flop. When I started recapping podcast episodes on my website keepthecustomer.com, I turned it into my mini curriculum to teach myself Customer Success. Every time I wanted to learn something, I’d listen to a podcast and recap it. You don’t have to start a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel, you just need to keep track of what you don’t know and what you’re learning in one place. It can be as simple as a Google Doc or something a bit more organized like Notion. *Side note: Check out my latest post on what is SaaS experience and why is it required for a CS job to help you fill in those gaps. #3 Ask for feedback Now let’s say you’re applying what you’ve learned in interviews but you’re still getting rejections. This is where feedback comes in handy. When you get rejected, ask for feedback! You have nothing to lose. Three out of the four tech companies I’ve worked at go out of their way to provide thoughtful feedback. I know that’s not the case for every company but it’s worth giving it a try. You can say something like: “While I’m bummed to hear that I won’t be making it to the next stage, I understand your decision. Is there any specific feedback you can share with me? Please be as blunt and honest as possible (you won’t hurt my feelings). This can really help me during my future interviews!” Thanks in advance, YOUR NAME” While you wait for that reply, don’t forget to use your friends and peers for feedback too. Do a little role play. They ask you the questions and you give the answers. If you’re looking for professional help, I can also help. — Look, rejections don’t get “easier with time”, they’ll always suck. But how we show up and the actions we take after each rejection is solely up to us and it can either help us get a job faster or keep us stuck in the rejection cycle. I’ve shared three things you can do to turn things around and I’d love to hear from you now. What are your challenges, what would you like to learn and how can I best support you? Just hit reply and let me know. See ya next time 👋 You just read the very first episode of the TCSP newsletter – Woohoo! I’m really excited to share tips, stories, and resources with you all :) See you on the next episode. Best, Diana
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