Getting the job you want is simple but requires time, effort and creativity. You get out what you put in.
Casually and frequently applying to jobs online where you are a faceless piece of digital paper won’t get you there. Competition in the marketplace is fierce and will only be more so as the economy softens. There are many, many strong candidates for any job. There are plenty of people that possess better credentials, pedigree, and experience. However, those things do not guarantee you the job. Here's three steps to follow to win "THE" job.
First, a personal story to set me up:
My oldest son is in the final stretch of his PhD program and recently embarked upon the job search. As he was going through this process and secured his dream job with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado (NREL), I realized that not one of my three kids interviewed for a job they did not get an offer on. He wanted to work for NREL, only interviewed with them and got the job. He had a singular focus.
My daughter is well into her career and recently went to work for her third company which is an EdTech firm called Quizizz. She was approached for this role. Even while she was working within her last job, she interviewed for 3 different positions (promotions) and was offered each of them. She went in person to one of the companies she ended up working for and introduced herself stating that she was interested in working for the company. She was professional, impressive, respectful, and purposeful. How many people do that now?
My youngest son, who is only a year into his career interviewed for one position and was offered the role as Technical Marketing Specialist for a specialty chemical manufacturer. He had never interviewed for a professional job before.
Their success is as much from their approach and preparation as it is talent.
So, how do you take the job by the horns? How do you win the job and influence the company to hire you?
Identify the job, company, or sector you want - not what’s necessarily “available”. It is tremendously powerful to be able to say to a company representative that when you were looking for a new opportunity you identified their company as THE place you want to work. What hiring manager doesn’t want to hear that? Any candidate that specifically wants to work for your company is more likely to be engaged and willing to put forth extra effort.
However, competition is fierce. On average, 118 people apply to a job (Legaljobs). 20% get an interview. Your chances of getting seen are 1 in 5. Some jobs aren’t even publicly posted. If you can get your name in front of someone before they even put that job out, you have an edge. Find out who would likely oversee hiring and craft your message accordingly. Let them know what you’re interested in and why. Ask for guidance on how you can best put yourself in position to become an employee at that company. Check in periodically, but don’t overdo it.
Network. Look for potential peers or people that work in complimentary positions in the company. Get out from behind your computer and make a phone call, attend an industry event or tradeshow. Approach it by doing what most people aren’t doing.
The more you know, the better the position you are in. Soak up all the knowledge you can before you approach a company and even more so after you’ve been granted an interview. Read up on what the company does, where opportunities are (this is where you can score big if you can be part of the solution), where their growth is coming from, who their primary competition is (may also be someone you are interested in), and in general what’s going on with them. Place the highest level of emphasis on this component. It will not only impress your prospective manager but will also help you evaluate your level of interest.
Prepare for your interview like you are doing a dissertation for your PhD. Ask the company what their interview process is and how you should prepare for it. See what you can find online and research structured interview methodology like Targeted Selection. Even if they don’t use it, those types of interviewing styles utilize open ended questions that will help prepare you for those questions that might otherwise catch you off guard.
Practice, practice, practice interviewing. Get someone to help you practice. Think about questions that might be asked of you. Don’t become scripted and robotic, but rather, prepare in a variety of different ways so that you aren’t caught completely off-guard. Inevitably, there will be something that trips you up. Resist the urge to respond immediately. Take a moment (asking to do so) to answer thoughtfully. Actively practice not saying “um” in the days leading up to an interview. A moment of pause is not the train wreck it feels like. Thoughtfulness is more important and impactful than speed.
Lastly, interviewers shouldn't be the only ones asking questions. Write out a list. Cover things that you want to either validate or get additional information on. Your questions will serve as your loose guide as you are going through the interview. Focus on what’s important to your ultimate decision. Avoid “me” type questions as the primary goal is to get the offer. You can ask more of those and have a little more leverage once the company wants you.
Ask for the job. My daughter asks in every interview, “Is there anything that you’ve seen or heard today that would prevent you from recommending me for the job?" At a minimum, you will get great feedback that will help you with subsequent opportunities. Make sure that you have names and titles, preferably business cards, for everyone you speak with.
Follow up with an email or handwritten note with everyone on the team the next day thanking them for their time. 76% of job seekers do not send a post-interview thank you, but 80% of recruiters like being thanked and find it helpful in making hiring decisions (Cultivated Culture). Talk about low-hanging fruit!
It's not likely that you will be perfect in your pursuits and my kids will eventually interview for something they don’t get.
Control the odds and shift them in your favor. You get out of it, what you put into it!
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