Three Degrees of Separation for Getting That Job Monday, June 8, 2009
TAU advises referral from "friend of a friend" for interview success
Experts estimate that personal contacts are instrumental in landing 70% of all jobs in the U.S., but they don't talk about what kinds of contacts they are or should be. Social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook may be valuable for the first contact with recruiters, but "virtual relationships" with company employees will probably not be enough to land the job, says workplace relationship expert Dr. Hilla Dotan of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management.
Her tip: Look into real-life relationships before — and after — you tap into the virtual life. "People need to exploit their network of friends and acquaintances from the real world prior to the job interview," advises Dotan.
After surveying thousands of employees from American companies, including those on the Fortune 500 list, Dotan created the "Relational Tendency Tool," which identifies the types and value of workplace relationships. It's also an effective tool for digging out "non-public" job openings, gathering information about the potential interviewer, and preparing for the interview itself, says Dotan.
"Many people think it is the best friend that can help get the interview, but research evidence and results from the tool show that it is the friend of the best friend that is most effective. The tool can also predict who in the friendship network is the ideal person to provide the recommendation that would put you on the top of the pile," she says.
A Little Knowledge Can Be a Profitable Thing
Dr. Hilla Dotan
"Once you've received an invitation for an interview, tap into your friendship network again to prepare for the interview," she says. While LinkedIn is a great way to connect to headhunters, it has much less value for making the kinds of connections that will help you get the job once the interview date is set. "If you want to win over the interviewer, see if you have any friends with friends who work there. If so, arrange a meeting between you, your friend, and your friend's friend a few days before the interview to discuss the prospective job," Dr. Dotan says.
Ask your new alliances about the person who will be interviewing you. A shared hobby, family information, or another commonality is all you need to help build the relationship and inspire that initial connection between you and the interviewer.
At any stage of the job application process, be careful about getting recommendations from your close friends. The resulting job — or rejection — can be dangerous for both your friendship and professional career. "I suggest you get recommendations from people who are two to three degrees of separation away from your close friend. If you are too close to someone in the company, it probably won't be an objective recommendation. Interviewers know that."
Finally, be very sensitive to the interviewer's cues. If they are initiating a social discussion, you want to be receptive to that and use the opportunity to share some of the knowledge you obtained. If they are being professional, and talking just about the business or the job, you have to follow their lead, Dr. Dotan recommends.
Leaving Impressions on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn
Dr. Dotan also cautions about revealing too much on a public forum. The impression you make can be influenced greatly by your "online reputation" and you'll be carrying your online history into the interview. The chances are quite high that you'll be "Googled" before your meeting.
While social networking sites can help put your name out there, it can harm how you look from the outside, she says. "My advice would be to be very selective about the information you post, and who to accept and not accept into your network. People judge you as a person and a professional. You want to portray a positive face on both fronts," she says.
At Tel Aviv University Dr. Dotan examines, researches, and teaches how workplace networks form, why they begin, and eventually how these networks evolve to impact business success. She is one of 23 new faculty at Tel Aviv University — highly recruited by universities throughout the country — as part of an across-the-board effort to reverse "brain drain" in Israel.