This is Day 4 of the 39 Days to a Better Job series, where we review actionable tips to make you better at your job.
What a perfect segue: after talking about pumping up our networks, here comes a tip that is going to help you get an edge once you have a job interview lined up.
Think about your last job interview and how nervous you were: maybe you really wanted the job so you were very careful about what you said and how you said it so you would come off as the perfect candidate.
Well guess what? The person on the other side of the table is just as nervous.
It’s their responsibility to fill the position and they have to get a good read on all the candidates so they make the right decision. Because trust me—if they hire someone who turns out to be “the wrong person,” they’ll be the ones interviewing for another job.
So the person making the hire wants as many positive indicators as possible before making an offer that this person is the right candidate.
And there’s no better feeling that when someone who already works in the company vouches for candidate.
The Power Being Recommended
If you ever have to hire someone, you’ll know why this is such a big deal. It’s why people ask for references and try to talk to as many people as possible before making a decision on a new hire: there’s so much uncertainty about people until you actually get them in the door and they start working.
So if you have someone that’s already an “insider” and knows the vibe that can vouch for a new person, then that goes a long way.
Why do you think so many people wind up hiring people they worked with in the past at other jobs? They know what to expect—they’re a known commodity that takes some of the mystery out of filling a new position.
How to Find an Insider
Once you’ve pumped up your network, it’s not that hard. All it takes is spending some time sending out some emails and getting creative:
- Go to LinkedIn and search for people at the company you’re interviewing for
- If you have any that are first-degree connections, you’re in luck! Send them a message and ask if they can help out
- If not, move on to the 2nd degree connections and see if anyone is in the department you’re going for
- Make sure you check out the “Your College Alumni” tab of a company search: if you can talk to someone that went to your school that makes the introduction less awkward
- Send some messages/emails and follow up in a few days (depending on the interview date)
What to Say
It’s not that hard. It’s some variation of:
Hi XXX, It’s Carlos from Boston College. I just wanted to reach out because I have an interview at Apple next week and wanted to chat with someone beforehand so I could get a better idea of the hiring process, the general vibe of the Marketing department, and maybe some insight on Bill S., the person I’ll be interviewing with. Could you email me back at [email address] or call me at [phone number] to chat for a little bit? Thanks!
If you aren’t first-degree connections then you reach out to the person that stands between you and the person you want to talk to:
Hey XXX, it’s Carlos from that writing seminar we took with Professor Smith a couple of years ago. How are things going? I just wanted to reach out because I have an interview next week at Apple and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I see you’re LinkedIn friends with [connection]. He works in the department I’m interviewing for and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind introducing us? My interview is next week and I’d like to connect by Thursday. Can you help me out? Thanks!
It’s not rocket science: most people are more than willing to help providing you haven’t burned any bridges or are a total nutcase.
Finding these connections is easy with big companies, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find a connection of a connection that has a connection at almost any place out there.
What to Ask
Once you get the introduction, what should you ask?
- Be smart: you want to get information but you also want to make a good impression
- Don’t ask anything that Google can tell you: it reeks up unpreparedness
- Ask about the culture, the hours, advancement, the bosses: the things you care about or are curious about
- Be honest: if you’re a good candidate it will come through
- Have a 30 second pitch where you summarize your skills, what you’re looking for, and ask if that person thinks it’s a good fit (better to find out now)
- Ask them if it’s OK for you to mention that you talked
That last bullet is crucial.
Whether they do it or you do it: you need to make sure this new connection is known to whoever is making the decision. So when you come in you aren’t “The dude from Boston College” or “The kid with the awesome resume.”
You want to be “The guy that Chad knows.”
Because this will create safety and familiarity. The more of a known commodity you are, the better. Your odds of being hired at the gig you want just got better.
My Own Experience
I was able to find a person at a small company that was one connection away and this method worked great for me. I got a job before the interview so I didn’t need to put it into play, but I was surprised at how helpful people that I hadn’t talked to in so long were when I asked for help.
All you have to do is be polite, do some work up front, and ask for help. Most people have no problem helping someone out that’s a friend of a friend.
And if you’re out of work, mention that as well, because that’ll make some people try even harder for you.
Image by Tony Fischer Photography