Finding work has never been a straightforward process. But now more than ever, landing a job is as much about gaining an intangible edge over countless other applicants as it is about skills and experience. It’s about finding the What Elses that will separate you from the rest of the pack. Here is my road map for getting a leg up in your job hunt.
WORK YOUR FAN BASE BEFORE ANY DATABASE
Reach out to your “fan base” – the people who know you best and are most familiar with your unique talents and personality – to see if anyone knows of any job openings or leads.
CALL each of these people, one at a time. Tell them, “Here’s what I’m looking for…” Talk it out, be specific. A one-on-one conversation is going to make more of an impression on someone than a mass, or even personal, email. Emails get read and then archived or trashed; conversations stick in the mind longer. You want as many people as possible looking as long as possible for you.
Work your fan base as much as possible before you start looking in the classifieds and on jobs sites. It’s like the difference between trying to cook a meal with a recipe on the counter, most of the ingredients in the fridge, and a few line cooks by your side - compared to going out with a shotgun to hunt for food.
HOW TO INTERVIEW
When you do land an interview – whether it’s for a specific opening, or just an “informational” – make sure you go in with knowledge and strength.
Do your homework on the company. Know what they do there inside and out. Managers are always looking for curious, diligent people. These people come in with solutions and suggestions in addition to CVs.
Go into interviews trying to solve rather than sell yourself. For instance, if someone came into Steiner Sports and interviewed with me for a sales position, of course I’d look at their resume, and if it looked impressive, all the better. But if they came in and told me, “I know you need to ship a lot of your products cross-country – I might have a way to do that more cheaply and quickly,” that would be more impressive than anything their resume could say.
Know the company’s competition. One of our biggest memorabilia competitors is Grandstand Sports. I’m still waiting for the day when an interviewee comes into my office and says, “Here’s how I think you can produce this particular item much better than Grandstand.” Heck, I’m still waiting for one of my own salespeople to do that!
Be ready with suggestions on how to increase business. If you offer ideas to increase sales, managers will always listen, because they have their own numbers to make. For instance, I’d love it if someone came to me with ideas on how to expand our presence with west coast teams and fans. Even if the ideas were harebrained, I’d remember that person as being driven and creative.
Know the manager’s personal passions. This is an effective way to make an impression on an employer beyond your career and skills – sometimes it’s a way to make an even deeper impression. I’m very passionate about the organization Family Services of Westchester. If someone came into Steiner Sports looking for work, and was able to chat with me for a while about their own experience working in group homes, or their ideas for raising money for Family Services, you can be damn sure I’m not going to forget about them any time soon.
All of this knowledge is readily available on the web. If you’re headed to an interview and you haven’t spent some time preparing on Google, you might as well turn right around.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE GATEKEEPER
Before you interview with a manager, you’ll have to go through their assistant, the person who helps organize their day and ultimately helps control what they pay attention to. This person probably has some influence on their boss’s decisions. Treat the gatekeeper with kindness and respect, and gratitude for any little thing they do to help you along the way. You want this person in your corner HOW TO FOLLOW UP
After the interview, send a handwritten thank you note the very next day. Again, it’s all about making an impression; a thoughtful note will separate you from the rest of the pack.
Even if you don’t get the job, keep in touch! Follow up now and again with calls and emails to stay fresh in their mind, so that when a position does open up, you’ll already be at the top of the applicants’ list.
Rinse and repeat for every opening you’d like to go after.
REMEMBER: Every job opening attracts dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of other applicants - with similar skills and experience.
Those who play the game within the game, who go for all the What Elses I describe above, will gain a significant edge every time.