Securing the Company Site Interview
We all know the feeling. You've just completed an on-campus interview with a company that you are truly impressed with. You really want to work for this company. It's almost like falling in love all over again. Well, maybe you don't spend every waking hour thinking of them, although the butterflies in the stomach seem fairly familiar.
So you sit back to wait for them to take the next step. And then it happens. The infamous "Dear John" letter (and your name isn't even John!). How could this happen? How could they possibly fall for someone else when you're the only one for them? How could they possibly give their heart to another?
Just as with romance, you can't sit by the phone waiting for them to call. You snooze, you lose.
Just going through the motions of the on-campus interview is not enough to secure the company-site second interview. And in almost all cases, the second interview is the next step toward the eventual prize of the job offer (and meaningful life after college).
The first, and most important step toward securing the second interview is to build continuity in the end of the first interview. The typical "Do you have any questions?" ending rhetoric should leave you open for two select questions about the company (remember to do your research in advance so that these questions are appropriate and specific to the employer). Want to know if they are interested in you? Use the "Pride of Ownership Technique" to test the waters. Simply ask your questions in terms of ownership--as if you are already part of the company. An example would be to ask a "Teamwork" question such as, "What kind of departmental structure will I be working in with your company?" Note the important difference. You are not asking, "What kind of departmental structure does your company have?" That is detached. You need to attach yourself--take pride of ownership--in the company. Why? Two purposes. First and foremost, it will establish the link between you and the company. This is critical in helping the interviewer visualize you actually working for the company--the offer will never come if they cannot accomplish this step. Second, it also provides you with instant feedback as to how you are doing within the interview. If the interviewer balks at your question or reshapes it by unlinking--especially by adding the "if" word in restating your question--you have a pretty good indicator that you have not fully sold them on you. But if they accept your language and begin talking about you as if you are a part of the company, you are probably in a good position to close the initial sale.
Then on to your final series of closing questions: "From everything I've heard today, combined with my research about your company, I am very interested in going on to the next step. Please let me know--are you interested in me?" I know, it sounds rather bold. But remember, you're in love! Now is not the time to woo from afar. Let them know where you stand, which then gives you the right to ask you the reciprocal. Assuming they express at least a mildly encouraging response, ask your final question: "What is our next step?" Take careful note of the actions that need to take place. This will be the chart for your course in securing that vital company-site second interview.
You've left the interview, but your work for the day is not over yet. Immediately write out your "Thank You" note and hand-deliver it to the recruiter before they leave at the end of the day. Final decisions for company-site callbacks are typically made the same day, so strike while it's hot. If you were not the last interview on their schedule, sit down in the waiting room and scribe your response on the "Thank You" stationery that you brought with you. Then deliver it when they come out to greet their next interviewee. If you are the last interview of the day, write a very quick note and get it to your interviewer before he or she leaves (most recruiters spend a few minutes organizing information before departing). You can even have part of the note (the "thanks for your time" opening) pre-written ahead of time. Then track the person down before he or she leaves the building. And beware of alternate escape routes! By taking this simple step, you will definitely stand out from the crowd.
And even after the recruiter has left town, be sure to stay in touch with your newfound love via phone. Don't ever let the thought of you be too distant or far away. Keep the feelings fresh.
And if you ever do get a "Dear John" letter from an employer you truly are in love with, try the "Kamikaze Technique"--contact the hiring manager (not the person that you "wowed"--or bow-wowed, as the case may be--in the initial interview) and explain the situation. You have already met with the personnel-type person and they have informed you that your background is very interesting, but not what they are looking for at this exact moment. Standard blowoff. If you sincerely had a bad day (illness, recent brain surgery, dog was being held for ransom, whatever), let them know. Valid excuses do count. The real key is to let them know that you really want to go to work for their company and you would be willing to fly, drive, hitchhike, whatever, to be there and meet with them, even if just for 15 minutes. "Would you please give me the chance to prove myself with you personally?" You can even play to what is hopefully a giant "I am the manager" ego with the "After all, you're the hiring manager, right?" line and hope for the best. Let them know that you truly want to work for their company and that you will do whatever is necessary to make it happen.
Crash and burn? Sure, it happens. But remember, you have already taken a direct hit. So why not go kamikaze? The results might surprise you. And remember--never, ever give up.