Drucker’s Amazing Insights Applied to Job Finding


February 2021 | William A. Cohen, Ph.D., Major General, USAF, Ret.

Drucker, “The man who created modern management,” said that top managerial performance was incompatible with fear of job loss. For this reason alone, knowing how to get a job fast is something that both individuals and their organizations should have a common interest.

When I wrote my first book, The Executive’s Guide to Finding a Superior Job (AMACOM, 1978) it became a best seller because I was able to integrate Drucker’s methods with my real-life experiences as an executive recruiter. One book review in the Chicago Tribune noted that my methods approached job seeking as a business and these methods worked well because they were already proven for effective management. The book became a best seller and sold over 100,000 copies and got me started writing about management and even as I practiced it.

That book is long out of print and many of the methods I introduced for job finding are outdated today. However, the notion that the job search itself must be taken as seriously as any full-time job and that Drucker’s concepts are still valid and hold true.

Drucker’s Insights Applied to Job Finding

I’ve organized Drucker’s insights into six steps:

  1. Organizing Self - Knowledge
  2. Defining a Specific Job Goal
  3. Knowing Your Competition
  4. Doing Important Research about the Job
  5. Developing and Implementing Strategy
  6. Negotiating the Job Offer


Jeff McNeill, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Reviewing and organizing self-knowledge may be the most important aspect of the process, although many career advisors fail to even mention it. China’s most respected military strategist and philosopher, Sun Tzu, lived two thousand years ago. His ideas are still taught in the West as well as China today. He wrote: “If I know myself and know my enemy. I  need not fear defeat in 100 battles. If I know only myself, I will lose half. If I know only my  adversary and not myself I will lose all.”

How do we know ourselves in preparation for a job hunt? First, we start by asking ourselves basic questions such as:

  • What have I done well in the past?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What industry do I most like?
  • What kind of company did I most enjoy working in?
  • What compensation do I want?
  • Are there other factors which will attract me to a certain type of job or that I want to avoid?

The next task is to integrate this information into a resume built around your accomplishments, achievements, and awards that are relevant to the answers to these questions.

However, do not send this resume to anyone; It’s for your own use. Review it daily during the job campaign and update it as you remember more accomplishments, achievements and awards that were missed. These will come to light as if by magic as you review your resume daily and talk with prospective employers. Sometimes accomplishments that you spent only a few days doing are more valuable to a prospective employer than something on which you spent a year or more. Moreover, as you do this it will build your self-confidence and help you in responding to job opportunities and speaking during interviews.

Defining a Precise Job Goal

You can’t get “there” until you have defined where “there” is. In fact, this is a basic principle of strategy called the principle of the objective. Drucker said this many times in many ways. He had five questions that he recommended that every manager ask before starting a new project. The very first question was: What business are you in? Or put in a different way, what is your mission or objective? If you are about to begin a job search, what is your job goal? Because that goal, once defined, is your objective. 

Part of your job research occurs during this phase as you investigate the going rate for the job you want and how much you are going to ask for after your prospective employer makes the first move and suggests a figure. You never reveal your figure until that time, and as you’ll see sometimes not even then.
Some jobseekers squander their limited time and resources on interviews that may have little to do with their real goal. Resources including time and expenses are always limited. Your defined job goal should get priority during your job campaign. At times you may be offered an interview for some other job than the one you are interested in. If you are desperate for any job, by all means, interview. The company may have the job you really want available later. Also, it’s always good to get practice in interviewing. 

However, there are negatives in interviewing for other than your actual job goal. Every interview that you have which does not meet your goal criteria takes time from your campaign for your real objective. An opportunity for exactly what you seek may occur while you are distracted. Also, interviews and other preparation for the different goals are going to require time and effort. 

If you need a job badly, of course, take the interview. If this interview for a “target of opportunity” job is local and won’t require a lot of time or resources, it might be okay to interview for a job other than the one you defined as your goal. But the primary consideration must always be the objective: your defined job goal.

Knowing Your Competition

Knowing your competition for your job once it is defined, is important too. I’m talking about the class of competition rather than any specific individual or individuals, although specific individuals are important. For example, if the job description advertised by your potential employer states that an MBA is desired but not required, this is important information in any communication with your potential employer. If you have an MBA you want to emphasize its importance for this particular job. If you don’t have an MBA, you want to emphasize the importance of experience verified by your accomplishments and achievements.

Do Your Research

More extensive research on the company and the job in the company precedes every interview. It is not cursory. One of the best examples I’ve seen came as a result of following this advice and applying my methods by an out-of-work executive who had read my first book. He had previously started several entrepreneurial projects, none of which were successful, and he had been president of a chain of health food stores which also failed. One day he saw an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal for vice president of a new division at 20th Century Fox. He had never held a senior level position or even worked in the film industry previously. He applied anyway. His research wasn’t only from magazines and trade newspapers. He made telephone calls around the country talking to individuals who had worked in this corporation using names in the articles he read. He discovered exactly why the division was being created and what his prospective employers were looking for. After a series of interviews over a month which included the president and senior vice presidents, he got the job offer at a high salary. He told me later that he was successful over several hundred applicants including nine other finalists all of whom were already employed in the industry and were senior executives. He was the only one that was not. 

Develop a Strategy with Specific Objectives and Implement It

All of the previous steps should be integrated with your strategy which you should write out and keep together and then take action to implement the strategy you have developed.

Negotiate and Accept the Job Offer

Finally, you must negotiate the job offer. Never accept any offer without at least some negotiating. Otherwise, your prospective employer may undervalue you. Frequently you will be able to get a higher compensation than you anticipated. In many companies, yearly raises are limited, typically from 3-5 percent. One of my readers went for an interview at a major corporation and was asked immediately how much money he wanted. He was about to give the figure he had previously calculated from research but remembered what I had said about waiting until the job had been discussed fully and to allow the interviewer to make the offer. So instead, he asked: “Could we delay negotiations until we explore more issues concerning the job and how I would approach it?” To his astonishment, the interviewer responded, “Well okay, but I want you to know that I won’t pay more than $ ________”, naming a figure 50% higher than what my reader was going to ask for. He told me that if he had asked for the amount he had originally intended, he probably wouldn’t even have gotten the offer as he would have been considered less qualified. Yet he worked successfully in the job until he decided to leave.


*This article is syndicated internationally.

●    A forthcoming book by William Cohen and Misty Iwatsu tentatively entitled Get a Great Job Faster During the Pandemic
●    Peter Drucker’s Way to the Top by William Cohen (LID, 2019)


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William A. Cohen, PhD
Major General, USAF , Ret., President

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