Nailing the Interview, Web 2.0 Style

From Innovations, a website published by Ziff-Davis Enterprise from mid-2006 to mid-2009. Reprinted by permission.

Job-hunting using Web 2.0 technologies can simplify the job discovery process and enable you to unearth opportunities that aren’t advertised. But to nail down that offer, you sometimes have to employ tried-and-true tactics.

Interviews are key to the process. They establish a personal connection between the job seeker and the offering manager and solidify your image as a poised and competent professional. Your credentials will get you through the screening process, but you won’t nail down the position without establishing rapport with your future boss.

The key to success in the interview process is to be memorable. Hiring managers may interview 10 or 20 candidates for a position, and believe me when I say that recollections tend to run together in their minds after a while. Anything you can do to stand out from the crowd increases your chances of making the final consideration list.

Start by cleaning up any online tracks you’ve left that may come back to embarrass you. Get rid of the photos on your Facebook account from the senior year beer blast or tailgate party. Check any accounts you have on photo sharing or video sharing sites and delete anything you wouldn’t want an employer to see. Google yourself and look up your profile on Zoominfo. You may think you control what’s in your profiles, but human resources people have ways of getting around firewalls.

Create a profile on LinkedIn. This is the professional network of choice for business people and having your profile there shows that you’re serious about your career. Use a professional photo, post a well-edited resume and reach out to others to post their recommendations.

Create an online resume. Include links to as many of your accomplishments as can be displayed online. Bonus points if you can work in a video, slideshow or PowerPoint summary of your experience. Make it personal. Showcase hobbies and interests that portray you as energetic, multifaceted and fun. Each item should communicate something positive about you.

When you get that interview, research the company. As a longtime hiring manager, I’ve often been amazed at how many people show up for interviews without having done any background research on the company or the position they’re interviewing for. There is simply no excuse for not knowing some basic facts about your potential employer. Having this information shows that you are serious about the position and not just casting around for anything.

You get bonus points for researching the manager who’ll interview you. Many of us leave interesting facts about ourselves scattered around the Internet these days, even if we don’t publish the information ourselves. If you can learn that the hiring manager is a marathon runner, fishing enthusiast or skilled horseman, that’s a great conversation icebreaker. Be careful not to get too invasive with personal information – discussion of the person’s recent divorce is off-limits – but remember that interviews are personal interactions. If the interviewing manager knows you’ve gone to the trouble to find about her as a person, you get credit for resourcefulness.

Create a remarkable resume. People differ on whether this is a good idea, but as someone who’s hired more than 200 candidates, I believe anything you can do to stand out works in your favor. Hiring managers are overwhelmed with resumes that look more or less the same. Dress up yours with a photo, some nice typography, an unusual design or color. This demonstrates your creative side and makes you more memorable.

You get bonus points if you create an online message that’s unique to the job. Don’t skip the traditional cover letter, but point a potential employer something you’ve created just for them. Maybe it’s a song, a short work of poetry or a clever video. You have so many ways to show your creativity these days, it’s a shame not to take advantage of them. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the approach used by Michael Spafferty (right), but this video certainly is creative. For the right employer, it could be the dealmaker.

Follow-up. Send a thank you e-mail within a few hours of your interview. Reserve one small accomplishment to note in this letter. This makes the communication memorable and actionable. Then follow-up with a handwritten note. Yes, that personal touch is essential. The very fact that something arrives in the mail these days with an address written in cursive script is noteworthy.

How about you? How have you used Web 2.0 to help in your job search? Share your good ideas below.

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