Can’t Get an Interview? Set up a Meeting.

Coffee Shop

September is right around the corner – you’ve been out there looking for a job all summer (or maybe even longer) only to be met with a barren wasteland or fully-staffed companies and limited opportunities. Companies are cutting the fat and streamlining work to the fewest number of people as possible these days – which means working longer hours and Outlook calenders full of meetings and appointments. If an HR rep is barely coming up for air, how are you supposed to expect them to schedule an hour or two of their day for an interview with you.

There are a million people out there giving job and career advice  – telling us how to nail an interview and find a job we love. But what if getting the actual interview is the problem? We’re so concerned with ‘getting the job’ that sometimes we fail to realize that the people who would be hiring us are human beings – people who need their morning coffee, a tasty lunch, or a couple happy-hour beers to sustain. That’s where you come in. Maybe you can’t land an interview – but an ‘informational’ meeting might be much more realistic and even more beneficial.

Informal is the way to go – and let’s people see the ‘real’ you.

Interviews are one big show – you prepare, you review the script, you practice your lines, and finally the spotlight shines down on you. As I’m sure we all can attest, it’s a lot of pressure, it’s a grueling process, and often-times, it doesn’t provide people with a clear picture of what you’re like between the hash-marks (nine to five). You can walk into an interview with confidence and an ease of mind, but it’s still going to feel a little manufactured and unnatural. Setting up a lunch meeting at a local cafe get’s both parties on neutral ground and balances the ‘comfort playing field’.

Everyone loves coffee, or beer, or at least water.

There’s nothing worse than sipping on day-old office brew while you run down the list of your greatest weaknesses and biggest accomplishments – Having a Carmel Macchiato or a frosty pint of Fat Tire in hand starts things off on a good note and sets the mood for an enjoyable (and productive) introductory meeting. Just make sure you let them order first before you make an ass of yourself and order a double Jack and Coke and a couple sidecars of Jager. Coming across as an afternoon alcoholic is never the first impression you want to make.

Don’t sell yourself, ask about them.

Remember, this isn’t an interview – you don’t need to tell them why your the best candidate for a position that doesn’t even exist. Come prepared with questions but let the person your meeting talk about themselves. Showing a genuine interest in a person and the work they do is a form a flattery. Most of us, including myself, would be happy to meet with anyone who admired (or at least pretended to admire) the work we do and wanted to pick our brain. Focus on them and save ‘selling yourself’ for the actual interview.

Networking (offline) is key.

Getting your foot in the door is half the battle. While landing an interview might be tricky, a trip to the local pub should be much easier to score. We talk so much about the power of social networking and using tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to further our personal brand – but truth be told, nothing replaces a live, face to face meeting. A potential employer being able to put a face with your name can be invaluable to you over the long haul. When something does open up, they’ll remember your fantastic rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ at the karaoke bar that one Tuesday night a few months ago.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The best part? There’s basically nothing bad that can come from all this – you get to meet and speak with a person you admire or respect, put your own name out there, and enjoy a (hopefully) good meal. So the question is, “What are you waiting for?” If you’re finding that you can’t schedule an interview, take a different approach and start setting up meetings today.