Fourteen steps for conducting effective Network Interviews

You've heard me talk about Network Interviews. What are they?

Simply put, a Network Interview is an interview where there is no job on the table. That may sound useless if you're the one looking for a job but many of these network interviews will lead you to that real interview where you have a real shot at a job.

Here's a statistic that hasn't changed in 30 years:

75% of jobs are obtained through networking

So while other ways of getting a job have changed, posting to career websites like Monster etc, taking over from newspaper ads, for example, you still need to spend 75% of your time networking.

What is networking? Talking with people, face-to-face, over the phone or via e-mail and learning about them as they learn about you. It's making friends. This is easy for some people and harder for others.

How do you do it?

1. Make a list

Start with a list of everyone you know, and I mean everyone. Co-workers, former co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, service providers like your mailman, dentist, doctor, bagel store owner, religious advisor, vendors from work, people in industry groups, former classmates. Check your Facebook friends, those connected with you on LinkedIn. Circle all those you feel comfortable telling that you are looking for another job.

2. Talk with them all

Tell them frankly that you are in the market for another job. Specify what industry you are targeting, which companies you're interested in and ask them if they know anybody at those companies. If they don't, ask if they know anybody else who might know someone in those companies. Your goal to is walk out of the network interview with at least three more names.

3. Expand your network to the next level That part was easy because they were people you know. But your goal is to expand your network. You need to now visit these people and get three names from them. How do you do that?

First of all, ask the person who gave you their names for an introduction. The wording goes along these lines: "Would you mind giving Joe a call and warn him that I'll be calling sometime this week?"

Then, when you call Joe you introduce yourself in this way, "Hi, my name is Bruce Fieggen. I'm a friend of Fred's and he suggested I talk with you." Then pause. This gives Joe a chance to say, "How is Fred?" or "Fred! He owes me $50!" or something to give you a clue on how to proceed.

4. Your 30-second spiel

Next you need to give your 30-second spiel. This is something you need to have practiced many times so you can say it cold. There are many elements to the 30-second spiel.

  • It takes 30 seconds or less. You don't want to bore anyone with a long speech

  • It should put the listener at ease that you are not asking them for a job, just information

  • It should describe you in a way that makes the listener feel comfortable meeting you

  • It should show what information you want to gain from the listener

Here's an example: "I've been managing projects in the Medical Device industry for the last 15 years in R&D, Manufacturing and Quality. I'm interested in switching to the Pharmaceutical industry and would like to talk with you for about 20 minutes about life at Hoffmann La-Roche." I just timed that at 11 seconds.

Now think for a moment about what you would do if a friend of a friend of yours, who you'd been warned would call, gave you that speech. Wouldn't you enjoy breaking your day by twenty minutes to talk about your life at work? Most people would agree with you. I've had tremendous success with this approach, conducting three network interviews a day while laid off.  Try to set up a few of these per day when you are laid off, a few per week when you are still employed but looking.

5. Meet them

Set them up as coffee breaks in the company cafeteria or a nearby Starbucks. Dress up like it's a real interview. Do not go over the 20 minutes you set for the meeting. Even if it's going well, we need to respect the other person's time. The last thing we want is for them to walk back to their office and find that they spent 45 minutes with you and are now scrambling to make their next meeting on time. What you say, when the 20 minutes are close to being up is something along these lines: "Thank you so much for your time and all the great insights. I know you're busy so I'll be on my way now."

6. Go Dutch

Removing all awkwardness from these meetings is essential. You're not asking for a job, they're not offering one. If you pay for the coffee, they'll feel like they owe you something. If they pay, you feel like a beggar. If you're getting coffee from a Starbucks, this is easy, you order first and pay, then step aside as Joe orders. If you are sitting down and being served, specify separate checks up front.

7. Ask them about themselves

Ask about their life at their company. How did they get their job? What do they like and not like about it? What trends are new? Where is the company expanding, contracting? Which departments are good to work for?

8. Get more names

The goal of every network interview is two-fold. Get more names and impress everyone you meet. Eventually someone will know of an opening and has met you and realizes that you would be a great person for that position. He/she puts you in touch with that hiring manager and you're in!

9. Improve your marketing

The second time I used this technique, I had been in the Medical Device Industry for 6 years and was looking to move into Genetic Engineering. But, after talking with about five people who gave me the same answer, I realized that this move would require me to go back to school for a Masters or PhD in the field before trying to get that job. I realized that I needed to change my tactics and decided to stay in the Medical Device field instead. I saved a lot of wasted time.

