Looking for work can be a tricky, competitive job in itself. But you can improve your chances by applying some common-sense strategies, from the interview to the thank-you note.
After meeting four or five candidates in a day, all a manager remembers is his or her own interview questions.
By five o’clock, all the candidates’ answers are whirling around in the manager’s mind, competing for attention. How can you be the candidate who stands out?
You’ve heard the term used when describing Web sites: “It’s very sticky!” In other words, the site employs techniques that ensure return visits and keep readers thinking about it, and that encourage people to share it with their friends. After you visit once, you just can’t let it go.
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Like a good Web site, your mission in a job interview is to be as sticky as possible — to make the potential employer never let you go.
That’s easier said than done, when the manager interviewed eight candidates ahead of you and 10 more after. How can you be sticky with competition like that?
1. Attach yourself to the work.
You can stand apart by doing something the manager will remember you for: solve one or two real, live work problems.
To do this, detach yourself from the interview protocol and attach yourself to the work. Ask the manager to lay out a “live” problem that a new hire would have to tackle. Then show how you’d solve it.
Your solution need not be perfect. If you can show that you care enough to focus on the work and demonstrate your abilities rather than just talk, you’ll be a memorable candidate.
2. Let the manager see you as an employee.
Your goal in an interview is to cast yourself as an insider. To achieve that, you must act like an employee. Doing the job is one way to accomplish this. Another is to become part of the backdrop in the manager’s department.
Ask for a tour of the facility so you can meet other employees and get a chance to talk with them about their work. Ask smart, relevant questions.
You might even be allowed to try some of the equipment and demonstrate how you’d use it. You’ll be remembered as the only candidate who was actually on the job. That makes you sticky, especially if you use the opportunity to show what you can do to help the manager and the team.
3. Inspire employees to recommend you.
After your interview, it’s the members of the team who influence the hiring manager.
Your challenge is to get them to talk about you, and to recommend you to the manager. So ask to meet the rest of the staff. When you sit down to chat, don’t talk about yourself. Ask the staffers about their work, how they got the job, and what they like about their work.
People love to talk about themselves and their work, and they form positive recollections about people who listen.
Those you meet will remember you, and they’re likely to talk about you to the boss.
If they’re impressed, the manager will learn about it. This makes you incredibly sticky.
4. Get your old boss to brag about you.
Ask your best references to call the employer before they are called. This is powerful “interview glue.”
Here’s a simple, but very effective presentation when your reference calls the prospective new employer:
“Hi, John. I’m Ann Smith. You just interviewed Larry Jones, and he asked if I’d serve as his reference. Larry worked for me at Acme Industries. I’m such a fan of Larry’s that I wanted to pick up the phone and tell you what a great catch I think he’d be for a company like yours … “
A reference obviously must think the world of you to make such a call.
But this can be an eye-opener for the employer.
There is nothing like genuine accolades from your working community.
This says that if the interviewer doesn’t hire you, the competition probably will!
5. Reinforce the memory.
Most people leave an interview with an empty feeling because it’s like the end of an exam.
You can’t add anything to your answers once you’re out that door.
Or, so you thought.
You can influence the employer after the interview with a thank-you note sent through the mail that grabs and holds the manager’s imagination — and continues to remind him or her of you.
Don’t just send a throw-away letter; include something the manager will paste to the desk and refer to again and again.
Handled deftly, a thank-you note can be very sticky.
It might be an instructive article, information about a helpful product or tool, or the name of a sales lead or a useful resource.
The latter is stickiest: Making professional introductions is a lost art in America, yet it’s the most powerful tool we have for creating new relationships and building business.
Being sticky makes you part of the fabric of the manager’s work, and that makes you a natural hire.