by Susan Britton Whitcomb
Excerpted from Interview Magic (2nd Edition, JIST) The word “succeed” comes from the Latin succedere — to go up or follow after. Succeed is a verb, indicating action. To succeed in your search, you will need to act and follow through, often well beyond what you think should be required. One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is thinking that “the ball is in the employer’s court.” The fact is, the ball is permanently in your court. Rather than being passive, be persistent! You can always be doing something to keep things moving, as these before and after examples show: Before (passive): “I’ve submitted my resume online, and now I’m just waiting to hear something from the company.” After (persistent): “I’ve submitted my resume online, and now I’m working on finding contacts inside the company.” Or: Before (passive): “The interviewer told me that he’d be getting back to me in a week, but it’s been two and I haven’t heard anything.” After (persistent): “When I didn’t hear back from the interviewer in the timeframe he mentioned, I touched base with my contact in accounting and asked her advice on how to follow up. She said she’d ask around to find out what she could and also recommended that I attend the upcoming industry association meeting because it would likely give me a chance to run into the interviewer.” Or: Before (passive): “I’m excited because it looks like I’m a top candidate for the position and I’m just waiting to hear about a third interview.” After (persistent): “I’m excited about this opportunity, but at the same time, I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket. While I wait, I’ve done some calling and managed to line up two interviews with other companies.” Here are some strategies for following through before the interview. There’s a fine line to walk between being persistent and being a pest. The following strategies will ensure that you come across to interviewers as a proactive professional (and not a pain in the posterior)! Follow Through After Applying Online It’s not enough to find openings on an employer’s Web site, attach your resume, and click “Submit.” You must follow through and connect with people in the company, preferably the hiring manager or people who influence the hiring decision. Peripheral contacts — those who do not influence the hiring decision directly but have knowledge about the company, the position, or the hiring manager’s preferences — are also be critical to your success. Ideally, it’s best to find a referring employee prior to applying at the employer’s Web site. When you do, the insider can give you tips about applying. You can also include the person’s name on your online application because most large companies have an employee referral process that earns employees cash and other incentives for referring a new hire. So how do you find the names of people who work at your target company? Job-seekers are finding that searches using Google or social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are paying big dividends. Once you find names, do not be afraid to get on the phone and talk to people. Telephoning often works better than e-mailing because you can get a conversation going. Start off your conversation by explaining your connection to the person, as this sample script suggests:
“Hi Bob. George Freeman here. You may not recall this, but you and I both went to University of Phoenix back in the 80’s. I know it’s been a number of years — time flies, no? [pause] I’m contacting you because I’m considering an opportunity at your company and, in doing my research, noticed your name in ————– [fill in the blank with the appropriate resource, such as an online association directory, alumni directory, LinkedIn, a Google search, and so on] and that you’re currently working there. By the way, nice profile on LinkedIn — looks like you’ve had some great success [if it’s true!]. Anyway, I was hoping to visit with you briefly about a couple of key issues that I’m learning about at your company and get a reality check on whether my perceptions of these are accurate.” [After Bob urges you to continue, bring up your question.] “I see that the company has entered the designer bottled-water market. What are your thoughts on their marketing strategy?” [After your questions are answered, ask about the culture of the organization.] “Tell me, what do you like most about working there? … How would you describe the corporate culture.”
Don’t worry about looking too forward. Anyone who posts his or her profile on LinkedIn or has a resume online understands that networking is an important part of career management. After the conversation has gone smoothly, look for ways to advance the relationship, especially if this individual has influence with the hiring manager. For instance, “I wonder if I might stop in and say hello when I interview there next week.” Or, “What’s your schedule like in the coming week. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee.” Or, “May I mention to Joe, whom I’ll be interviewing with next week, that we had a chance to talk?” If the conversation has gone extremely well, ask for a referral: “Would you be able to let Joe know that we spoke? If you think I’d be a good fit for the company, I’d certainly appreciate a good word, especially if it might benefit you in terms of an employee-referral incentive.” Any networking you can do prior to the interview will enhance your “familiarity factor.” Networking increases your knowledge about the company, adds to your career credibility, and increases trust levels with your interviewer and prospective coworkers. If you’re neck-and-neck with another top candidate for the position, the familiarity factor will often tip the scales in your favor! Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Susan Britton Whitcomb is a career and life coach, author, speaker, and trainer with more than 20 years’ experience in the careers industry. She has been a careers columnist and featured chat guest for Monster.com and America Online and, as an industry expert, has been cited in U.S. News & World Report, CBS Marketwatch.com, the Dow Jones’ National Business Employment Weekly, and numerous national publications. She holds designations as a Certified Career Management Coach, Nationally Certified Resume Writer, Master Resume Writer, and Credentialed Career Manaager and is certified in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI-Certified). With coach training from the Institute for Life Coach Training, Susan has also completed Dr. Mike Lillibridge’s Executive Coaching Practicum, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson’s DreamGiver Coach Training, and a variety of coaching seminars.