So, it’s the day of the interview. Emotions and fear are battling one another for control. Fear lurks under self-assurance. Nervousness and doubt eat away at your confidence. As you self-destruct, all chances for a new job go out the window. Sound familiar? How many times have you been on the losing side of an interview? In today’s tough business climate and economic slowdown, finding the right job is more critical than ever. Demanding schedules and obligations limit the number of opportunities we can research and that means that we have to make every interview count. To gain a competitive advantage, you must practice a few basic skills.
Create a good resume
Start with a well-crafted, one to two page, chronologically, organized resume. Have a brief but detailed summary of your duties and responsibilities for each position held. Include job title, company name and specific months and years of employment. Employers want to know how your experience can add value so list 1 to 3 quantifiable accomplishments for each position.
Craft an elevator pitch
Once your resume is complete, start practicing. Most interviews start with a “tell me about yourself” question so create a well-crafted 30 to 45 second speech that summarizes who you are, your strengths and why you are interested in the opportunity. This is your personal brand statement so be creative and use your resume as a guide.
Do your homework
Summarize your career in a clear and logical manner explaining how well they relate to the job in question. Convey your strengths with confidence and enthusiasm and explain how you will add value to the team, company and its customers. Bring work samples or create a run-down of previous projects and prepare to explain how you can bring solutions to the company.
Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the company. Review profiles on LinkedIn, visit competitor websites and prepare to give your impressions of the organization. The extra research will build your confidence and it will help you ask more insightful questions.
Remember the basics
Dress to impress, arrive early, bring several copies of your resume and make sure you turn off your cell phone. Speak clearly, show good posture and answer all questions thoroughly. Avoid answering questions with a simple yes or no response. Ask smart questions, and remember, an interview is a two way street. The interviewer needs to question you to assess your skills, and you must determine whether the company offers the kind of growth and advancement you are seeking. Ask the employer to describe the position early in the interview process. This strategy will determine if the positon is a good fit for your skills, and it will give you the opportunity to describe how you are as a good match for the job.
Think long term
Avoid questions that are not immediately relevant to the duties of the job such as salary, vacation and benefits. These questions are often viewed as inappropriate and a big turn off in the first meeting. Instead, focus on strategic questions that will help you determine what challenges or gaps the organizations is looking to solve. Once the interview concludes, ask the employer if they have any concerns about your background or about your ability to perform the job. Posing the question provides an opportunity to overcome any negative first impressions and it allows you to address any misconceptions about your skills.
Finally, if you are interested in the position, ask for the job. Surprisingly, many applicants leave the interview without ever expressing their interest. For example, you may want to say something like: “I am interested in what I have learned so far, and I would like to proceed to the next step.” Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an offer the day of the interview. In most cases, it is standard procedure to go through several interviews before an offer is extended.
Regardless of the outcome, send a thank you note that same day and follow-up with a phone call to reiterate your interest within three business days. Keep in mind that preparation improves your chances of success. Often, the difference between one candidate and the next is preparation. Your resume may secure the interview, but it’s your ability to convey your knowledge, skills and abilities that will land you the job.
About the Author
Joe Flores, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, - SHRM-CP Instructor - is a Director of Talent Acquisition at Service Corporation International, North America's leading provider of deathcare products and services, where he provides strategic operational leadership for corporate and sales recruiting programs. Mr. Flores holds a M.A. in history and a B.A. in special education from the University of Houston.