We all need help from time to time in our careers, from landing our first job to being given a juicy project to work on to getting a well-deserved promotion. You probably know people who are incredibly successful in rallying others to help them achieve their goals. Then there are those who grouse that their ambitions are always being undermined. What are they doing differently? As someone who has both been fast-tracked and road blocked—at the same job, with the same leaders--I quickly learned that what makes the difference between getting what you want and being denied is the respect you show others. Consistently treating others with respect and appreciation will give you a wide circle of friends and associates invested in helping you get where you want to go.
“How you communicate and relate to others matters the most, and everything you do and say reflects upon the values you have.”
–-San Francisco arts entrepreneur
Seems obvious, right? Well, let’s look at how showing respect and appreciation apply to landing a job. You’d be amazed how many of the most polite and well-intentioned job seekers sabotage their own efforts with a few easily avoided missteps!
Before beads of sweat start to form on your brow, don’t worry: you’ll have many opportunities to make a favorable impression and enlist others’ support during your job search. The job search process breaks down into three basic phases: requests for information and networking help, interviewing and closing the deal. In each phase. That gives you at least three chances to interact with a range of people: when you first reach out to them, when you connect with them and when you follow up to thank them.
PHASE 1: Asking for information and networking help
At the beginning of any job search, you may need to ask your peers, family, professors and others for job leads, possible contacts, informational interviews and even personal references. Here are the behaviors network contacts and referral sources say they would like to see from candidates:
When you reach out:
* Make a reasonable request to show that you respect their time and resources
* Make a specific request to show that you want to make it easy for them to fulfill
* Be enthusiastic to show that you are making the request because it is important to you and worth their time
When you connect:
* Show that you value the time they are giving up to connect with you by:
* Responding to their replies right away (within a few hours, not days)
* Being on time to meetings (phone or in person) and respecting their time constraints
* Being prepared for the meeting with a set of objectives (things you hope to learn, leads you hope to get) and thoughtful questions so you can have a focused conversation
When you follow up:
* Write a thank you note to the contact you met or spoke with right away (within a few hours, not days) to express appreciation for their perspectives and time
* Include details of your conversation in your note to demonstrate your interest in what they had to say
* Copy the person who referred or introduced you on your thank you note to the contact to show that you respect their personal networks
* Thank the person who referred you to the contact in a separate note in a timely way (within a day) to reaffirm the value of the connection
Missteps by the Class of 2014:
“I got a note from Sam, totally nice note, and I sent him a thoughtful response within a day, with a welcome invite to call anytime to chat. That was 4 days ago. I've had this happen over the years with people who contact me though my website, I get a note, I write a nice response, and never hear a thank you or anything back which is bad form.”
-- Informational interviewer, March 2015
Now let’s take a look at how hiring managers, recruiters, and references would like candidates to treat them during the interview and final negotiation phases.
Phase 2: The Interview
For most candidates, the interview phase begins with a screening interview with an HR recruiter, followed by interviews with the hiring manager and members of their team who contribute to the hiring decision.
When you reach out:
* Respond to scheduling and other requests from the HR recruiter (e.g., copies of resumes, work samples, etc.) right away to show respect for their time
* Ask logistical questions to help you:
* prepare for your interview (e.g., names of interviewers so you can look them up on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter and find common ground)
* arrive in plenty of time (e.g., instructions for parking, getting through security, finding the reception area)
* Be enthusiastic to show appreciation for having the opportunity to present yourself as a candidate and respect for the stature of the company
When you connect:
* Be exceptionally well-prepared to show that you are serious about the job and the company, and not wasting their time:
* DON’T just parrot facts and figures about the size of the company, its history and most popular products from the company web site (a major complaint of HR recruiters)
* DO secondary research to understand the context in which the company operates (who they compete with, how they compare to the competition, what is driving market changes, what they’re doing that’s new or innovative, whether they are growing ahead of or with the market, what they say about themselves and their products or services)
* Conduct informational interviews with people in the field or holding the job you are interviewing for to understand the expectations for and demands of the role
* Prepare a set of questions that show you’ve done your homework and are interested in the answers
* Stay actively engaged with your interviewers during the interview but take notes immediately afterward to refer to when you write thank you notes.
* Be enthusiastic about being there and meeting their employees to show that you value the experience and the people, even if you are not 100% certain the job is for you
When you follow up:
* Write to thank the people you met or spoke with right away (within a few hours, not days) to express appreciation for their perspectives and time
* Send individual notes to interviewers, not group email blasts
* Include some aspect of your discussion to show that you were interested enough to remember what they had to say
* Copy (cc) the HR recruiter on thank you notes to each interviewer to show that you respect the talent search process they are managing and have been a gracious candidate
* Write a separate note to the HR recruiter who is coordinating all the meetings to express appreciation for this effort and your overall enthusiasm for the company, its employees and the role you are applying for
* Thank anyone else who helped you get the interview within 1-2 days to reaffirm the value of their efforts and gratify them with updates on your progress
* Ask the HR recruiter for permission to re-contact them periodically for updates on the status of your application to show you respect their time and process (and won’t hound them)
* If they still hire someone else, be classy and thank them for the opportunity—they’ll remember you
Phase 3: Close the Deal
As you get close to receiving a formal job offer, the HR recruiter will request that you provide some references to help the company solidify their hiring decision. This should not be the first time you reach out to your potential references to request their endorsement.
When you reach out:
* Give your references adequate notice (a week or more, if possible) that they will be contacted to show you respect their time so that they can advise you of their availability and plan their schedule
* Provide your references with the details of the company and position you are applying for, why you are a good fit/are excited about the opportunity and the name of the HR recruiter who will be contacting them (if you know it) so they can feel well prepared for the call and in a position to truly help you
If you’ve managed to get through multiple job interviews, reference checks and intermittent conversations with hiring managers and recruiters successfully, you have undoubtedly mastered the art of respect and appreciation. Applying these tools to negotiating salary, benefits, start dates, and other details related to your final offer will be a snap!
After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in psychology and absolutely no useful contacts or career direction, Lisa Noble sweet talked her way into a succession of increasingly responsible jobs, from Educational Testing Director at The Johns Hopkins University to Senior Consultant at IBM to US Research Director at Bayer Healthcare and finally VP of Quantitative Insight at a WPP marketing consultancy. Her work over the past 14 years leading teams of young people, creating career paths and grooming them for their next employer or role has led her to start Career Connectors, LLC. There, she helps recent college grads and career changers discover, market themselves for and land great jobs. @careerconnectrs