You’ve submitted your cover letter and resume and received an invitation to interview for that job you really want. Next, you need to nail the job interview to get the job offer. Here are some job interviewing tips that will help you succeed.
Prepare Your Answers to Common Interview Questions
Think about the questions the interviewer will likely ask (“where do you see yourself in 3–5 years?” is common) and prepare your responses. If you were the hiring manager, what would you ask? Compose responses that are concise, and focus on specific examples and achievements. It’s best not to memorize your answers, nor should you have a sheet of paper to read from. Instead, respond with an engaging story that you can tell during the interview. A short story that conveys your skills, talents and work ethic can help paint a mental picture to the interviewers much better than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
Dress for Success
Dress as professionally as possible while keeping the organization and its culture in mind. If the organization typically dresses in jeans and sweatshirts, a three piece suite may be overkill and send the message you don’t fit in. The opposite is true — showing up in jeans with a dress shirt in a professional environment may convey nonconformity. However, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Wear clothes that fit and are clean and pressed, and minimize accessories and jewelry. I recommend doing some research on the company attire before you even apply. Do your best not to smoke or eat immediately before the interview. If you do eat, stay away from offensive foods like onions or garlic.
Be Punctual and Prepared for the Interview
This is important — plan on arriving 15 minutes before the scheduled start of your interview. Being early will allow you to get settled and observe the workplace dynamics. Being late for your interview will almost certainly kill your chances of being hired. Afterall, if you can’t be on time for your interview, what will it be like if you’re hired? I strongly recommend mapping out your route (do a test run if you can) to the exact location of your interview — right down to the correct building, lobby or meeting area. You want to avoid getting lost and being late at all costs.
Before the interview, conduct research on the company by reviewing its website, internet articles written about it, and other published materials. Read background information about your interviewer if you know who that person will be. It is highly likely that the interviewers will ask you questions pertaining to the company. Being prepared and well informed will improve your chances of being hired. Over the years, I have been amazed how often applicants didn’t even take the time to review the company website. Bring extra copies of your resume and reference list, and organize your portfolio or samples of work if you have them.
Make a Good First Impression
Be polite and warmly greet everyone you meet, whether it’s the receptionist or the hiring manager. Some employers observe how you interact with staff members and will be turned off if you’re rude to the company’s current employees. I’ve even read examples of companies conducting their interviews in restaurants to examine how the applicant treats the servers. You’ll be working with other people and managers don’t enjoy employee conflict or drama so treat everyone with respect and dignity. Stand, smile, make eye contact and offer a firm handshake when greeting your interviewer. This initial gesture is key to demonstrating your confidence (not arrogance) and enthusiasm for the opportunity.
Respond truthfully to all interview question while being authentic and upbeat. Your goal is to provide concise responses that showcase your skills and experience. Be sure to provide solid examples of solutions and accomplishments. If possible, craft your responses so they fit with the job and employer. Avoid saying anything negative about a previous or current employer, manager or co-worker.
I can’t speak for all employers, but for me, I’ve always hired based on the applicant’s personality and how well I felt they would fit within the culture. Skills can be taught, but traits and character are hard-wired.
Ask Insightful Questions
Studies show that hiring managers determine an applicant’s interest in the job by whether or not they ask questions. Before the day of your interview, think about questions to ask using the research you’ve done. Because the interviewer may share information that answers some of your questions during the interview, it’s important to have several questions prepared. The questions you ask should convey your interest in the company and your desire to grow and succeed.
Close the Deal
As the interview comes to a close, ask about any next steps in the hiring process and when the hiring manager expects to make a decision. Thank each person who interviewed you as you leave, and follow up with at least an email sent that same day.
Pro tip: I would highly recommend preparing a handwritten card (for each interview) ahead of time, leaving space to customize, and carry them with you. Once your interview is complete, you can fill in names and some points from the interview and drop them into the mail once you leave. This one action makes a big difference and many other applicants don’t even bother with a follow up email.
The most qualified applicant isn’t always the person who gets the job. Usually, the successful candidate is the one most prepared for the interview and who best answers the questions to showcase his or her abilities and fit with the job and company. Remember the tips above to help you become the winning candidate for that position you really want.
