Friday, November 16, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It.... You Can Get It If You Try!

I have become a professional interviewee.

I had heard of these people when I was working full time, but now that I am a freelance marketing communications consultant and simultaneously seeking full time employment, I have been sufficiently fortunate to participate in many interviews. I believe I've become very proficient in the spoken and unspoken rules of successful interviewing. I just haven't yet gotten an offer, but I'm confident and eternally optimistic.

Below I share some of the rules I've picked up during this process.

The title of this blog alludes to the entire job hunting process, including tailoring your resume to a specific position, conducting due diligence on the organization (far more than mere internet research, this means tapping your network for "insider" intel about your target company), formally submitting your resume (with a customized, brief and error-proof cover letter), and then tapping your network again to get essential personal references.

Having done all that, you still may not get called for an in-person interview. You'll first have to make it through the phone screening, which is usually with an HR person who may not understand how the experiences listed on your resume connect with the requirements of the job.

I always assume I'll get a phone screen. To prepare for this first hurdle, I plot a one-page "match the columns" table. This table connects specific experience indicated on my resume with the stated job requirements. When I speak with the HR official, I go through that table item by item. I stand up during the phone screening because my voice projects better when I'm standing. I convey my points energetically but not overwhelmingly.

I ask a few standard questions only the HR person can answer at this point (asking questions they cannot answer puts them in a defensive position). These include questions like how many people are you scheduling for in-person interviews, what is your hiring time line, and I close by asking with whom I will be interviewing. I suggest a specific day and time for an in-person interview.

A strong close is essential: I know that the HR professional with whom I'm speaking has a lot to do and I truly want to make his or her job easy... I do so using a strong, affirmative close.

Once I've passed the phone screen and scheduled an in-person interview, my real work begins: I return to the Internet and conduct more in-depth research regarding the company. I call Better Business Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, and any organization with whom the company or organization is affiliated. I mine my network (both physical and online, such as LinkedIn) and find out if any one in it knows any employees at my target organization. The best situation is when someone in my network knows the person (or people) with whom I'm scheduled to interview and will vouch for my suitability for the position.

I also find out who serves on the Board of Directors and reach out to them with a quick phone call or email to introduce myself and ask a question or two about what they feel are the organization's specific marketing and/or communications needs.

I do this not to be pushy or overly aggressive, but rather because I understand that I am interviewing my target organization as much as my target organization is interviewing me. It's essential to gather as much G-2 (Intelligence) as possible about my target organization.

When my interview comes, I draw upon the intel I've acquired to involve myself in a discussion about how my specific skills and qualifications match the organization's stated and unstated job requirements. Often that which is unstated is far more significant than what is stated; I want to make it clear to the person with whom I am speaking that they understand I have done my homework and I "get" the needs of the organization.

As a result, I convey to them the certainty that I am thorough, diligent, attentive and engaged; I try to make them feel comfortable with my skills and qualifications.

Since much of effective communications is nonverbal, an important part of my efforts to make them feel comfortable is to reflect their body language: If the person with whom I am conversing leans forward, I lean forward. If they fold their hands on the table, I do so as well. If they cup their chin with their hand, I cup my chin with my hand. This breaks down barriers and establishes a comfort level for both of us.

Looking back on the first line in this blog entry, none of this is groundbreaking knowledge. It really reflects common sense: Actions I take to separate myself from equally suitable candidates.

Of course, there's one factor I haven't mentioned, and that's luck. You need a lot of it to get an actual offer. As much as possible, I try to make my own luck. I believe the steps mentioned above help me create my own luck.

1 comment:

Paige D said...

"I have become a professional interviewee."
Ah is that my official title? :)
Paige D