Fortune recently came out with its annual list of “100 Best Companies to Work For,” based on employee survey responses. Seeing lists such as these is informative because it gives us an opportunity to learn more about the companies in terms of their growth, demographics, and culture. We also get to understand the reasons behind why they made a top company list such as Fortune’s, which can vary from strong company values, high wages, job flexibility, and enticing benefits, just to name a few. These are all things that attract talent and why professionals seek out jobs at companies such as these. Who wouldn’t want a job at one of the best companies to work for?
I’m fortunate enough to work at Salesforce (#2 on the list in 2021), where I’ve seen firsthand the perks of working at a top company. While no company is perfect, time and time again, Salesforce impresses me with its vision, its corporate mission, and prioritization of giving back, as well as its ability to foster tough but crucial conversations. Since my time at Salesforce, I’ve seen the company rise through the ranks of the Fortune 500, Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work, Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and LinkedIn’s Top Companies. Through these lists, the awareness of the company and its culture has grown. With that has come friends, previous co-workers, acquaintances, and even total strangers reaching out to ask about my experience or pick my brain on how to get a job at Salesforce.
Being the career advocate that I am, I wish I could take every opportunity to speak individually to each person who contacts me. Given my time is limited, I decided to share my best advice all in one post on how to stand out and land a job at the top company. It’s a lengthy post, but I promise it’s worth it!
Be Clear in Your Intentions
You might be applying to a top company because you love the brand and what it stands for or you’ve heard positive sentiment about their culture. Or it could be because you know it’s a top company based on the lists they’ve been on! Whatever the case, make sure your values and interests align with the company before you begin applying for jobs.
You should also have a clear idea of what you want to do at the company and what roles you’re best suited for based on your qualifications. I once had a contact of mine apply for 10+ roles at my company. This is not a recommended strategy, as it shows desperation and a lack of clarity. Instead, zero in on the roles you’re most interested in and qualified for and apply for no more than three in a given timeframe.
Cultivate Your Personal Brand
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how important your personal brand is. It becomes even more so when you’re hoping to land a job at a top company to help you stand out from others. Your personal brand is who you are as your most authentic self, inclusive of your strengths, capabilities, morals, and values and how you present that in everyday life. Your personal brand also goes beyond just projecting who you are – it’s also about managing perceptions. One way to do this and boost your thought leadership (which will also give you visibility) is by using the power of LinkedIn. If you’re not already taking advantage of the social platform, now is a good time to start! (Read how to get your profile in tip-top shape here too).
If you’re interested in learning more about building and boosting your personal brand, check out this post. You can also download this worksheet to help you map out your strengths, master your pitch, and grow your brand online.
Use Your Connections
I know some people cringe at the thought of networking, but it’s key to landing a job at a top company. The saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has never been more true. Research has shown that 85% of jobs are filled via networking. If there’s anything you take away from this post, it’s that. So how do you get started in finding and reaching out to people at the company you’re interested in?
- Peruse your network – First, understand if you know anyone personally that works at the company you’re interested in. If you don’t, ask family and friends if they know anyone at the company. Search LinkedIn to identify if anyone inside or outside of your Connections works there (you can do this by typing in the company into the LinkedIn search bar).
- Thoughtfully reach out – When you’ve identified potential people you can reach out to, always try to get an introduction first, especially if you don’t know them personally. Use your connections to your advantage! Regardless of whether you know the person or not, be thoughtful in your approach. Write a personal message, show interest in their career and who they are, and then make the request for a short discussion with them.
- Leverage informational interviews – Informational interviews are an organic and impactful way to build relationships. Whether it’s a phone call or in-person, it gives you a chance to understand that person’s role, their career trajectory, and their experience at the company to determine if it’s a good fit for you. Do your research on the person you’re meeting with and come to the discussion with set questions in mind you want to ask. Doing so will maximize the time you have and showcase your professionalism. Don’t forget to have paper and pen ready to take notes! Come prepared with what you hope to get out of the discussion. Don’t start out by asking for a referral (if that’s your goal). The real reason you should make time for informational interviews is that you actually want to get to know people. Engage in a genuinely reciprocal conversation. Thank the person for any help they’re able to provide. Even if they can’t help right now, the connection may be useful later.
