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A-Ha Moments

Building Instant Social Capital

Written by: Bill Sherman on Thursday, 4 June 2009, 3:19 PM

My friend Mark Seketa just shared an excellent example of building instant social capital during a job interview. Here’s his story.

Mark works in the world of IT and databases. On Friday, his recruiter called him. “Mark, I need you to go to an interview right now. I know it’s short notice. The client just called and asked you to meet him. He doesn’t care how you’re dressed.”

Mark asked, “are you sure?” The recruiter replied, “I’m positive. He wants to meet with you immediately.” Mark hung up the phone and pulled himself together for the interview. The phone rang again, it was the prospective employer. “Mark, don’t worry about getting in a suit–can you meet with me in 30 minutes?”

The two met for alunch, and the employer explained that he’d lost a key employee. He had a deadline coming due in just a couple of weeks. The employer was desperate and needed someone immediately–ideally this afternoon. Mark listened to the work and recognized that he wasn’t the right person for the job. Here’s what Mark said.”

“I’d love to tell you that I’m your guy. I would love to start work after lunch. However, I’m not your guy. I know X and you need someone who know Y. It would take me six weeks to get up-to-speed on the areas you need. However, I do know the person you need. Give me a moment.”

Mark pulls out his mobile and makes a call to a past colleague. Mark knows she’s looking for work also. He explains the need and then hands the phone over to the prospective employer. They schedule a meeting for an hour later. The prospective employer exhales and returns the phone.

Then, the magic happens. The prospective employer pulls out his phone and makes a couple of calls. He explains that he’s just met a great guy who really knows X area of databases. Within just five minutes, the prospective employer has lined-up two interviews for Mark with different companies.

Kudos to both Mark and the prospective employer. Mark created instant social capital by conneting the prospective employer with a friend who had the exact skills required for the job. The prospective employer recognized the opportunity to reciprocate and made equally-valuable connections.

The job interview could have produced an ill-fitting hiring decision. Instead, both left the meeting with opportunities more closely aligned to their needs and their skills.

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