Saturday, July 14, 2018

Why Most Applicants Underestimate This Job Prep Tactic

How do you know if the company you are applying to will meet all of your needs? Why do you think you are a fit for the role? What don't you know about the company's culture that may derail your career plan? 

Getting the answers to these questions before accepting a job with a company is imperative to creating a successful career plan. Applicants usually make the mistake of not talking with professionals in the industry or employees at a company where they desire to work to find out if the job or the culture is a fit. As part of your interview preparation process, it is important to uncover what you may not know. Like the mock interview, an informational interview is an underutilized tool that can give applicants essential insights and great connections before starting with a new company. Most people don't use this tactic because they fear people won't accept the invitation.

This is the one job prep tactic you can't afford not to try. Most people will share what they know as long as you are professional in your approach. Find out what you can do to gain the information you need and build relationships. 

Things to consider before you get started:

Conduct your own research about the company before you engage anyone for the informational interview. You have access to public information about the company via the internet. This will eliminate wasting time for data that is available and will inform your questions for more in-depth answers.

Approach every interview with the intent of making a real connection. Coming across superficial, opportunistic, and self-serving will immediately send red flags to your contact who may either reject your invitation or be reluctant to share real experiences that can give you the insight you need.

Be flexible with your time since it is you who is seeking information and insight. Time is money; your contact can surely use his or her time for something else.

IMPORTANT: Be professional and approach the informational interview like you would a real meeting. At every stage of the job search process, you are being observed by those you encounter along the way. Making the mistake of being unprofessional, too casual, or using poor judgment can hinder your opportunity to join the company you are targeting.


The easiest way to find contacts who will share insights about their company is to look at who you already know. If you have been actively networking, you should either have a connection with the company you are targeting or know someone who does.

1) If the contact is in your network, invite him or her for coffee, lunch, or "virtual coffee" to talk about the company.

2) If a contact in your network knows someone who works for the company, ask them to make a formal introduction through email. As soon as the email is sent, "reply all" to keep your contact on the email for support.

Introduce yourself and ask to meet via conference call, coffee, or lunch. Make sure you allow the contact to share their availability and convenience.

3) If you nor your contacts know anyone, search LinkedIn to see the profiles of those employed or previously employed. Send an Inmail to let them know you are considering employment with the specific company and would like to assess whether the culture is a fit for your needs.

4) Before attending the interview, make sure you are familiar with your contact's profile (background, experience, accomplishments). Research could be conducted via LinkedIn, Google, or your immediate colleague if they provided you with the contact.  


1) Introduce yourself and have a resume prepared for the contact

2)  Come with documented questions

3) Don't ask personal questions unless the contact shares his or her information first

4) Don't take more time than you scheduled, keep track of time and close out the interview a couple of minutes before the end
Once you have met with your contact, thank him or her with an email or written note. Make sure to keep track of all the details you are gathering from your conversations and compile your records. It's important to schedule the time to talk with a mentor or career coach about your findings.

Don't forget to connect via LinkedIn with your new contacts and determine how you can return the favor. You should use this connection as an opportunity to add to your network and build relationships.


Connect with me on Twitter or Follow Me on LinkedIn for more career advice tips.

Monday, July 2, 2018

How To Use Your Friends To Land The Job You Want

Recently I helped a friend land the job she wanted, which is not a simple process, especially when you know what you want and don't want in your next role. Identifying a company with a position that will leverage your skills and offer stretch assignments can take months to uncover. While we were strategizing about her approach, I decided to blog about our process so others can gain insight on how to strategically use the mock interview. It's easy to play "answer some questions" with your friends and not take this tactic seriously, but if used correctly, the mock interview is your dress rehearsal before the big day. 

If you are not sure where to start or how to use it, let's first define what the mock interview is strategic for: 

  1. Judging the quality of your performance and responses to questions
  2. Identifying where you can improve
  3. Creating a plan to tie up the loose ends
  4. Setting the stage for what interviewers will experience
  5. Improving your confidence level through preparation and practice

Don't be deceived that a mock interview is just a one-time event where a few of your colleagues ask you job-related questions, and there is more that goes into it than you realize. Think about this; there are several candidates who are in the same process as you, at the same time, vying for the same position:

  • How do you stand out? 
  • How do you communicate why YOU are the right selection for the role? 
  • How do you demonstrate your potential with this limited interaction you have with the recruiter, hiring manager, or interview panel? 

The mock interview sets you up for the job you want by planning out every detail including the "thank you" note after the meeting. While it will take some effort to do this right, the pay off is making a great first impression and getting on the hiring manager's short list for the job you want.

There are a few resources you will need to create a successful mock interview:

  • Colleagues who are experienced in recruiting or interviewing and committed to helping you through this process

  • Companies you have identified as places where you want to work. If you have you applied, you may not have enough time to work this plan effectively. General Rule: Be prepared to get a call to interview the same day you apply (happened to me)

  • Access to a connection at the hiring company or a network with leads who can introduce you to someone who works there

  • Updated resume, social profiles, and work samples (if applicable)

  • References who are intimately knowledgeable about you, your accomplishments, and your capabilities

Now that you have the basics - let's take a brief look at how you can prepare for a real interview.


  • Prepare a list of questions for your connections at the hiring company to gain insight into the culture, organizational structure, technology platforms, software tools being used, and any other information to help you effectively engage the interviewer
  • Have a colleague schedule two mock interviews: a one-on-one and a panel interview
  • Make sure you provide your colleagues with the job description so they can create challenging interview questions that align with the responsibilities
  • Create a checklist of areas for your colleagues to observe and provide feedback: eye contact, nervousness, responses that didn't communicate your thoughts, etc.


  • Dress appropriately and show up just as you would for the real thing
  • Bring copies of your resume and any pertinent information you plan to share 
  • Be prepared with any technology that you will use during the meeting
  • Practice your introduction or elevator pitch
  • Ask the questions you plan to ask at the interview to gauge the quality of your selections
  • Make your exit as you would in the actual interview  


  • Send each of your colleagues a "thank you" note for the interview
  • Have one colleague contact the others for a reference for you as well as check your social media accounts to provide unbiased feedback
  • Schedule a debrief meeting with your colleagues to discuss your performance and where you can improve
  •  Use the feedback to make changes and plan for another mock interview

It's imperative to have a 2nd mock interview with your colleagues to ensure you progressed in the areas they identified. While this preparation takes some effort, you will be glad you invested the time. 

It's never too much effort for the role you want, and when you land the job, you can take your friends out to dinner and drinks, on you!

Want more tips on interview prep and other career strategies? Connect with me on Twitter or Follow Me on LinkedIn.