Monday, January 16, 2012

How to Make a Personal Connection with Potential Employers

You are an outstanding candidate.  You know that any company or organization would be lucky to have you on their staff.  Unfortunately, it isn't always enough to be just good.  You also have to sell yourself and your talents/ abilities before you will have the chance to demonstrate exactly what you are worth. 

To be successful in securing your next opportunity you will have to create a connection with the HR department and the hiring manager.  You can do this by bringing your personality to the interview. 
Anyone who has taken any formal sales training at all will tell you that, “People buy from people that they like and with whom they can relate.”  As a job seeker, you are in the business of selling yourself and your services. Therefore, it is critical that you take the time to create a relationship when you are given the opportunity or run the risk of losing the opportunity to someone else.

Here are some tips that can help you develop that special rapport with potential employers:

1. Model your interaction with potential employers after ‘the old corner store’. Do you remember the days of shopping at a local business where the owner knew your name and the names of those in your family?  Try to emulate that experience during the interview. Do your research on the company and those who will be interviewing you and make mental notes to remember one or two details about the background of those who are interviewing you and work those details into the conversation. You can find ways to connect through common acquaintances, clubs, schools, or professional organizations

2. The best interviews are conversations; be sure to ask questions. Before you launch into a hard sell, take time to probe the hiring manager on the subject of the company’s problems and/or future goals. Ask questions that will help you find out what the hiring manager is really looking for.  Once you know that information, it is much easier to talk about how you will be able to solve the problem and/or satisfy the needs of the company or organization.  Probing is fundamental to relationship building, and the more skilled you are at utilizing open and closed ended questions, the stronger the relationship you will be able to create.

3. Court your potential employers.  Selling your skills and abilities is a lot like dating insofar as you will have to woo your potential employers and hope that they pick you over all of the other candidates out there.  There is no magic bullet with regard to the number of résumés that you will be sending out before you will be granted an interview, so to get a potential employer to call you before they call another candidate, it is best that you find a way to grab their attention before your competition does.  Attention grabbing tools include the following:
  • Authoring industry specific articles or blogs
  • Making thoughtful comments on other people’s blogs or in other forms of social media
  • Taking the time to forward an interesting article to people in the same industry
  • Memberships in professional organizations
4. Talk about yourself.  Reveal something about yourself. Just be sure it is something that your potential employer may find interesting, can relate to, and isn't too personal.  It is pivotal to connect in a real way. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, if you share a birthday or a birthplace with someone, you are more likely to feel good about the connection. 

5. Talk openly about the big white elephant in the room.  Take some time to address what some employers my view as potential barriers to hiring you.  Some employers are reluctant to hire people who may have issues with daycare, are mature candidates, or have special accommodations that need to be met.  By addressing potential barriers to employment and openly talking about the big white elephant in the room, it often puts potential employers at ease.   

6. Listen to your prospective employer with both ears. There is nothing more insulting than feeling that are being ignoring the conversation at hand.  When you ask a question, be sure to listen to the response.  When you try to formulate a response while the other person is speaking, you run the risk of getting the full picture of what they are telling you.  You need the entire picture so that you can address potential issues, and offer suggestions and solutions to problems that may not come up during a ‘normal’ interview that has been salted with ‘typical’ interview questions. This is especially true when you are interviewing with smaller companies where the business owners where more than one hat.

7. Step away from your computer and smartphone. While it is often much quicker and less stressful to email a potential employer, face-to-face meetings and networking are far more effective in creating meaningful connections.  These meetings are still among the best ways candidates can establish relationships with decision makers.  Communications should not be limited to email and phone—though both are important follow-up methods.

8. Be patient with your job search. Like many important things in life, it takes patience to find the right fit. Fight the urge to rush the process.  Take the time to explain how hiring you will benefit the company. Never make a potential employer feel rushed or hustled.  Believe that they are going to make the best decision they can and that they will base that decision on the information they have.  The reality is that potential employers are privy to information that they are not willing to share with people who are essentially strangers.  For them, a bad hire is far worse than not hiring anyone at all and in this economy, mitigating risk is critical to the company’s future.

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Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2011, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog hosted by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at