Your cover letter is your chance to showcase how your skills and achievements make you the best applicant for a job. Keep in mind the goal of your cover letter (packaged with your resume) is to get an interview with the hiring manager. Your cover letter will compete with many other applicants and each letter has only a few seconds to make a good impression. If you struggle with writing an effective cover letter, you’re not alone. Most job seekers find cover letter writing challenging.
Here are six tips to help you write the perfect cover letter.
Use an easy-to-read font
Make sure you use an easy-to-read font for both your resume and cover letter. Your cover letter is so much more about content and purpose than design. You are communicating with another human being who is very busy. Script and cursive fonts are hard to read and will annoy prospective employers. Let the words on the page communicate your personality, not the formatting.
Keep it short
Keep your cover letter short and no longer than one page. Cover letters that are longer than a page send the wrong message to recruiters and hiring managers. Be concise. Long cover letters suggest you’re unable to get to the point. They also imply that you may care more about yourself than about others’ busy schedules.
Include language from the job description
I see people get this wrong all the time. Your cover letter and resume isn’t about convincing a company to hire you, it’s about demonstrating why you’re a good fit for the role. Job postings describe what the company needs. Read the details closely, gain an understanding of what the company is looking for. They have a problem to solve and if you can align your skills and achievements with the language used in the job description it shows the recruiter or hiring manager how you can meet the company’s needs.
It’s common for hiring managers or recruiters to be juggling multiple positions so don’t forget to include the job title that you’re applying for. It’s likely that your resume/application will be processed by an applicant tracking system (ATS) so including keywords or phrases that are also found in the job description will increase your chances of having it end up on the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s desk.
Sell yourself and show your personality
It’s important to show you’re confident in your skills and abilities within your cover letter. However, be sure you don’t go overboard. You don’t want to come across as boastful and arrogant. Showing a little personality in your letter is fine. You won’t get a response if you’re stiff and formal, but don’t make the mistake of being too informal. Striking the right balance is tough. If you’re not sure what words to use, err on the formal side.
Focus on the content
Most job seekers struggle with what should be in the body of the cover letter. Here are some things to consider:
- Share more information about certain parts of your resume that are very relevant to the job for which you are applying.
- Mention if you have an interest or subject matter expertise that makes you a good fit.
- Highlight your relevant experience and skills and explain how they will benefit the company.
- If someone at the company has requested your resume, start your cover letter with that information.
Pay attention to detail
It may go without saying, but proofread your cover letter carefully and then do it again. After you’re proofread your resume and cover letter twice, do it again! I’ve been amazed by how often I’ve read resumes with poor spelling or inaccurate/irrelevant information. Make absolutely sure your letter is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing kills your chances faster than demonstrating a lack of detail. Also, double-check to make sure all the following are correct: company name, contact name and job title, date (month and year) at the top of the letter. Invest the time in your cover letter to make it clear that you have researched the company, the position and who the hiring manager is.
As you create your cover letter, remember that it’s your personal introduction to potential employers. You only have a few moments to make a lasting impression so take the time to make it count.
If you liked this post, share it with a friend. If I’ve missed something or you have thoughts to share, would love to hear from you. Thanks!
For many people, Halloween is something that they look forward to all year long. Sure, it’s one of those holidays that was designed specifically with little kids in mind — but what adult doesn’t like taking advantage of the opportunity to relax, unwind, throw on a funny or scary mask and head out into the night with their friends? You work hard, after all — you deserve a little R&R, right? If you’re like me, you also take this opportunity to stock up on MilkyWays.
What you may not realize is that putting on a mask for Halloween isn’t actually something you have to look forward to. If you’re like most of us, you probably already do it every day without realizing it.
Let’s say you’re an aspiring novelist. You’ve had ideas for the next “Great American Novel” since you were in your teens. It’s more than just your hobby — it’s your passion. But passion on its own doesn’t pay the bills, so every Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm you head to your day job as an accountant, even though you’ve grown to hate it. Sound familiar?
How else do you describe that except to say that you’re putting on a mask?
Every single time we commit ourselves to doing something we hate, we’re putting on a mask and hiding what we should instead be putting on full display to the entire world. Most of us are guilty of this; unfortunately — we hide behind masks that usually take the form of “socially acceptable” careers or social relationships, instead of going out and living as the most important thing of all: our true selves.
