With dizzying layoffs signaling employers’ reluctance to fill payrolls, securing an interview can turn into a full-time job. As more people compete for limited positions, creativity will likely get you in the door today. In strategizing your job search, realize, it’s imperative to transcend the role of a professional and turn yourself into a brand, says Robin Fisher Roffer, author of The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You’re the Only One Like You (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. $24.95). Job applicants need to “unearth their full brand. Leverage what makes you different” she says. Leveraging what makes you different doesn’t start the first day on the job. It starts with the job search. Check out these tips on cleaver ways you can land the interview and snag the job:
Set up an informational interview. Informational interviews are meetings with human resource managers or even the manager you might be working for if hired. Set up an informational interview to learn more about the company, what’s on the company’s horizon, and what they look for in potential employees. Research and learn the history of the company, its platform, and create informed questions. These interviews will at least put you on the employers’ radar, perhaps even better than a cover letter or resume. To set up an interview, call and e-mail the person you’d like to meet with. This may not be the easiest feat, so be persistent without being annoying.
Make nice. To get the attention of prospective employers, sometimes it will take a little more than an e-mail. Make nice with the manager’s assistant. Call and strike up a conversation, find a common interest, and run with it — but keep it brief. Administrative and executive assistants are employers’ gatekeepers and they hold the key to their schedule. Forming a relationship with the assistant can be your key to getting in front of the manager.
Do your research about the potential employer. If he is a comic book junkie, send over a comic book with a brief note introducing yourself. Find out what makes him/her tick, and then hone in.
Ask the right questions. After graduating college, Fischer turned what was supposed to be an informational interview into a job interview by asking this simple question, “What keeps you up at night?” Asking about obstacles or challenges companies face give you the opportunity to showcase your passion and expertise. Whatever the problem, dig into your well of knowledge and become part of the solution. Tap into cultural and differences when proposing solutions too. “People who are different can make a difference,” Fischer says, “particularly people of color.” Conformity is the last thing employers need in order to thrive.
Utilize social networks. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the slew of other social networking Websites are good for more than stalking your ex. Connect with potential employers via new media outlets, Roffer says. Also, consider starting a blog to give perspective employers a better idea of who you are and what you can contribute, she adds. Remember, keep it clean and keep it professional.
For more on clever ways to get the job, read my story on how I got my start at Black Enterprise.