One of the worst things that can happen after an interview is to be forgotten. Things happen. Sometimes a great candidate gets lost in the two-foot-high stack of resumes.
Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase “the stickiness factor” in his book “The Tipping Point.” With these six tips, you can become sticky in the mind of the hiring manager:
1. Lay the groundwork.
Most job seekers don’t realize the job search starts well before you find the perfect job posting.
There’s an elite group of job seekers—high performers—that doesn’t have a problem finding a job. If they find themselves out of work, they’ll have multiple offers within the week.
What do they do differently?
High performers have a target group of companies they want to work for. They use networking to talk to those companies before a job is even posted. They present themselves as experts in their field. When an opportunity arises, employers search for them.
You can emulate high performers by making a list of five to 10 companies you’d love to work at and use your network to start talking to company insiders.
If you don’t have contacts at your target companies, search for contacts on LinkedIn or use simple email hacks to find people. Once you have your contacts, invite them to lunch or coffee.
2. Get a reference from a current employee.
Companies work to increase the percentage of hires from internal recommendations. A recommendation from a hardworking employee increases your chance of being hired tenfold.
There are two ways to go about this:
When you know someone at the company:
Call the connections you’ve made in the previous step, or use an already established connection, and ask for a recommendation.
When you don’t know someone at the company:
If you haven’t met anyone before the interview, ask the hiring manager for a tour of the office to meet your future coworkers.
Having company insiders talking about you is a great way to make sure you’re in the hiring manager’s sights.
3. Do the work: solve a real problem.
Stand out by solving a real problem the hiring manager is facing. Solving the problem gives the hiring manager a sense of your thought and shows how you’ll tackle real problems.
You can ask the hiring manager to name a problem the new hire would be asked to resolve. Then come up with a plan of attack to resolve the problem on the spot.
If you’ve already met with insiders, you can ask what types of problems they’re facing. This is the most powerful tip because you can bring a written plan that’ll impress the hiring manager!
4. Have an outside reference call the hiring manager.
Internal references are great, but when you have a former manager calling on your behalf and raving about your work, the hiring manager will definitely take notice.
This technique works best when you’re close to your former manager and your departure was cordial, so it’s especially powerful for interns looking for work after graduation.
Ask your reference if they could call your target company and sing your praises. If they’re a little unsure, you can give them this as an example:
“Hi, this is (Hiring Manager’s Name) from (Company). A former employee of mine, (Your Name), asked me to serve as a reference, and I thought I’d give you a call. She was an excellent employee, and I think she would be a great fit for your organization. I was sad to see her leave, but I knew she was destined for bigger and better things. I just wanted to reach out before she’s scooped up by your competition!”
With a reference like this, how could the hiring manger forget your name?
5. Ask good questions.
Asking the right questions can make or break the interview. Good questions show your knowledge of the industry, your competency and your interest.
This is not only the interviewer’s chance to get to know you—it’s your chance to get to know the company. By asking intelligent questions, you can get a glimpse of what it’ll be like working for the company, the challenges you’ll face and, most important, any red flags.
One company I interviewed with was most impressed with the “great questions” I asked during the interview. Wondering what I asked?
The company was selling itself pretty hard and talking up its impressive growth in the past two years. Having experience in a large manufacturing organization, I asked how they’d keep up with production given the current growth. It was a simple question, but I could tell the hiring manager was caught off guard.
While questions about the company’s culture, priorities or workweek are good, the best questions arise from your interview conversation. Listen for opportunities during the interview. Write down your questions or ask on the spot.
Keep a couple backup questions in your notebook in case everything else has been answered earlier.
6. Give the hiring manager a “token.”
The most common token is the thank-you letter, but it’s become commonplace in today’s ultra-competitive job market. Go one step further.
A “token” is a symbol of appreciation. It’s not meant to be of monetary value. It’s meant to show character and to leave a lasting impression.
Say you applied for a sales job, and in your interview, you discussed sales tactics. If you’re a big fan of Neil Rackham, you could send the hiring manager his book “Spin Selling.”
The key is to listen in the interview and remember the points you talked about. Then find an article, a case study, a product or even an introduction to someone in your network that could help the hiring manager.
The token is a superb way to ensure an employer remembers you.
Most candidates will never use these tactics. Use them right, and your name will be tattooed on the hiring manager’s forehead.
Paul Chittenden is the co-founder of JobKaster, a location-based job search app. He is fanatic about personal development and dishes out career advice on the JobKaster Blog. A version of this article first appeared on BrazenCareerist.