I get it. It’s so much easier to put on your mask and fit in. The crowd accepts your costume while behind the mask you’re angry, sad or stressed out. Oddly, you feel protected behind the mask, but you’re still hiding.
“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”
– Rita Mae Brown
This is common, yes — but it’s also something that needs to stop. Halloween should be the ONLY time we wear a mask all year long. Period, life is too short.
Consider the following. Let’s assume that the job you hate is also traditionally structured, and you probably work about 39.2 hours per week (not counting the occasional break or daydreaming session). That expands to about 1842 hours per year, or an astounding 92,120 hours over your lifetime (assuming that you work from 18 to retirement age of 67).
That’s half of your total waking hours during any given day. It’s 35% of your total waking hours over a 50 year period, assuming that you get a full eight hours of sleep a night — which you probably don’t.
That’s 23.3% of your total life over five decades, spent sitting in a room that you hate doing a job that you can’t stand.
What sense does that make?
For your health, your well-being and your spirit, don’t just leave that mask at home — throw it in the garbage. Make no mistake, your true self will thank you for it. I know it’s so much easier said than done so I don’t expect you to uproot your life tomorrow. However, you should at least try to find a place that makes you feel fulfilled and appreciated so you can get rid of the mask.
Once you’ve found a place where you can be your true self, you’ll probably start looking forward to Halloween again.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or share this post with a friend.
You may be very happy in your current job, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your resume updated. Especially considering job security is now considered an oxymoron. Most of us don’t enjoy spending time working on our resumes, but here are several reasons why we should.
Presenting yourself as an expert
To establish your personal brand and to grow professionally within your current role, you may decide to position yourself as an expert by speaking at conferences and other engagements, publishing articles, or providing quotes to the media. Event organizers, journal editors, and the media will expect you substantiate yourself as an expert in your field. Your resume is the way to do that.
Being nominated for an award
While it may not happen every day, occasionally you may be nominated for a civic or professional award. The judging panel will want to know why you’re so great. While some panels may rely solely on the write-up completed by your nominator, others may request an extensive list of your accomplishments. That’s where your updated resume comes in.
Even if you’re not looking for a full-time position, you might be interested in doing some freelance work on the side. You never know when a great opportunity may land in your lap. Don’t miss out by not having an updated resume ready to give a company that needs to make a quick hiring decision. Opportunities like this happen more than you think. Employers prefer to hire people who have proven themselves and freelancing is a great way to demonstrate your talents.
Just because you’re not interested in seeking employment elsewhere doesn’t mean that another employer isn’t interested in you. If a headhunter approaches you, you’ll be able to provide them with an updated, impressive resume. Who knows, they may make you an offer you can’t refuse. If nothing else, it’s worthwhile and a confidence boost knowing you have skills and experience that other employers want.
Applying for a promotion
When you’re ready to apply for a more senior position within your current company, you may need an updated resume. What better way to show the hiring manager you’re enthusiastic about this opportunity than to be one of the first to apply. Even if the hiring manager is your current manager, most likely a panel of managers will interview applicants and make the hiring decision. While your manager may know your work, others might not.
Identifying development areas
Your professional achievements and mistakes happened for a reason. Updating your resume will allow you to reflect on your strengths and identify areas that might be important to develop. I would recommend developing as many transferable skills as you can. If you ever encounter a career change, you’ll be better positioned to work for new company or industry.
Creating a roadmap for your future
Employers aren’t the only ones who get an overview of your career by reviewing your resume. You do too. This review will show you what binds all your career accomplishments together and give you insight into where you might head in the future. The one constant in this world is change, and it seems things change quicker and more dramatically each year. Reviewing your resume and comparing how your skills match up with your desired position can help guide you on what skills you need to add or develop.
Preparing for the worst
You never know when you might become the victim of a merger, downsizing or layoffs. Sadly, many employees who have experienced this didn’t do anything wrong and weren’t planning on being let go. Keeping your resume updated, even when times are good, will help you land on your feet if it happens to you. You can immediately begin looking for new work inside or outside your company.
Experts recommend updating your resume once a month. You can add new accomplishments while they’re fresh in your mind and craft a document that presents the best you to prospective employers.
If you liked this post, share it with a friend or share your thoughts in the comments below. What advice would you add?