Networking – A Key Factor in a Successful Job Search

In today’s economy, job seekers need an edge beyond their experience, education and specific industry and job-related skills, in order to find and secure a position. Regardless if you are looking for an opportunity as CEO, Vice President, IT Manager or Customer Service Representative, you need effective tools to compete within a market that is job-poor and candidate rich.

Hundreds of articles and seminars have been offered describing the value of networking as being the most effective tool for finding your next position. Networking isn’t new, we all network to some extent to find a new doctor, meet new people socially, to expand business contacts and many other aspects of our everyday life. The question is – can networking really help you find a job?

As a young man just out of the Navy, my experience networking began without really understanding that I had begun to use networking as a tool. In those days, the information technology field was more commonly referred to as data processing, and that was exactly the field I intended to pursue.

Based upon a recommendation from my father, I introduced myself to a neighbor who worked for Allstate Insurance Company. I described the type of position I was looking for and my goal of working in data processing. To make a long story short, Mr. Anderson brought home an application the next day. He helped me complete it and made sure that all the t’s were crossed and I’s were dotted. He personally handed my application to the department manager who was in charge of the hiring and – he provided a letter of recommendation.

Several days later I received a call from Allstate to interview for an entry-level data processing position. I interviewed with the HR manager and department manager I would be working for. I was offered the job on the spot and accepted with little discussion about the details.

That night I called Mr. Anderson and thanked him for helping me. I asked him if I could do anything – anything at all to show my appreciation. He told me something that to this day I have remembered and have valued throughout my career. He said – “Use your business contacts wisely and treat them with respect. “Offer them advice, referrals, articles of interest and information that might be helpful to them personally or to their business.” By doing so you will build and retain life-long viable business contacts.” He also stressed how important it was to give something back and develop a relationship that complemented both yourself and your contact.

I didn’t fully understand how important this lesson was at the time, but I later learned how valuable business contacts are and began building my own network.

Networking is building contacts that are well connected in the business world, who understand the power of personal referral and who are willing to help and provide additional contacts. Your contacts may be friends, neighbors, local business owners and people you meet everyday. The challenge is to reach people that understand networking and how it works. One of the most common comments you might hear from someone who does not understand networking is – “I don’t know anyone who has job openings.”

Frequently you will need to educate your contacts about the types of people you want to reach and how these people can help you uncover potential opportunities. Networking is all about meeting people, who know people, and finding that person or persons who has an interest in your skills, background and what you can bring to a company. Many jobs are not publicized or even formally developed. Your background and skills can prompt companies to think harder about filling a hidden job or create a position that requires your expertise. Seeking out individuals who are well connected in the business world, open to talking about themselves, their companies, giving advice and directing you to other business people, are the primary targets for your network.

Even though every person you talk to may not be able to help you right away, they may be an excellent contact later on, or they may refer you to well connected business people. Because the hidden job market is where most of the jobs are today, networking will uncover people who have the inside track on either job openings or who know about potential opportunities. If you are networking effectively, you will find opportunities that you otherwise may never have found.

Networking will not only help in your job search, but it will add significant value and tools you will use in your everyday life. Do yourself a favor – start learning about networking and how you can apply it to your job search, business initiative or unique requirements

Job Search: 7 Tips for Successful Phone Interviews

The phone interview is such a crucial part of the hiring phase because if you can’t make a good first impression on the phone, your chances of being invited for an in-person interview are nil. Below are 7 tips to keep in mind for successful phone interviews.

1. Choose a quiet environment. Be sure you’re taking the call in a place where you won’t be distracted and where you won’t have background noises such as the television, radio, dogs barking, kids crying, etc. For example, if you are surprised by a call on your cell phone while at the grocery store, ask the person if you can call them right back or put them on hold until you can find a quiet, secluded place to speak. Better yet, ask the caller if you can schedule the interview for a mutually convenient time, preferably for when you can be away from the commotion and can take notes.

2. Prepare as you would for an in-person interview. You might be the type who can answer questions on the fly, and maybe you know the job description quite well by heart. Still, it’s best to prepare ahead of time and have your notes, the job description, your resume, and whatever other reference materials you need within reach. The majority of phone interviews are efficient screening calls made by recruiters. They want to know if you fit the criteria of the job description and if your salary is in the ballpark. Experienced recruiters can usually determine this pretty quickly. However, you might find that some recruiters prefer to have a more in-depth conversation with you, and sometimes it’s the hiring manager who conducts the phone interview. Just in case, you should prepare as you would for a full-fledged, in-person interview.

3. Be prepared to answer screening-out questions. The typical purpose of the phone interview is to screen out candidates. The interviewer is looking for red flags. He or she is trying to narrow the field of candidates and select the best matches to invite in for a face-to-face interview. You’ll get questions like:

  • Why are you looking for a new position? (Answer in a positive way no matter how unhappy you are about your situation!)
  • Walk me through your background. Why did you leave here, why did you leave there… ? (Always give a positive spin to your reason for leaving. Talk about what you did in your previous experience as it relates back to the position at hand.)
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What was your biggest accomplishment during your last position?
  • What specific projects have you worked on?
  • Why are you interested in our position/company?

4. Engage with good questions. First of all, definitely ask questions. However, don’t ask what could appear to be “it’s all about me” questions. Also, at this stage, it’s better for the interviewer to be the one who mentions money or benefits. These are topics that you might have to address when asked about them during a phone interview, but they’re best left, if at all possible, until the later and/or final stages of the hiring process. Your only goal at this point should be to convince the interviewer that your skills and experience fit their needs. Ask the interviewer how success is defined for this position. Ask the interviewer what are the most important elements of the job description. Ask the interviewer why the position is open. Those are examples of good questions for a phone interview. And, of course, listen well to their responses, taking notes if you can.

5. Speak clearly. This might be an obvious tip, but it’s such a vital thing to remember with phone interviews because it’s through your words and your tone of voice that you get the chance to make a great impression. Keep the mouthpiece near your mouth. Don’t chew gum, eat, drink, or smoke. Sounds are amplified over the phone – the sounds of smacking, chewing, swallowing, and inhaling/exhaling are certain to be picked up. Besides, if your mouth is busy with that other activity, you won’t be as coherent as you need to be when you need to speak.

6. Use the name of your interviewer. Write down the name of the interviewer when you first hear it, and use it occasionally throughout the conversation. People like the sound of their own name, and this easy tip will go a long way in helping you to build rapport. Beware that you don’t overdo it though. The key word here is “occasionally.” Using a person’s name every time you respond could sound contrived and unnatural.

7. Smile. Let the interviewer “hear the smile” in your voice. Some experts says that you should prop up a mirror where you are doing the interview so that you can observe yourself and, therefore, remind yourself to smile. If you prefer not to do that, at least have a post-it note with the word “smile” written on it, and put it where you’ll see it during the call. Phone interviewing deprives you of the chance to communicate your excitement and interest through your facial expressions and eye contact. Your voice is the only way you have to project positive energy and convey how you feel. You’ll naturally feel more enthusiastic when you smile, and your voice will definitely reflect your smile.