- Ask for a referral (within reason) – Once you’ve spoken and/or established a relationship with a person who works at the company you’re vying for and you’re confident in your qualifications, then you can ask for a referral. Know that asking for a referral is asking a lot of someone. It takes time out of their day to do so and they’re attaching their name with your referral. Be extra gracious if someone agrees to do this for you! One way you can do this is by making it easy on the referrer. Provide them with the referral text of why you’re a good fit for the role (written in the 3rd person) so they can easily copy/paste that with the referral. If you’re looking for more guidance on this topic, this article shares helpful ways you can ask for a referral (with templates included).
Revamp Your Resume
When you’re getting your resume to apply for the jobs that you’ve narrowed down, it’s crucial that you tailor your resume for each individual role. For example, if you’re applying for an industry-specific role, home in on your experience related to that industry. Or, if you’re applying to a tech company, highlight your experience working with their technology products.
Pepper in keywords from the job description into your resume and focus on your experience that would benefit the role so recruiters can quickly identify and validate your qualifications. Don’t forget to call attention to your unique value and really answer the question of why you? What makes you stand out and best suited for the role? Emphasize the value that you bring by quantifying your impact. Lean into outcomes of the work you’ve done and contributed to.
One tip is to include certifications and courses you’ve taken that are specific to the company that you’re applying to. For example, companies like Salesforce and Google have a number of available certifications and showcasing that you’ve acquired a credential such as that is going to help set you apart.
Go the Extra Mile
When looking to get hired at a top company, you need to be prepared to put in the work. Here are some of those ways:
- Write a cover letter – Even when a cover letter is not required, if you want to show you’re serious and dedicated, write one! Personalize your cover letter and show that you’ve done your homework, speaking to the company’s core values, mission, or whatever draws you to the company. This is a good opportunity once again to use keywords of the job description to highlight your qualifications. A recommendation I give my clients is to use the power of story-telling your cover letter to draw the recruiter and hiring manager in as to why the role is suited for you. Share a story – it will be a lot more memorable!
- Take relevant certifications and coursework – Work to get relevant certifications specific to the company you’re applying for or take courses that are offered by the company that you can put on your resume and LinkedIn. Below are a few examples:
- Gain experience in your dream job – Recruiters are going to want to see that you’ve taken the extra step to obtain experience in the role you’re applying for, especially if you don’t have anything to show for it in your previous roles. Ways to do this are by taking on stretch assignments at your current job, volunteering, or doing part-time or freelance work. This can also be highlighted through taking relevant certifications or coursework.
Thoughtfully Prepare for Your Interviews (And What Comes Next)
If you get the opportunity for an interview, it goes without saying that preparation makes all the difference! Do your research and understand the company’s mission, core values, offerings, and how they work with customers. Review recent press, blog posts, and social media handles to get a sense of what is happening with the company. During the interview, focus on story-telling using the CAR (Challenge – Action – Result) method, where you explain a challenge, the action you took, and the result of your work. After the interview, always, always, always send individual and customized thank you emails to each person you spoke with.
You can find more information when it comes to how to effectively prepare for your interview and follow-up in this ultimate job seeker resource guide.
Know (and Own) Who You Are
Throughout the entire job search and interview process, it’s important to have clarity and confidence in who you are. Knowing your personality type, working style, and the type of environment you thrive in (highly recommend Myers Briggs Personality Test, 16 Personalities, or Enneagram) will provide you that awareness and help you to communicate your strengths and what you’re ultimately looking for in a role and company. Being clear in the value you bring to an organization and why you want to work for your dream company will help you better position yourself for opportunities. When you are able to thoughtfully communicate your unique value proposition and how you can contribute to the team/company’s goals, you will stand out as a candidate.
You’ve heard the saying, “just be yourself,” and it’s true. When you are your authentic self and showing up as you are in the job seeking process, you’re going to find you develop deeper connections with others. Show your personality and express what your passions are. Companies of course are looking for candidates that are suited for the role from an experience perspective, but they also want to ensure you’re a fit for their culture. You got this!
Additional Top Company Resources:
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.