Why is it that some people seem to have “all the luck?” Here you’ve been, slogging away at a focused job search for weeks, months, or even years, yet certain contacts in your circles just seem to “pop” between jobs with nary a blink of the eye with little or no “downtime” in between. Say what? What’s wrong with this picture? It just doesn’t seem fair that you put a ton of elbow grease into a job search, yet those folks seem to flit by without going through the roller coaster of emotions, personal struggles, and financial desperation that you’ve been through this entire time. Not that you would wish this on anyone, but still… what do they have that you don’t? It’s a fair question to ask. Time to take a second look. It could be that there are barriers in front of you that you don’t even know that exist. Referrals evolve through a series of circumstances. But in order to make those circumstances happen, you need to purposefully work towards making the pieces align at some point in the future. By working in the present, you are creating the opportunities that will come together later – which is likely what these other folks have done.
These days, it can be overwhelming to think about how much work goes into finding a job. If you are very serious about it, you have likely educated yourself in all the various facets of a job search and become well-equipped to go out and tackle the task. But, so have many others.
Once a company narrows down the candidate pool to a group of people they want to meet, and you are one of them, it's time to start thinking about your next steps. Only one person can be chosen in the end. When all things are equal, what makes you stand out?
Finding strategic and creative ways to land job interviews is half the battle. Once you are chosen for an interview, it's not always going to be enough to arrive early, smile at the right times, answer the questions properly, ask the right questions, and then conduct all the proper follow-up tasks. Chances are you are going up against other candidates who will also be doing those same things.
Now is the time to go that extra mile.
The best proactive job interview strategies are somewhat subtle in nature and just flow with the rest of the process. The following are the top five strategies most candidates do not utilize:
1. Confirm Your Interview
If you have at least a few days between when you set up your interview and when it actually takes place, use the extra time to your advantage. Call or email to confirm the interview, and let them know you are really looking forward to it. Not very many candidates do this, yet it's these little acts of professionalism that matter.
2. Develop A Rapport With The People Who Interview You
Typically interviews (including phone interviews), start out with some small talk. Don't just answer questions asked of you; ask them questions too and get a lighthearted conversation going! Ask them how they are doing and maybe share a connection story. Try to help take the rigid formality of a job interview down a notch so that the conversation can flow easier.
If any of the interviewers share something of some level of significance, be creative and use that information in further communications. Your thank you letter to that person could briefly mention something that had come up. For example, if an interviewer mentioned that his or her child was sick, why not briefly mention in your thank you letter you hope his or her child is feeling better? Who wouldn't appreciate that?
3. Ask If You Can Have A Tour Of The Office/Building/Plant
This is especially effective if the company has a manufacturing facility and you can ask a lot of questions about their products and how they are made. Regardless, this is a great way to show that you have a strong interest in the company.
While on the tour, bring up several things that you know about the company (you have done your homework, right?) and ask questions about them. Take notice of things you see and either compliment them or ask questions about them.
4. Make It Clear You Are Interested In The Job And The Company (Not “What's In It For Me?")
Try not to ask questions or make statements that make it clear that you are only interested in how this job will affect you. Employers want individuals who care about the company. If it doesn't come up in the interview, ask if you can learn about the company's values and mission statement and talk about how it aligns with yours. The values and mission statement are (or should be!) a very important part of a company's culture. So few people ask about this stuff!
Ask about how your job fits into the department and in the company as a whole. Show interest in what the company actually does. If you spend most of your time talking and asking about all the things that pertain to you, you will not be impressing anyone even if you provide otherwise good answers to the interview questions.
5. Send Personalized Thank You Letters To Every Person You Met In The Interview Process
Personalized means personal and unique to each person who was in the interview. Make your thank you letter different than the others. Reference communication items that are specific to that person if you can. This is a great approach, different from just sending a standard copy/paste thank you letter to them all. Many candidates do send separate emails to each interviewer, but the content is the same. Thank you emails can and will get forwarded to others, and when some were forwarded to me, I found it to be very impressive if the content was different from the one I received.
It's the little things that set you apart from the masses and help you stand out. Sure, some of these are a little extra work. But if it helps you get the job, isn't it worth it?
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.