This post is courtesy of greyzone Guest Blogger, Greg Roche.

Interviewing is Broken. Here’s the strategy you can use to stand out from the crowd.

Research shows that interviews are unreliable for predicting whether or not a candidate will become a successful employee.  In fact, the odds of hiring managers picking their next rock star employee based on the interview are the same as flipping a coin.

Even with evidence to support throwing out a traditional part of the hiring process, most companies use interviews.

If interviews aren’t effective for companies, they definitely aren’t effective for candidates.

If you happen to be the candidate, you can’t avoid the interview.  At the same time, do you want to trust your career to such an unreliable process?

Instead of just showing up on time in the appropriate attire to answer questions which won’t predict your success in the job, why not use another strategy to improve your odds of getting the offer?

Your professional network is the X-factor you can use before, during, and after the interview to make sure you stand out from other candidates who simply answer the questions.

Before the interview:

Your strategy for standing out starts before you get an interview.  It starts before you apply online and submit your resume.

Step back and think about an open position from a recruiter’s point of view: hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates apply for a job posted online.  The recruiter has to filter all of the applications and resumes.  Imagine if someone the recruiter trusts comes along and tells them you would be a good candidate for the job?

It happens every day.

We call them referrals, and for a recruiting team, they are gold.  In fact, referrals are so highly regarded that companies pay their employees money to provide them.  According to ERE Media, referrals are the best source for candidates.

Your goal is to get referred for the position, move your application and resume to the top of the virtual pile, and give yourself an advantage going into the interview process.

To accomplish this, you need a vibrant professional network that includes people who work in places you would like to work.

This takes time.  You need to start now.

Identify your target companies.  Make a list.  Write the list down in a document that you can print and would be proud to hand to someone you would like to add to your network,

Go through this list and identify people you know at these companies.  Maybe you don’t know anyone who works at one of the companies, but you know someone who might know someone. Reach out to your professional network and ask who they know at your target companies.  Better yet, send them the whole list and see who they know at any of the companies.

Then, make real connections.  You can use social media to find people, but you need to have real relationships with people.

Once you have a real, professional connection with someone who works at a company where you want to interview, ask them to refer you.

Five years ago, I was looking for a new job.  I applied for an open position at a large healthcare company in Denver.  After I applied, I reached out to a family friend who is a doctor who knows a few people at the company.  He sent my resume to the Chief Medical Officer at the company, who sent it to the hiring manager.  In most companies, any candidate who is referred receives an interview, if only as a professional courtesy to the referrer and to encourage future referrals.

I may have gotten the interview without the referral, but because my resume arrived at the hiring manager’s desk from someone who already worked at the company, she was willing to interview me and probably had a better opinion of me when I walked in the door.  I still had to perform well in the interview, but after being referred, the interview wasn’t about whether I was right for the job or not, but about confirming I was the kind of person the referrer said I was.

Remember, most interviews are about confirming the perceptions the interviewer has of the candidate in the first ten seconds.  Why not set the perception before those first ten seconds by getting referred by someone in your network.

During the interview:

The next recommendation is controversial and not everyone may be comfortable using it.

When you are in the interview, take advantage of opportunities to mention people you have worked with in the past by name.  This works especially well if the hiring manager knows the person you mention.

Some people might think of this as name-dropping, but if you exercise some judgment, this can help you connect more deeply with the interviewer.

Here are some thing you should NOT do:

  • Don’t mention people you don’t really know or who don’t know you.
  • Don’t talk about the CEO or CFO unless they know you well.
  • Don’t use the person’s name without context.  Explain how you know them and how you worked together in the past.

The reasons to do this is to give your interviewer an opportunity to do a reference check on you after the interview.  Of course, many companies are going to ask you for a list of references.  However, all of those companies are going to assume this list is full of people who will speak highly of you.

If you give the hiring manager the name of someone else you have worked with who is not on your reference list, they may check with this person to see what it was like to work with you.

These are sometimes called “back-channel” checks and people have different opinions regarding the ethics of doing this, but think about it this way: When you hire someone to do work at your house or decide which hotel to stay in, do you take the contractor or hotel chain’s word for how good they are?

You likely look at online reviews submitted by people who have worked with the contractor or stayed at the hotel.  Think of giving names of people you have worked with as a way to build an offline, personal Yelp profile of yourself which the interviewer can access.

Remember, hiring managers are looking for any type of information they can get to confirm their impressions of you from the interview.

When I was interviewing for the role I mentioned before, the hiring manager and I were talking about the consultants I had worked with in my last company.  I mentioned the name of the company and then the lead consultant.  I had maintained a strong professional relationship with this person and knew, if I mentioned him, he would have no problem recommending me for this job.  He also knew I was looking for a new position because I had contacted him during my search.

I left the interview and before I got home, I had an email from this consultant saying the interviewer had contacted him.  I had just gotten a strong recommendation from my professional network.

After the interview:

As I said before, most employers still ask for a list of references they may or may not check before making an offer.  Don’t wait for the hiring manager to ask for the list.

After you leave the interview, you are going to write a note thanking the hiring manager for his or her time.  As part of that note, you are going to provide your list of references.  Give this list some thought and contact these people.  Let them know you are expecting them to be contacted by your future employer and tell them some of the things you talked about in the interview.  Ask them to help confirm some of the points you emphasized in your interview.

Again, you are simply trying to remove any doubt from the hiring manager’s mind that you are the best candidate for the job.  The interview gives you a chance to demonstrate your abilities.  You still need to nail it.  You need to be prepared and give the best representation of who you are and what you can do.

But, based on the research on the effectiveness of interviews mentioned above, that is not enough.  Every candidate is going to be doing the same thing.  What if the interviewer happens to have a bad day when you show up for your interview?  He or she could walk away feeling less than excited about you as a candidate.

Think of using your professional network as an insurance policy against a catastrophic interview experience. Instead of having one point of data (the interview), the interviewer will have multiple sources of data (all the endorsements from your network) to make the hiring decision.

This insurance policy can’t be bought with money, it has to be built with time.  It requires you to reach out to people you have worked with and develop professional relationships.

To overcome the ineffectiveness of the interview process, get started building your professional network today.

Bio: My name is Greg Roche, and I sell career insurance.  I help people build a vibrant professional network so they can be confident in their ability to find their next great career opportunity.  You can follow me on LinkedIn and get in touch with me at groche@leadingprincipals.com to find out how I can help you today!

 

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