Having this kind of conversation in a Network Interview setting is pretty easy. After they've told you about them and you've shared about yourself, you can ask them where they would see you fitting in their company, which department, what group of people etc.

10. Give as much as you get

Even though they have a job and you don't, the Network Interview is a two-way street. In the hundreds of Network Interviews I have given and accepted, the flow of information has always been two-fold. They are curious about you, companies you've worked for that they may be thinking about moving to, hobbies, sports, places to live, the list goes on. As soon as you've done a few of these and realized that you've given as much information as you've received, you'll feel better about asking for the next one.

11. Be careful showing off your resume.

Have it handy just in case they ask for it but don't flourish. Remember, this is not a real interview and you don't want your new friend to feel ambushed. But if they ask to see it so you can explain your background better, do so. Then ask how you can change it to improve your chances at a job in their company/industry.

12. Thank them.

Don't forget to thank them for their time, the names they offered and any advice they gave. Send a thank-you note the next day, e-mail is fine.

13. Let them know where you landed

Chances are that only one of the fifty people you networked with knows where you ended up but the rest are curious. When you land that new job, send out a mass e-mail, (bcc so they don't have each other's addresses) thanking them all again and showing the results of their efforts. Offer to meet with them or any of their friends any time.

14. Continue Networking

Conduct Network Interviews with others who are looking for a job. Become known as someone who is connected. Remember about it being a two-way street? Every Network Interview you conduct helps you out as well.

10 Things To Do With Your Resume To Get That Interview

  1. Create a few different 'flavors.' Since everyone is looking at your resume electronically these days, and you are probably open to a few different job options, make a few different versions of your resume geared to the different options available to you.
  2. Post it up on the job boards. Monster, Career Builder, Dice, Six Figure Jobs. All of these career sites and more are free to the job applicant. Use them. Look at it from the perspective of the person looking to hire someone. They have to pay to use these sites so they usually sign up for only one or two of these services. If you are posted on one and they are looking at the other, they'll never find you.
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile. More and more people are looking first on LinkedIn to find people. It's free and considered less 'commercial.' Make sure that has your latest resume available. Better stick with only one flavor here though.
  4. Post it on professional organization's sites. It is unlikely you'll get a job through these sites but it only takes a few minutes and you never know.
  5. Don't forget your college's site. The career placement center should have a database available for job fairs or companies looking for workers. Make sure they have your latest copy. And ask if other universities have a sharing program with yours. Get your resume up on the sister college's sites as well.
  6. Apply to every organization's job posting board. If you have a list of target companies, upload your resume to their job board, even if they don't have a specific job listed for your skill-set. Typically they'll look to see who is on their job board with the skills they need before they post the job opening.
  7. Verify that the resume looks good once it's on the sites. If you followed my advice and used Times New Roman font 12 point and no fancy stuff on your resume, you should be fine. But if you have anything weird in there like crazy tabs and other formatting, your resume might look terrible once it has been uploaded. All sites have a review button that allows you to see what your resume looks like once it's uploaded. Use it! I'm always amazed when the search terms turn up a resume that is unreadable because there is &%20%& between every word rather than a space.
  8. Update, update update. When a company searches for a certain set of search criteria, the results are sorted for them primarily by age of resume. So if you have better skills than someone who placed their resume on the job board a week after you, their resume will show up first. So do the following: Every week, add a space or take away a space from your resume so it looks like it has been updated recently. That way, you'll always end up first in the searches. It doesn't take long, just do it every Monday morning.
  9. Apply for job openings. If your target company has openings that fit your skills, apply for this. Add a cover letter that shows how you meet their requirements using a table. See below for details.
  10. Use a requirements table. People hate to read paragraphs but love tables. Convert their job requirements into a table with their requirements in the left column and sections from your impact statements filling out the right column. Title the columns: Requirements and Experience. Watch how it works for my ideal job:

10 Steps To Make a Standout Resume

1.  Know the purpose of a resume.

It's designed to get you an interview, not a job.

So exaggerate. This is no time to be humble. Present yourself in the best possible light.

If three of you worked together to accomplish something, take credit for it in the resume. Explain your role fully in the interview. The resume did its job of getting you in for the interview.

2.  Use lots of key words.

Most resumes are called up electronically these days.

If your resume does not contain the words used to search for viable candidates, you will never be considered.

The best place for these key words is in the middle of an impact statement showing what you did with that particular skill.

If you can't do that, add a section to your last page titled "Skills" and add the key words there.

