One of the worst things that can happen after an interview is to be forgotten. Things happen. Sometimes a great candidate can be lost in the endless stack of resumes.
Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase “the stickiness factor” in his book The Tipping Point. With these six tips, you can become sticky in the mind of the hiring manager:
1. Lay the groundwork
Most job seekers don’t realize the job search starts well before you find the perfect job posting.
There’s an elite group of job seekers—the high performers—who don’t have a problem finding a job. If they find themselves out of work, they’ll have multiple offers within the week.
What do they do differently?
High performers have a target group of companies they want to work for. They use networking to talk to those companies before a job is even posted. They position themselves as experts in their field. When an opportunity arises, employers search for them.
You can emulate a high performer by creating a list of five to 10 companies you’d love to work at and use your network to start talking to company insiders.
If you don’t have contacts at your target companies, search for contacts on LinkedIn or use simple email hacks to find people. Once you have your contacts, invite them to lunch or coffee.
2. Get a reference from a current employee
Companies are actively working to increase the percentage of hires from internal recommendations. An internal recommendation from a hardworking employee increases your chance of being hired tenfold.
There are two ways to go about this technique:
When you know someone at the company:
Take the connections you’ve made in the previous step, or use an already established connection, and ask for a recommendation when applying.
When you don’t know someone at the company:
If you haven’t met anyone before the interview, ask the hiring manager for a tour of the office to meet some of your future coworkers.
Having company insiders talking about you is a great way to make sure you’re in the hiring manager’s sights.
3. Do the work: solve a real problem
Stand out by solving a real problem the hiring manager is facing. Solving the problem gives the hiring manager a sense of your thought processes and demonstrates how you’ll tackle real problems.
You can ask the hiring manager to name a problem the new hire would be tasked to resolve. Then you can come up with a plan of attack to resolve the problem on the spot.
If you’ve already met with insiders, you can ask what types of problems they’re facing. This is the most powerful tip because you can bring a written plan of action that’ll surely impress the hiring manager!
4. Have an outside reference call the hiring manager
Internal references are great, but when you have a former manager calling on your behalf and raving about your work, the hiring manager will definitely take notice.
This technique works best when you’re close to your former manager and your departure was cordial, so it’s especially powerful for interns looking to get into the working force upon graduation.
Ask your reference if they could call your target company and sing your praises. If they’re a little unsure, you can give them this as an example:
“Hi, this is (Hiring Manager’s Name) from (Company). A former employee of mine, (Your Name), asked me to serve as a reference, and I thought I’d give you a call. He was an excellent employee, and I think he would be a great fit for your organization. I was sad to see him leave, but I know he was destined for bigger and better things. I just wanted to reach out before he’s scooped up by the competition!”
With a reference like this, how could the hiring manger forget your name?
5. Ask good questions
Asking the right questions can make or break the interview. Good questions show your knowledge of the industry, your competency level and your interest level.
This is not only the interviewer’s chance to get to know you—it’s your chance to get to know the company as well. By asking intelligent questions, you can get a glimpse of what it’ll be like working for the company, the challenges you’ll face and, most importantly, find any red flags.
One company I interviewed with was most impressed with the “great questions” I asked during the interview. Wondering what I asked?
The company was selling themselves pretty hard and talking up the impressive growth they’d had in the past two years. Having previous experience in a large manufacturing organization, I asked how they’d keep up with production given the current growth trajectory. It was a relatively simple question, but you could tell the hiring manager was caught off guard.
While questions about the company’s culture, top priorities or typical workweek are good, the best questions will arise from your conversation during the interview. Listen for opportunities during the interview. Write down your questions or ask on the spot.
Keep a couple backup questions in your notebook in case everything else has been answered earlier.
6. Give the hiring manager a “token”
The most common token is the thank you letter, but it’s become commonplace in today’s ultra-competitive job market. Go one step further.
A “token” is a symbol of appreciation. It’s not meant to be of monetary value. It’s meant to show character and to leave a lasting impression.
Let’s say you’re applying for a sales role, and in your interview, you discussed sales tactics. If you’re a big fan of Neil Rackham and his techniques, you could send the hiring manager a copy of his book Spin Selling.
The key is to truly listen in the interview and remember the points you talked about. Then find an article, a case study, a product or even an introduction to someone in your network that could help the hiring manager.
The token is a superb way for an employer to remember you after an interview.
Most candidates will never use these advanced tactics. Use them right, and your name will surely be tattooed to the hiring manager’s forehead.