4 Effective Strategies For Securing A Job Interview

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.54.16 AMAlthough my calculating competence has always been below average, I can say with certainty that I’ve been through at least 13 hours of internship/job interviews within the last four years alone.

Those 13 hours, while occasionally pleasant, were oftentimes terrifying. I still look back on the many times I stumbled through over-rehearsed reasons for why “I want to work here.” I wonder how the hell I decided to wear see-through, wide-leg chiffon hot pink pants to a rather formal interview. I can still taste the salty sweat that pooled above my upper lip while nervously pretending to read the reception-area’s magazines. And I’ll never forgot the few times I arrived 15 minutes early, only to make a stop into the women’s bathroom to strike a “Power Pose” in the stall before heading into the interview.

And yes, you could guess that I didn’t nail all those interviews (although I will say I nailed about 75% of them!), but one thing I did succeed in was my method in landing them.

While I reminisce on my graduation from college just a year ago, my heart sinks for those graduates now about to embark on the dreaded job hunt. While they may have an idea of the job they want, or even the company they’d like to work for, strategies on getting an interview with the right person are not really taught in school. Do yourselves a favor and follow my lead, to ensure that — if you aren’t going to pass the interview with flying colors — you will at least get your foot in the door, and give yourself a chance.

1. While it is important to search for open positions on large job search engines, it’s even more vital that you apply for jobs even before they become open. Pick a company that you’re interested in working for, and guess who would be in charge of hiring (but not the top person) by researching employees’ titles within the company. (And make sure that you are logged out of LinkedIn/on incognito session, too, if you’re looking through that, because it can often show people who’s been looking at their page, and you don’t want them to know you’ve looked through an entire company department at once.)

I landed most of my internship interviews by emailing my resume to editorial assistants — not their bosses — who I assumed were in charge of hiring interns, and most of the time, I would hear back from them that day!

2. Once you’ve decided who to email within the company (I often emailed multiple people on an editorial staff), you need to perform a trial and error run to discover their email address. Let’s say we’re trying to email Chelsea Fagan, founder of TheFinancialDiet.com. We can guess the host server would be @thefinancialdiet.com. Figuring out the first part of her address might be trickier. It could be Chelsea.fagan@thefinancialdiet.com,chelseafagan@thefinancialdiet.com, or cfagan@thefinancialdiet.com. It turns out, it’s actually Chelsea@thefinancialdiet.com! It’s all about playing around with the address and jumping for joy when the email doesn’t bounce back to you.

3. What should you include in the email? Well, I usually liked to say my name, where I went to school, my major and that I was looking for a full time position. I would tell the recipient about my previous internships and would also include a few links (not too many, only the best ones, and no attachments) to some of the pieces I had written.

I made sure to provide them with the information that would explain why they would want me, instead of me wanting to work for them, showing my value and assets up-front. I would usually ask that if they know of any positions currently open or opening up in the near future within their company/magazine, and/or if they could please pass along my attached resume to the appropriate contact.

4. If the first email doesn’t stick, you can try again with another person who seems similarly positioned to the first within the company. You may think it looks desperate, but most of the time the second person will not be aware of the first, and may simply be more receptive to what you’re asking them! A key to my landing interviews has often been through this kind of trial-and-error, where I get to the right person. Looking back, I think I had sent out more than 50 of these emails to different places, sometimes with responses, many times without. The internships and (now) job that I secured were worth every single minute of my time.

After I was handed my diploma on a hot May afternoon, six months passed before I secured a full-time editorial position. Those long months were flooded with tears and invaded with many moments of self-doubt. “How to become a makeup artist” and “qualifications for private investigators” took up most of my Google search history, and there were times that I second-guessed my passion for writing.

But this transition will be the one time you cannot forget, deny or doubt what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. You cannot allow a bit of rejection to dissuade you, or convince you that it’s too hard to get in the door for the interview you want, even if it seems you can’t get past the cold-call email stage. The truth is, no one is going to hand your dream job—they want to see you fight for it.

Daley is an editorial assistant living in NYC. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Great tips!

    I’d be careful with #2 though. Sometimes really high up people get Dave@Coolwebsite.com, while slightly lower level people get D.Hobbs@coolwebsite.com. Or sometimes people who have been with the company longer have different email structures than newer hires. (Problematic if there are multiple Daves and you’re just guessing). I’d make sure you’re pretty confident about who your email is going to before you send.

    Google is your friend here. If you search for “@thefinancialdiet.com”, the third result tells you it’s “Chelsea@thefinancialdiet.com”. If you’re looking for Lauren, try the same structure (lauren@thefinancialdiet.com), Google it, and make sure it belongs to her and not a different Lauren at the same company.

    Just an extra suggestion!

  • Irisgeist

    Good ideas!

    I would also recommend to keep an eye open for networking events corresponding to the industry you are attracted to. Coming from the biotech R&D side, while I was at the final year of my PhD it was thanks to these kind of events (mainly scientific symposia and meetings) that I got to meet people who could offer me a good insight into the industry, and tips about companies that were looking for candidates with my profile or about people who I could contact. Add the contacts that you meet through these events in LinkedIn (or ResearchGate if you are in science) the next day, and don’t forget to follow up. My experience is that it was less invasive to write an email with the approach “Prof. Y or Dr. X recommended me to contact you”, or “I had the chance to listen to your presentation at X meeting”, than coming as a complete outsider.

  • Kelly

    These are super smart—I like how they provide ways to get the position you *want*, not the positions that happen to be available/hiring when you’re looking. Thanks for the advice!