Advocating For Yourself in the Hiring Process

How can I advocate for my candidacy during the hiring process without coming across as pushy, desperate, or egotistical? At what stages of the hiring process is this most important?

 

Knowing when and how to advocate for your candidacy during a hiring process is a delicate and nuanced skill, so it’s perfectly natural to feel uncertain about how to best do so. Here are six behaviors we’ve seen work well (and not so well) for candidates at various stages of the hiring process:

  • DO begin to build a case for your fit with both the role and organization as early as the application process, namely in a targeted and customized cover letter. In your letter, provide brief and relevant examples (e.g. a few bullets, not a full page) of your qualifications and accomplishments. Also, use this important opportunity to demonstrate your interest in and connection to the organization’s mission, especially if this is not obvious from your past experience.
  • DO your homework before your first interview to help you prepare to build your case in person. A great preparation exercise can be matching specific examples from your own career to each requirement and qualification outlined in the job description; you’ll then be prepared to cite these examples as needed during the interview. As you may also be asked about failures and/or areas for improvement during the interview, make sure you have a few relevant examples lined up as well. Being prepared to talk about both your strengths and weaknesses will help you position yourself as a self-aware and balanced candidate.
  • DO create a great first impression in your interviews. Offer confident yet unpretentious responses that demonstrate an awareness of what you bring to the table, but that you’re not full of yourself. Additionally, exercise active listening and allow the interviewer to drive the interview; even if there’s certain information you hope to share and that you believe will be impressive, only offer it in response to the appropriate question. Finally, DON’T take the first question (which may be as broad as “Tell me a bit about yourself.”) to launch into a 20 minute soliloquy; remember this is just the introduction of the interview and you’ll have opportunity to demonstrate your value throughout the entire conversation.
  • DO follow-up with a short and sweet thank you note within 48 hours of the interview. The thank you note provides a chance to communicate your excitement and gratitude, as well as advocate for how you see you’re a good fit with the role and organization. You can do so in just a few sentences; DON’T use the thank you note to re-hash your resume or the interview. And whatever you do, DON’T forget to send a thank you note – that’s a surefire way to kill support for your candidacy.
  • DO engage your network to support your candidacy. Particularly after the first interview, if you really think this position could be a good fit, find out if anyone in your network has connections to the hiring organization. If so, kindly ask if they’d be willing to “put in a good word” for you. When making this request, share a few brief points about your interest in and fit with the role. Like the thank you note, keep it short and sweet, providing just enough information to make it easy for your contacts to pass along a succinct endorsement. Whenever possible, try to determine the relationship between your contact and the hiring organization in advance, so that you’re not making requests of people who may not have close relationships or carry any clout with the hiring organization.
  • DO be patient and DON’T over-communicate with the hiring manager. While the search might be a priority for them, other responsibilities and changes in their organization can lead to shifting priorities; a delay in getting back to you does not necessarily mean you are no longer being considered for the role. If you haven’t heard anything a few weeks after your last interview, sending a single check-in email is appropriate, reiterating your interest in the role and asking for an update on the timing of the process. Repeated calls or frequent emails may annoy the hiring manager and work against your candidacy.

Interested in learning more about Commongood Careers' advising services? Contact advising@commongoodcareers.org.