The Haja Sheriff Blog

3 things you should do today to become irresistible to employers

Posted by in Attitude, Career, Hiring, Leadership, Motivation, Personal Effectiveness

Posted in LinkedIn.


Recently, A close friend spoke to me about a job that he was pitching for. This was a fantastic opportunity for him – and I got excited with the possibility of what he could do. To get this “once in a lifetime opportunity”, he was working on a pitch that could help him “blow the CEO away”. To be fair, I did nothing more that give him some tips, but the activity opened up some interesting thoughts in my mind.

Do you realize how many people actually do things that could help them differentiate themselves from other potential candidates applying for the same job?

Very few.

This applies to people who have many years of experience. Also Senior Executives making a move to other bigger opportunities in their career. For the majority, a pitch for a new role is printing out a resume (in many cases, not required anymore because of email) and reading up on the company (briefly) before getting to the interview.

Does that make you any different from the others?


Here are 3 things that are required to make your brand IRRESISTABLE.

· Research

This is simple of course. Right?

Actually no.

In today’s world, where information is available on the click of a key, it is easy to collect information on the company you are pitching for.

Which you should. No doubt.

Also research the manager you are going to meet. Find out their background. LinkedIn is a great place to do that.

But think for a minute.

How does that make you irresistible to the hiring manager?

You are now, at best, on par with some of the other candidates who would have done exactly this.

Here are some tips that make your Research on the company relevant-

o Think about what the hiring manager is actually looking for. Look through the Job Description to see what the role really requires.

o Understand the problems they face. Most probably, you cannot know the issues internally- but you can look at the problem as a customer of theirs. For example- if you are pitching for a sales job, find out how they are selling the product today. If through partners, ask for a quote, talk to a few partners and get an understanding how it is done. Find out about the experience- and share that feedback with the hiring manager- as a pitch document.

o Speak to some ex-employees (and in today’s world you are all connected to each other through LinkedIn and other social media) and understand the challenges they face. See how you could solve the problems. Think about what you would do to solve their problem.

· Create a killer Pitch

Why should a pitch be made only by Startups to VC’s?

Think of this as an opportunity to showcase your strategic thinking, your ideas, and your approach to the business opportunity. An opportunity to change the discussion from being a dull “tell me about yourself” to a discussion between equals. Talk about the challenges and opportunities you see for the business. Share candid feedback with the hiring manager on what you have heard with details of whom you spoke to. You rapidly evolve from a “potential employee” to a Consultant, a partner, who gives precious insights while explaining why you would help them in the role.

This, if done well, could differentiate you from every other person who pitches for the role.

Why? Because this is hard work- and most people don’t do it.

Remember, the pitch document need not be very accurate, because you don’t know the real story on the inside. But it showcases your enthusiasm, your strategic thinking ability & your drive to make a difference.

Key ingredients to get any job.

In an instance a few years ago, I was approached by a headhunter for a role in Apple India. Considering I had no background in Consumer Sales, I went ahead and did my research including walking into a number of Apple Stores, where I asked questions to them like a customer. I consolidated that and gave the feedback to the Apple team when I went for the interview.

Did I get the job?

No. But I went right to the end of the line and met their entire leadership team before losing out to someone from Cupertino. For someone with no consumer background- it was great- and the learning has stuck since then.

· Feedback

Ask for feedback after the discussion. It is a great closure to the interview. Most of the times, the hiring manager, would respond with some thinking on what your pitch was. It will give you some insight into his thinking, and gauge where you were right and where you could do better. Also, more importantly, it will give you an insight into the Manager’s thinking and his willingness to listen to new ideas. It also gives you the control to then decide if you want to work with that manager or not.

By doing these three steps, you assure yourself of a discussion where you are seen as being different, a great prospect, and if your pitch is perfect, the best candidate for the job.

All it takes is to spend the time & take the effort.

Do I think my friend will get his job?


Why- because he has a story that is brilliant -and an attitude, that is not easy to find. He will get it because he leaves behind his pitch document with the CEO, which will remind them, just what difference he could bring. If he does not get the job, it is not from want of trying. He has learnt so much more about the company, and the business they are in- and an opportunity to perfect his approach in his next discussion.

Make an effort to make a difference. It could be all that you need to get the job you have been dreaming of.

I am happy to help if you need any inputs on this.


The ONE reason Uber will survive in the long run

Posted by in StartUp

India is a battleground today. Between two of the taxi giants who are fighting tooth and nail to gain the market share leadership in India. It is a battle of equals, or is it?

While they both have investors pouring money into them- and they are waging a battle of epic proportions, both on the technology front and the infrastructure front.

Think about it.. The way the industry has changed in less than a year –

· App – The Uber app is an experience. But the others are not too much behind. Though they may lack the finesse or the sleekness of the Uber App, their apps are fairly nice and usable as well.

· Building a franchisee of cabs– Instead of investing millions in buying cars and then making them run- as would have been the case otherwise, they have created a new opportunity for these drivers who used to struggle to make ends meet.

· Created an ecosystem of budding entrepreneurs from these drivers, who now, make as much money or more money, than the professionals they ferry around.

But having been on all these cabs over the last few months, I believe, Uber, is going to succeed in the long run.

The reason? Not the technology or the infrastructure they have built. Only this! 

The Customer Experience.

The company has thought through every single step. Both from an App perspective, as well as the entire experience the customer goes through in his journey with Uber. 

