Let’s assume that you’ve taken the first step in your job search by preparing and sending in a winning resume and cover letter to the jobs that meet your search criteria. Now, let’s take it one step further and address that all important job interview. As with the resume and cover letter, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and this meet-and-greet session could make or break the job offer for your.
No matter how old the candidate or how much experience he or she possesses, if you show up on a job interview late, ill prepared, or dressed inappropriately, you could be sealing your own fate. Your credentials may look impressive on paper, but if you arrive for a job interview looking like the embodiment of Casual Friday, chances are you will not be receiving a call back for that new position. It may sound old fashioned, but a neat, professional appearance is always apropos for a job interview. Make sure that your shoes are not scuffed, your nails are clean or polished, your goatee is trimmed, your bangs are not covering your eyes, and your outfit has seen a dry cleaner recently.
Rehearse with a friend, relative, or co-worker a day or two before the interview to sharpen your communication skills. Practice a few devil’s advocate questions to prepare positive responses regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare for the standard, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” questions, as well as for the more pointed, “Why do you want this position?” Research information about the company/position before the interview so that you can address these questions intelligently.
I always suggest to job seekers that they display an attitude of “humble egotism”. Psyche yourself up into creating the impression that “I’m great, I know I’m great, but I know I have more to learn” and “I want this job more than anything else in the world and if I don’t get a job offer, I’m just going to lay down and die” and show your enthusiasm, dedication, and ambition through your words and body language. If you come in with an attitude of “show me why I should work for this company” and halfway through the interview you think you might want to, it’s too late. The most important goal of the job interview is to get a job offer. If you get an offer, then you can decide if you want to take it. If you don’t get an offer, there is nothing to decide. You can always think it over and turn it down later, but the name of the game is to get that job offer above all other candidates!
Please arrive on time, if not a few minutes early, for your interview. We know that traffic and delays occur but the professional interview candidate anticipates for such events and arrives composed and prepared, not out of breath and apologizing. Walk tall, smile, make eye contact, and present a firm handshake — this goes for men and women.
In addition to your charming, well-coifed self, remember to bring at least two flat copies of your resume to the interview. Job seekers have told me numerous times of sitting down to the interview and getting the feeling that the interviewer has never seen their resume or at least does not remember it. Feel free to offer another copy of the resume to the interviewer so that you can address questions and point out your best achievements with the two of you on the same page, as it were.
Another piece of advice along this same vein is to try to keep the interview on target and focused on you. I can’t tell you how many interviews are conducted by people who are just not good at interviewing. Lack of experience, lack of interest, over-work, and unexpected scheduling problems are a few of the reasons why the interviewer may not know his rear from his elbow and the poor job search candidate has to suffer the consequences!
Answer questions clearly and concisely. Don’t get long winded or meander into personal details that are just not appropriate to discuss. A confident, focused professional will make a better impression than a candidate who sits back and lets the interviewer throw out random questions. Be prepared to sell yourself in person by highlighting your strengths, your accomplishments on your present or previous jobs, and your eagerness to work for this potential employer. If there are unrelated jobs or gaps on your resume which the interviewer asks you about, be truthful and to the point. No need to apologize for anything, just accentuate the positive, relevant information instead.
Try not to fidget in your chair, pick at your cuticles, hum, chew gum, tap your foot or do anything else that might give the impression that you are a nervous, neurotic mess. If the interviewer asks an open-ended question, “How do you feel about status reports?” try to narrow down the focus by asking a more specific question in return, “Would you like to know how I handle deadlines and maintain an organized data base?” If salary is discussed during the interview, don’t bring up ancillary questions about benefits, personal days, or vacation time. An interview is not the appropriate place to haggle over money — it’s best to conduct salary negotiations only when you actually get the job offer.
When the job interview is concluded, stand up and extend your hand, and thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration of you as a qualified candidate for this position. Leave gracefully — you may ask when the decision is anticipated but don’t offer to call back or give your cell phone and pager numbers — just walk out as confidently as you entered.
I wish you all the best of luck!
For a free critique/price quote, email Career Resumes® at Peter@career-resumes.com.
Peter Newfield is President of Career-Resumes.com®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for BlueSteps.com, ExecutiveRegistry.com, NETSHARE.com, DirectEmployer.com and the former Resume Expert for Monster.com, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: www.career-resumes.com