Category Archives: Career coaching

How to Turn Networking into Interviews

How to Turn Networking into Interviews

Networking is relationship building

People in transition know that 60 to 80 percent of job seekers get their next positions through networking. Consequently and whenever possible, they focus their daily activities on such networking. But despite their—sometimes admittedly awkward—efforts, nothing comes of it. The reason is that they don’t have an understanding of the actual purpose of networking and how to turn it into interviews.

The purpose of networking is to cultivate relationships for advice, information, leads, and, hopefully, referrals. While it’s important to know others for this purpose, it’s equally important that those others know you. Most people are willing to network, but they have the right to expect you to (1) focus on specific companies and (2) demonstrate to them that networking is a give-and-take transaction, whereby they, too, may get from you in turn some industry intelligence.

For those who don’t know how to go about approaching a person for the purpose of networking, here’s a simple script that can be used either over the phone or via e-mail.

My name is Jane Jones. Our mutual acquaintance Stan Smith
suggested I give you a call [send you an e-mail] because he feels
you’re an expert in the pharmaceutical industry. Stan suggested
you might be of assistance to me. I’m in transition and looking
for a role as a marketing director. I don’t expect you to know
of an opening in this area, but perhaps you can share with me
your thoughts about ways I can find out who’s hiring.

The mechanics of a networking dialogue should have the following components. An initial rapport building to establish the relationship. An agenda for the purpose—and that consider how you, too, can add value. Try finding out whom the other person knows or what good contacts the person has. Another element is likability. You must develop your relationship on trust, integrity, and shows of enthusiasm, motivation, and drive. Nobody enjoys a conversation with someone who’s depressed—with the possible exception of a psychologist!   And last, get engaged in the exchange, and try to feel comfortable asking for referrals. When you get them, make sure you keep your host in the loop.

If you follow these guidelines, it’s very likely that you’ll generate more interviews. In that event, make sure you’re well prepared. You don’t want to drop the ball once you’re so close to scoring.

The Interview Is Not a Chat But Trust Building

The Interview Is Not a Chat But Trust Building

Interview or just a chat?

Even if you’re told the interview is just an informal chat, don’t believe it. The interview is a business transaction whereby both parties are exploring the opportunity to initiate a work relationship. But if you stop and think about what is at the core of that potential future work relationship, the logical answer is mutual trust. Yes, we all agree that the interview is a process whereby the employer wants to determine whether you have the skills that employer is looking for, and if so, whether you’d be good at them or just average, whether you could solve work-related issues, whether you’d be well accepted by your peers—meaning, whether you’d fit into the organizational culture—and so forth. The employer knows there are other options and so reviews other applicants. But the candidate, too, knows there are other options and can explore other prospective employers. Above all, though, both parties are asking themselves—actually during the interview process—whether they can trust each other.

Mutual trust and confidence

This basic concept of mutual trust and confidence was solidified by the legal system in the distant past when it referred to the employment relationship between employee and employer carried an understanding that there is an implied obligation between the two parties to behave in a way that does not undermine that mutual employment relationship. Simply put, both parties should have each other’s back. This means that each party is expected to trust the other.

What does trust mean?

If you asked people how they interpret trust and what trust means to them, you’d get many and various answers. I’ve tested this numerous times when presenting to large groups, and the answers have clearly demonstrated to me that trust means different things to different people. For me, trust means you do what you said you’d do. On one hand, similar to the establishment of a personal reputation, trust is not something someone can establish instantly; it takes a long time to establish one’s trustworthiness because trust is based on behavior that is cumulative and over time. On the other hand, trustworthiness can be destroyed in an instant.

How to evaluate—and demonstrate—trustworthiness during an interview?

An easy way for an employer to test a candidate’s trustworthiness is via the common and mostly dreaded interview question, What are your weaknesses? I have never met anyone who likes that question. Here the employer is testing the candidate’s honesty and, thereby, trustworthiness. A good answer here is to talk about an occurrence in the not too distant past—something that is common and plausible wherein the candidate admits failure but then claims to have been smart enough to learn from it and by now has so well fixed it that others ask for his advice. This is a turnaround tactic that works in most cases.

In a job interview, the candidate should give several examples whose common thread shows honesty, dependability, reliability, and credibility. They all lead to trust. Conversely, the candidate, too, should look for those same qualities in the prospective employer. Mutual trust will lead to a long-term employment relationship.

Can You Describe Your Supervisor’s Personality?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I know from personal experience that when I reported to a boss I was aligned with ideologically and who trusted me, I performed very well and kept getting promoted and promoted. But there were other bosses with whom those alignments just were not there, and after a while we separated—at times voluntarily and at other times involuntarily. I’m certain my situation was not unique and that many readers have had similar situations. Why is that? Why is it possible that the same person can be considered a superstar by one supervisor and incompetent by another? After all, people don’t typically change so drastically overnight.

Are personal biases a part of work relationships?

It is known that hiring managers hire people like themselves. Logically, it’s easy to explain. In marriages, they say opposites attract; but that’s not so in work relationships and it would probably take a psychologist to explain the phenomenon. I know that managers each have an agenda. In fact, they have two. One is the business agenda, which good managers share freely within the department and perhaps outside that manager’s area of responsibility; but then, the manager also has a personal agenda. That one is kept secret because it includes personal biases and prejudices and subjects governed by law. Such a secret agenda is taboo and kept deep inside managers’ minds. If revealed, it could cost them their jobs, and managers know it. But at times, evidence of those biases and prejudices surfaces, often bringing along victims.

Job candidates should try finding out during the interview what the future boss is really like.

Many people go to the interview with a mind-set similar to that of a victim taken in for interrogation. The outcome of the interview is very important to the candidate—to the point that he behaves submissively and meekly. But this should not be. If hired and the relationship with the boss turns out not to be conducive to a good future work relationship, the outcome will be separation. In such a case, the boss is typically the one who stays on. Therefore, the best move the candidate can make during the interview is to try to uncover the interviewer’s personality. That’s not an easy task, because the hiring manager is in control. But with a few probing questions, perhaps at least a few hints could be revealed. Here are some example questions:

  • Can you tell me about your management style and philosophy?
  • How long have you been in this position?
  • What did you do before that?
  • Have the members of your staff been in their present positions for a long time?
  • What is your communication style?
  • How often do you hold staff meetings?

Perhaps during the interview the hiring manager will reveal even more about his style. Many hiring managers are good actors, and what one sees in the interview may be the opposite of what happens in reality once the candidate is actually on the job (have you heard of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?), but my point here is that the more the candidate can find out during the interview, the better able that candidate will be to make final decisions about accepting the job if offered. My own experience has been mixed. How about yours?