· “Remaking”  of the Indian Taxi drivers– This is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. How do you take people who drive taxis for a living, most of whom have never been through a complete education- and train them to be nice to customers. To be friendly and wish them when the get into the car. Uber has managed to make that happen. Not all drivers, but a better part of them – and that is one of the biggest changes required. Their regular trainings (this I heard from the drivers themselves), is looked forward to by the drivers- and is making an impact. Many speak in English, are more polished, and more importantly, keep their cars fresh and clean.

· The Customer Support team– they blow you away. For a company that is managing so much of business, the speed at which the customer support team responds has been outstanding. And it is usually with a Resolution – instead of asking for more clarifications. And if money has to be refunded, there is no doubt in their mind, and they seem to have been given the authority to take the decisions locally – which allows for instant closure- and delight the customers.

The customer experience has been awesome and something that most companies struggle to provide in their early days. Let alone, sustain it.

If Uber is able to sustain this over a longer period of time, they will be able to carve out a significant niche for themselves.

Of course assuming there is profitability in their business model 🙂


When the going gets tough…

Posted by in Attitude, StartUp

Don't be afraid to start over.

Don’t be afraid to start over.

It is a common saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

That said, in the world of startups and entrepreneurship, the same may not necessarily hold true.  It is important to assess your current situation, and then make the decisions that are most appropriate.   The stakes are very high- and sometimes it is perfectly fine to decide that you will step away and get back to Employment.

There are no winners or losers in this.  Every opportunity is a learning.   Every journey has an end- and a beginning.

Don’t fret. Don’t worry.

Move on- and live to fight another day.

The world of entrepreneurship is just the beginning- and remember, having done something like this, is a winning step by itself.  The learnings will prove very useful for you in the long run.


5 reasons why you should hire an ex-entrepreneur without a thought

Posted by in StartUp

Investopedia offers an interesting definition of the word Entrepreneur. According to them, an Entrepreneur is “an individual who, rather than working as an employee, runs a small business and assumes all the risk and reward of a given business venture, idea, or good or service offered for sale. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as a business leader and innovator of new ideas and business processes”

That said, not all entrepreneurial journeys end successfully. The failure rates are very high. But that said, according to me, there is no such thing as a “Failed Entrepreneur”. The person who takes the journey, is a winner already because it takes a lot of guts to do something like that.

Should companies be open to taking up these ex-Entrepreneurs?

According to me, a big YES.

Without blinking an eye.

And here are the reasons why. Ex-entrepreneurs are –

  • Big Dreamers & Risk Takers – Ex-entrepreneurs are people who were dreamers- and who had the guts (or in a moment of madness- another characterstic you should admire) waged their entire savings to follow their dreams. These are the people you want in your team- who will see the value of the offering, and find ways of taking a position that could pay you back handsomely quicker than later. They see things differently- and do things differently. They are the Mavericks… that could change your world.
  • Have rare levels of Passion – Ex-entrepreneurs wear passion on their sleeves. Here are people, who did their best to follow their passion! They lived their dreams. The worked on their passion. These are the people, who can take your company and the offerings to new levels, if you can get them to see and own your vision. These are low maintenance people, who will chip away at the problem till it gets solved and keep moving forward, because that is the way to be.
  • Have tremendous levels of Self-Motivation – Ex-entrepreneurs have something that they have developed to a high level of perfection- Self motivation. They can find reasons to stay motivated at all instances, and do not need you to motivate them. They will find a sliver of hope and light up the entire room. Put the toughest problem to them- they will find a way to look at the positives- and then start chipping away at the problem.
  • Ready for Hard work & have oodles of Dedication- They realize that there is no substitute for hard work.These are the people who will not wait for someone else to do the job – they will go out and do it themselves. Because they have been doing it the only way they know… dedication.
  • Ability to see & hear before others do – Ex-entrepreneurs will see changes in the business environment that most of your other employees won’t be able to – because they have lived in the jungle- and survival requires them to be on their toes. Employees, because of their comfort zone, will not see the problem coming and will end up fighting for survival. Ex-entrepreneurs will see it before it becomes a problem, and find ways to move the company in ways to overcome the challenges.

Ex-entrepreneurs are trained warriors who you don’t need to closely monitor or maintain. These are low maintenance professionals, who will constantly be on their toes. Because that is how they lived when they were entrepreneurs.

So there!

The next time when you see an ex-entrepreneur sitting opposite to you looking for a job, don’t think. Find a fit. Give him the goal. Show him the direction- and let him run. The job will get done!

They could be your best asset in the years to come!


So you want to be an Entrepreneur….

Posted by in Startup Tips


It has been an year exactly since we got into our Entrepreneurship journey.   It has been one exhilarating ride till now.  And while we sit on the other side of 365 days, here are some comments that come to mind from friends and well wishers…

It is not going to be easy to do something like this.  Stay focused.

You guys have guts to do something like this! 

I want to do this either, but I have commitments.  Will you be open to sleeping partners… 

Most of what they said, makes complete sense. 

When you start your business, you run on your enthusiasm for the first 90 days.   Then you realize that the money you planned to use, is drying up- much faster than you had anticipated.

And you start wondering what to do next.

Here is a compilation of thoughts that we have gone through and learnt post 365 days of flying, running, walking, crawling…   in that order.  And then the flying starts again.

Here is the first tip! 


Irrespective of what you plan, what you think, what your friends tell you…. the time it takes to turn around a business is anywhere between 12-18 months!  Plan to stick around that- and ensure your family is fully supportive.  Without a supportive family, it will be a struggle. With a supportive family, it will be a blessing! You will want to do more! 

Don’t go on the basis of people who “Make it” in 3-6 months.  For every company that makes that happen, there will be a 1000 more, that will not be able to get to that timeline. 

It is better to err on the side of safety! 

Go live your dream!  

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