Suppose you hit a triple and Susannah says she would be happy to refer you to two of her friends: Rafael and Elaine. The transition to the follow-up steps will flow from the conversation. You might say, “Susannah, I really appreciate the referrals. May I have Rafael and Elaine’s email addresses, phone numbers, companies, and titles?” After receiving that information, you might ask, “Would you mind making initial introductions with Rafael and Elaine so they know to expect me?”
Susannah will either respond “Yes” or “No.” If she responds, “No,” then it’s probably because she is overloaded with a project or will be out of the office. You might say, in that case, “May I call Rafael and Elaine?” Undoubtedly, Susannah will not have a problem with that and you can call them immediately.
If, on the other hand, she responds, “Yes,” then you have the answer you want, but you don’t know the time frame. The vice president of sales inside of you will be pushing you to reach an agreement as to when you’ll be able to call Rafael and Elaine (you don’t want to call Susannah five to seven times again).) You might say, “Today is Tuesday; would it be reasonable for me to call each of them by next Tuesday?” If Susannah concurs, you have reached an agreement and you do not have to call her back in a week (win-win!)
Suppose, instead of volunteering Rafael and Elaine, Susannah doesn’t say anything. Now the vice president of sales inside your head will be whispering, “Do something.” You might say, “Now that we’ve had an opportunity to discuss these firms, is there anyone you can recommend I meet?” She may not be able to think of anyone at the moment. You have the option of accepting that, thinking you came in vain, and moving on.
Your alternative is to understand that Susannah likes you (you’ll be able to feel that,) so you can consider her an additional network salesperson in your sales force, and you don’t have to give up. You might say, “I don’t want to put you on the spot. May I call you in a week to see if you’ve thought of anyone I should meet?” You’d be surprised at how often that is successful.
Assuming you impressed Susannah and she thinks she may have some future referrals for you, she may ask for copies of your résumé. Give her as many as she wants and ask her if she would let you know when she gives a résumé to someone so you can follow up with that person. Although you ask Susannah to contact you, it is highly unlikely she will, so it will become your responsibility to check on any future contacts during the four-week follow-up call.
As Susannah is concluding the meeting, you have a few final responsibilities. You might say, “I want to thank you for the time you spent with me today and for the referrals. Would you mind if I called you in about four weeks to let you know about my meetings with them?”
Then, as a final note, you could ask Susannah to refer you if she hears of a position that suits your background and competencies. You could say, “If you hear of someone who needs a finance person with excellent skills, who partners extremely well with colleagues, and who is a problem solver, I’d appreciate it if you would refer me. This has been a great meeting. Thanks again for your time.” You underscore your three competencies at the end since Susannah will only be able to remember three or four things about you in short-term memory.
In summary, quality contacts that can connect you more closely or directly to potential bosses are the critical component of the network interview. It is imperative for the network meeting to be face-to-face, whenever possible, because Susannah needs to gain a total sense of you, and not just a snapshot of your education and experience as found on your résumé.
She will not join your network sales force and refer you to her friends and colleagues if there is any chance she will be embarrassed by you. She will be particularly impressed if you come to the meeting totally organized, with a written agenda, your targeted network companies listed, and at least 10 résumés. Finally, a network meeting is aimed at securing your next position. If, at any point, Susannah says, “I really like your background; could you be interested in working here?” the answer is, “Absolutely,” and the network meeting is over, but the job interview begins.