Too many job hunters say they don’t know how to get insider information before applying for a job or heading into an interview. It may be easier than you think to get that scoop if you use a few effective techniques to learn what the hiring manager cares about.
For example, Maria was a 50-something professional who was a career counseling client seeking a new, higher-paying job. She was thrilled when her new LinkedIn profile and resume we created helped get her an interview for a coveted position — a director role at a very prominent university. She told me, “This is my dream job. But the competition is fierce. How can I do my best in the interview? I want this job.”
Maria’s resume did a great job with marketing her skills and getting an interview. Now the tricky thing was to articulate and stand out to the hiring panel. We reviewed the job description, and it had everything in it, including the kitchen sink. I knew there would be just a few essential things that the hiring committee and manager cared about.
So, I talked with her about the importance of trying to locate some insider information. She said, “I don’t know anybody at that university. Guess I’m out of luck. I won’t be able to get any insider info.” She was very wrong in this assumption. Maria may not have known anyone there, but she hadn’t started working all her contacts to see if anyone else had a connection in that department or worked for the university. So, we wrote her an email and message. She then took to LinkedIn to reach out to contacts. One colleague knew a professor who interacted with that department a lot. The connection set up a 20-minute phone call that changed Maria’s life.
He shared with her the inside look of what mattered in this role. There were three top skills that he outlined that she could address. To her surprise, marketing, promotion, and program management were the top things they wanted. And everything else on the list, they didn’t care if she had it or not. She had that experience and some significant accomplishments to support what she had done in the past.
With the info in hand, we did some serious interview prep. We role-played her potential interview questions, so she was ready and confident. Maria did an outstanding job. They hired her. Later, the new boss shared how competitive the search had been. They had gotten several hundred resumes and felt that they interviewed the top people out there for this position. It was a real coup that she landed this dream job.
It’s a real game changer when you get insight about what they want from someone familiar with the organization or hiring team.
Assuming you don’t know anyone is a mistake. You need to look deep into your network and the network your friends and colleagues have. This effort can mean the difference between getting hired and losing the job.
Are you ready for your next interview?
How to Get Insider Information
With these techniques, you can try to get insider information to excel in the interview and show the employer they should hire you.
Research your connections
First, think about whether any of your friends are working at that organization. They are your first choice as friends are likely more willing to connect you to someone they know.
Next, consider family and relatives—do they know anyone working there? It’s a mistake to assume these people don’t, simply because they don’t hold a professional or executive job. They just might. For example, Ken was an engineer, and he wanted to get hired by Boeing. At a party, the hostess, Kari, recommended he speak to Dan about this goal. Later, Ken complained that Dan was a painter at Boeing, and that wouldn’t help him. When she asked if he told him he was looking to get hired there, Ken said, “well, no, he’s not in engineering.” Kari replied, “You are right. He is not, but his father is the VP there overseeing the entire engineering department.” Point made. Always ask and never assume who people know.
Use LinkedIn effectively
Search the prospective company name and select the “people” option. Then look at all the names listed. Do you recognize anyone? Can you reach out to some 2nd connections and ask for 15 minutes to chat to help you with your search? Many people will say yes. Be sure to mention you have an interview and what that job title is. Keep the request time short. People are busy.
Do your research!
Before you chat with anyone, read everything you can find about the company. Scour their website, look for news that might impact the job. See if there are any articles about that department. And ask for a LinkedIn connection from the recruiter and hiring manager at the company. It impresses them. You want to know as much as possible so that you don’t waste valuable time with the contact on things you could have read about.
Prep before you talk
Be mindful that 15 minutes is a short amount of time. To make the most of it, do two things. First, create a 20-second introduction. Start the conversation by saying, “Let me give you a brief introduction about myself and my background for this position.” Again, keep this very short—no more than 20 to 30 seconds. This will help the listener better direct their answers and not just ask for clarification on what you have done.
Next, write out the questions you want answered. Prioritize these so that you ask the three or four most important questions first. You likely won’t have time for more. Take notes on the answers. At the end of the 15 minutes, tell the contact you appreciate their help and want to respect their time and end the call. If they can continue, they’ll say so.
Follow-up thank you
Finally, send an email and thank the person for their help. If you land the job, be sure to write them to let them know and say “Thank You” again.
This article was originally published in Forbes.