3.  White space is your friend.

Nobody wants to read a big, black block of text. Break it up so it's readable.

Don't dual justify your text, left justifying will open up white space on the right.

Use bullets to break apart paragraphs.

Have sections that lead the reader to easily find what they want to read.

Place one inch margins all around your text.

4.  Use as many pages as you need.

Long ago the one-page resume was in vogue and no-one went over two pages. Those days are over!

By limiting yourself to one or two pages you are probably cutting out key words that could pull your resume out of the pile

Or you are using text that is too small or eating up your white space.

Resumes are read, distributed and searched electronically; most people don't pay attention to how long they are.

Here are the new rules of thumb:

 One page if you are a recent graduate just entering the market. But, if you've had some relevant internships that give you experience, go ahead and move halfway onto the second page.

          Two pages until you've worked for five years.

          Three pages until you've worked ten years, then you can move on to four pages.

But you are putting your less important information on the last pages: Education, Training, Patents, Publications etc.

5.  Write your purpose in a way that solves people's problems.

A lot of people have a purpose statement along these lines: 'Looking for a job that allows me to use my skills in blah blah blah' or 'To use my skills to obtain a challenging position...'

Remember, the person reading your resume has a problem. They need to solve this problem by hiring someone to do the work.

Word your purpose statement to reflect that you are there to solve problems.

Taking all the above into account, word it along these lines: 'I specialize in ...' or 'Blah blah expert with experience solving such and such

Remember you can have multiple resumes out there so don't be afraid of limiting yourself by 'specializing' in an area.

6.  Don't use the job description style to describe your accomplishments.

90% of resumes I see use the job description style and I hate it! Look below to see why.

          Review and approval of process validation protocols.

     So what does this exactly tell us about this person? Only that this was part of their job.

Whenever you see one of your impact statements, ask the question: 'So what?' If it's not obvious from the statement that you were good at that part of your job, revise it. Watch what happens when I make fun of the above statement:

          Review and approval of process validation protocols...took so long reviewing and never approved anything so they fired me.
Probably not what you want to say about yourself. So let's show you how to pep it up.

7.  Power up your impact statements by showing your results.
A good impact statement has three elements to it.
Problem: This is the reason you were hired in the first place. It is often implied. Documents require review, product needs to be built, sales need to be made, etc.
Impact: This is what you did about the problem. This is your power verb, more on this later.
Result: This is the part most people miss on their resumes.
This is why your last company loved you!
Try to make it a number of some kind, dollar figures are the best.
Remember, companies don't hire you out of the goodness of their hearts, they pay you $100,000 a year with the hope that you will earn them significantly more than that. So if you can show in your impact statements where you have saved them $200,000, made sales of $500,000, introduced product that sells for $1,000,000 a year, you are worth the salary.

Here's an example from my resume:


·      Invented, optimized and patented an algorithm that removed inaccuracies caused by fiber-optic kinking, eliminating 90% of clinical failures.

Sometimes you can't use dollar figures or numbers; still try to indicate your worth somehow. Let's see what we can do with the above statement.

Reviewed and approved process validation protocols, maintaining a consistent 2-day turnaround, while adding FDA perspective.

See how much better that looks.

What if you don't know the numbers? Just guess. As long as you are in the right ballpark and you can show how you arrived at your figures during the interview, you'll be fine. Remember, no-one else can prove your figures wrong.

8.  Start each impact statement with a power word.

When people read a resume quickly, they start at the top and scan down the left column.

So make it stand out by throwing in power verbs at the start of each sentence.

Designed, Created, Trained, Managed, Invented.

Mix the power words up by using a thesaurus. Nobody want to scan a resume that says, 'Designed, Designed, Designed, Designed...'

Indent the second line of a two line sentence to ensure that words like and, but or with don't line up with these power verbs.

9.  Limit your impact statements to the things you're most proud of in your job.
Don't try to show off everything you did at your job. Let's face it, most of what you do at work is boring.
My resume represents about the top 5% of my efforts.
If you highlight the things you did that you were most proud of, three things happen:
a. It's easy to come up with powerful impact statements.
b. When you talk about them in the interview, you become animated.
c. You don't bore your reader with the mundane details of your last job.

10. Limit your impact statements. 
to three per job if you have more than three jobs, five for your most recent job.
     to five per job if you have less than three jobs.

A good impact statement may take an hour to wordsmith until you have it down. Do two or three a day until the whole resume is ready.

 And if you want to see my resume for an example of how it all comes together, click below:

Bruce's Resume