Typically, everyone thinks of using contacts to help get the job transition ball rolling. They can help you write say the right things in your cover letter, they can help get your name to HR, and then, the rest is up to you, right? Wrong.
Rather than thinking of contacts as people who can help you get past the gate, think of contacts more the way Dante thinks of Virgil in The Divine Comedy—as a guide. Contacts can help you get your foot in the door, sure, but if you work them right, they can take you all the way through your early days in the company.
Now, before we get into how, exactly, I want to make a note for those of you thinking “I don’t have any contacts at the place I’m going to interview.” For you, the truth is, yes, yes you do. In Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, Duncan Watts argues that, with the current amount of digital networking that takes place, we are no more than six steps from anyone. Right now, you’re less that 7 people away from Mark Benioff. You just have to know how. For you, LinkedIn is key. Start leveraging, figuring out who you know and who they know until you can get some inside information on the hiring process. Seriously, start now.
Once you find your contact, it’s important to start digging. Of course there’s a proper way to engage contacts, especially those whom you’ve just met, but I’ll trust you know the basics of contact etiquette. And, while digging, be sure you know what you’re doing. All too often, we’re inclined to ask questions like “what’s the culture like” and “what kind of questions do they ask in the interview,” but really, these are probably the least valuable questions when it comes to nailing an interview. Yes, they may be helpful wen trying to decide whether you’re actually qualified for the job, whether you’d be a good culture fit, but it’s important in this case to think like a marketer and actually learn your audience inside out.
What you need to know to nail a job interview
These are the types of questions you’ll want to ask of your contact. From them, you can draw intelligent inferences about your interviewing audience, and you’ll be good to go.
- Who exactly will be interviewing you? (Names, titles, roles, etc)
- What was the last person they hired like?
- How long have the interviewers worked there? Are they founders, lifers, or are they young job-hoppers?
- What non-work-related things do you know about the interviewers? What are their likes/dislikes?
- How do they approach their tasks? What are their demeanors / behaviors like in the office?
Please note that this isn’t an inclusive list, and note what information like this will actually tell you. Because, remember, you aren’t interviewing with a company; you’re interviewing with people. Yes, you need to know everything about the company, and yes, you need to know how your skills fit in with their direction, culture, and the position itself, but, at the end of the day, if you don’t have a strategy for playing to your audience, you’re missing a huge piece of what really doesn’t have to be a puzzle.
It may seem invasive, manipulative, or irrelevant, but gathering information like this really isn’t any of those things. It’s what a person who knows how to communicate does; it doesn’t leave anything to chance.
If potential employers see that you can adjust your personality, your talking style, your fundamental approach to communication to best suit the needs of the company, they’re way more likely to want to bring you on board. Just remember to leverage your contacts (ContactSaver can help you find many you didn’t know you had), analyze your audience, and crush it. Just crush it.