Does your job search strategy consist of you hitting the “apply” button over and over again? Are you feeling stressed and frustrated because it isn’t yielding many phone calls for interviews? Take charge of your job search and spend less time on job boards and more time discovering the hidden job market.
My favourite way to get new jobs and job leads is through the often overlooked informational interview. The informational interview is when you reach out to someone in an industry, company or role that you are interested in to find out a little bit more about what it takes to get hired, be successful and grow your career there.
There are many benefits to the informational interview beyond the obvious job offer you hope for. It grows your network which means you have more people with eyes and ears to the ground on potential job opportunities. It gives you advice on what you need to do to make yourself a more attractive candidate in order for you to become more marketable the next time an opportunity does arise. It also allows you to figure out if this is an industry, company, and job that you is worth the investment of your time and resources.
To begin the process of the informational interview you must do some research. From your 5-10 companies that you want to work with, narrow it down to 1-3. Using LinkedIn find people who work there, either in the role you desire or in a role that could potentially hire you. Send them a quick note expressing your interest and outlining a little bit about you. Ask them for 5-10 minutes of their time for a quick phone conversation so that you can discover what you could do to make yourself a more attractive candidate for any current or future opportunities.
You will be surprised how many people respond positively! So once the interview is set, it is time to prepare. Make sure you have a list of 5-10 questions. It is a good idea to start off asking them about themselves. For example you could ask them why this career, what they love about it, what is most challenging? Then move into the/their team such as what does their team do, what roles are on that team, what profile do they look for when hiring? Then move into an overview of yourself by saying your elevator pitch but make sure you weave in some of the things they told you. Next is a key question - ask them for some advice. This is what hooks them, by giving you advice it psychologically ties them to you and they are more likely to want to help you beyond just this phone call. Also make sure to see if there are any current/future opportunities that they know about. Followed by, if there is anyone else that they can think of that could be of help. Finish up by asking if it is okay to follow up in a month, 3 months, or whatever is most relevant.
After the Interview
Please don't forget the "After the Interview" steps! Send them a thank you note the next day highlighting where you line up with what they like on their team, mention the advice you got and how to plan on utilizing it and remind them of the follow up. Then once that month, 3 months, or whatever comes around send another email again thanking them for their time, tell them how you took their advice with examples and ask if there are any current/future opportunities.
Once that is done, move on to the next company and continue. This is a great way to build your network, uncover those hidden jobs that are never posted and gets people on the hunt for you alleviating some of the stress of the job search!
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When prepping clients on how to address this question, I am typically faced with the same response - "not that question again, it is pointless!". It may feel that way, but like the other dreaded question ("Tell me about yourself"), there are multiple reasons why this question is usually asked at least once during the interview process. Your answer to this question says so much about you such as:
The good thing for you is that most people brush this question off as being pointless, so you can quickly differentiate yourself in an interview by going in prepared by following these two easy steps.
1. Why the Company?
Start with researching the company to show an authentic interest in working there. First stop is their website - read their About Us section, go to the careers page - see if there are any videos or description about what it is like to work there, and finally check out the press room and skim some of the more recent articles. From there, check out their social media pages (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook). And finally, see if you know anyone who works or used to work there and quietly reach out to ask some questions.
Take all the wonderful information you found and begin to craft an answer by choosing some key information that you learned and weave it into your response to show that you did your work.
2. Why the Job?
This again starts with some research. First off, why did you apply? What was it about this job that make you take the time to send in a Modern Day Resume and cover letter? I would then go into a job analysis of how your background lines up with what they are looking for and what the responsibilities of the role are. Pay close attention to key points mentioned a few times - for example if the summary, the responsibilities and the qualifications section all mention similar things (ie MS Outlook, managing calendars, strong leadership) then make sure you include some those as your reasons to join. You may also want to take some time connect the role to your career path being careful not to talk beyond this job, just how it is the next logical step for your career.
Next comes the easy part by putting together what you've learned and researched above in an answer. For example, someone applying to be a Marketing Manager may use something like below:
When I saw this Marketing Manager opportunity come up with ABC Company, I just knew I had to apply. I have long known about your reputation for providing best-in-class customer service to your clients while being dedicated to innovative ways to penetrate new markets. Plus, I am thrilled at the opportunity to potentially join a dedicated marketing team reporting into leadership in Canada and not its American headquarters. What really piqued my interest, though, was the role's focus on building a Canadian product line and being able to own the creation of its brand, which is similar to what I have done when I introduced a new product line into Canada while at my most recent employer. This opportunity builds on my track record of successful product launches while allowing me to be even more involved at the development level.
Since most people feel that this is a throw away question, I've seen some weak answers in the past. Even people that do some prep work for this question fall into some common mistakes, when thinking about your answer think about these don'ts:
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Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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