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The importance of networking and how to prepare for casual chats.

Is a casual chat ever casual?

Networking, or using your circle of contacts, is an excellent job search method. In fact, it is the most likely way to get hired. And surprisingly it’s the “loose ties” that are likely to be more effective.

So, I ALWAYS recommend that time and effort is spent on networking or connecting and having those conversations.

Think about it from an employers’ point of view. They want to fill a position quickly and with the best person for the job. Spending time and money advertising, engaging recruiters, reviewing endless CVs, deciding who to shortlist from those

CVs and then trying to pick the best candidate from a list of strangers that they speak to twice over 2 rounds of interview is frankly daunting (and rife with risk!).

Come on, we all know someone who does a good interview, but does not do a good job!

So, introductions, recommendations and bounty schemes are methods that employers like to use. If someone can be personally recommended for an opportunity, that’s golden.

Sometimes it’s part of the recruitment process and simply leapfrogs the candidate’s CV into the process for an advertised role.

But other times, the opportunity at hand might be a bit more vague. There might not be an advertised role to look at or prepare interview-type answers for. The conversation might be more exploratory.

So, one of your networking contacts has mentioned your name in a conversation about possibilities. Something has piqued the interest of the employer enough to ask you to come in for a chat.

Do you just rock up and take it as it comes?

Or can you prepare for these types of chats?

First impressions count.

You don’t know what’s going on in the head of the employer, but certain wheels are turning, and they might be considering things that your friend who introduced you doesn’t know about yet. They are definitely considering some moves (expansion, merger, entering a new market etc). Don’t blow what might be a great opportunity by turning up late, untidy or giving off a “couldn’t care less” vibe. Treat it somewhat like an interview – like it or not you are still being judged for whatever opportunity is in the head of the employer. So, make a good first impression, including body language and likability.

Listen carefully and be respectful of what you hear.

The employer may well articulate some or all of their plans, like how they might see you fitting in, or what they want. Listening carefully to this information will help you form an impression of whether it’s something you want. And treat this information with respect – running off and blabbing everything to your contact will not look good and could cause rifts in the existing team.

Have your pitch prepared.

Here’s is where you can prepare something. Have a short statement about your career history to date, where you’re at, what you’re looking for and what value you think you can bring to this company. So, if they ask “tell me about yourself” you have something to say.

Do your research

Find out all that you can about the company and demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.

Ask pertinent questions

Asking questions can show your interest. However, in the case where the parameters of the opportunity itself may not be clear, or the employer is themselves still figuring it out, questions can help to focus their mind on what they are looking for, and the answers can help you determine if this is something you are interested in.

Considering agreeing on some follow up

Ending the meeting with a course of action and some timeframes could be a good move. Perhaps asking the employer to put a job description together for you to review or agreeing to have a follow up call or meeting in a couple of weeks’ time, or even putting together a proposal yourself (like writing your own job description). Again, this will help to clarify what the opportunity is about, so there’s no confusion. Follow up when you say you’re going to follow up. Obviously thank them for the time taken to talk to you and once again, be careful with any information you have gleaned during this process.

And good luck! Great opportunities can come from these chats.

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