January 22 2008: 4:03 PM EST
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How to get hired by a 'Best' company

Even during economic downturns, Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For are constantly scouting for talent. Here's how to get your foot in the door.

By Anne Fisher, senior writer

(Fortune Magazine) -- It helps to know someone. Almost all of the 100 Best rely heavily on employee referrals. Principal Financial Group and many others get about 40% of their new hires this way. At Wegmans it's a family thing: About one in five employees is related to at least one other staffer.

Play up volunteer work on your résumé. These companies are enthusiastic about community outreach, and they prefer to hire people who are too.

Get ready to interview and interview... and interview. The process varies wildly from one company to another, but you could be facing a series of 12 to 15 one-on-one chats or one long interview with a panel of up to 50 current employees.

Unleash your inner storyteller. By far the most popular interview style is what's known as behavioral, meaning that you will be asked to describe troublesome situations in past jobs and tell exactly how you handled them.

Do creative research. A proven way to stand out from the hordes of other candidates is to know more about the place and the industry than your rivals. A Google search won't do it. Says Jay Jones, recruiting manager at Alcon Laboratories: "Detailed research, including talking to our customers, is so rare it will almost guarantee you get hired."

No lone rangers need apply. By and large, the 100 Best want team players. "I actually count the number of times a candidate says 'I' in an interview," says Adobe's recruiting director Jeff Vijungco. "We'd much rather hear 'we.'"

If you've moved around a lot, be ready to explain why. A checkered past won't disqualify you, but most of these companies are looking for people who want to build a career over the long haul. Be persuasive about why you're ready to settle down here.

Be open to learning new things. Showing passion is a must, and most of the 100 Best pride themselves on creating "learning environments," so talk about the skills you'd like to acquire or polish. A turnoff: declaring that you're already the best at what you do.

If at first you don't succeed, don't give up. Almost every Best Company keeps track of what FedEx calls "silver medalists" - people who barely missed getting hired - and alerts them to new openings. If possible, register on the company's website. Four Seasons, for one, has hired people seven or eight years after an initial meeting.

Don't coast on their reputation. One final tip: Don't apply for a job just because the company is on our list. In the words of Mike Gallagher, HR director at SAS Institute, "We know we have a reputation as a great place to work. But if the reason you want to work here is that you want subsidized day care or a great gym, you won't last." Or, for that matter, make it through the first round of interviews.  To top of page