11 Steps to Interview Success

30 03 2010

The last two weeks, I’ve highlighted tips on successfully navigating the career fair and preparing for the phone interview.  After passing those two tests with flying colors, you’ve made it to the face to face interview.  Congratulations for making it this far!  You have set yourself apart from other candidates and truly showed that you have the potential a recruiter looks for in a future employee.  The next step (notice I didn’t say last step – there’s a little more after this) is passing the face to face interview. 

Here are some tips that will help you ace the interview:

Preparation

Research – know the company inside and out.  Study up on their corporate culture, your fit within, and focus on what you can bring to them to make the company better.

Résumé – bring several copies of your résumé with you, even if you’ve already emailed it to them or submitted online.  Let them know that this is the most updated version for their convenience.  If this is a more technical/creative position (graphic design, etc.) bring samples of your work in a portfolio.

Reputation if needed, clean it up.  This applies to Facebook, MySpace, etc.  If you have pictures that you wouldn’t want the Pope to see, I would suggest cleaning it up.  Un-tag photos of you displaying drunken behavior with red cup in hand, and so on.  If you need to, lock your profile.  Recruiters still have a way to get into this, so I would be safe and just have a clean online presence (especially when you’re jobseeking).  According to a recent study from CareerBuilder, 45% of companies surveyed say they look into a candidate’s social profiles as part of the prescreening process.  My advice: create a professional profile on LinkedIn after you’ve done some clean-up.

Respect – treat the receptionists, assistants, custodians, EVERYBODY with respect.  You never know who your interviewers will ask about your behavior after you leave.  It’s safe to simply be nice and courteous.

Grooming – if possible, I’d suggest a haircut the day before the interview.  It will make a good impression if you’re groomed nicely.  Plus, who doesn’t feel better after a great haircut?  The same principle applies to fingernails (make sure they’re clean and trimmed).

Attire – try on your interview clothes the day before to make sure that everything still fits and that there are no stains.  After fit is confirmed, iron your outfit.  Your interview attire doesn’t have to be brand new, it just needs to look nice.  I won’t go into too much detail on what to (and what not) wear since there is so much free advice out there.  Guys, if you don’t have a tie, borrow one from a friend.  Interview attire varies from place to place, but there are some standards to know.

During the Interview

Answer the Questions – be truthful; give real-world examples with quantifiable results.  The more you can display your analytical skills, the better.  Show the impact of your leadership.  Know some of the basic interview questions that will be asked.

Know the Interview Style – there are several styles of interviewing: traditional (one-on-one) interviews, panel interviews, and behavioral interviews.  Be prepared for any of these types – you probably won’t know which style the hiring managers will use until you get there.  Click on the categories to see some examples of each and how to prepare:

Mind Your Manners – answer with “yes”, not “yeah”.  Addressing the interviewer as “sir” or “miss” unless they direct you otherwise (even then, it is suggested to stick with formality).  Make eye contact with the interview(s) when they’re talking to you, giving them nonverbal cues that you’re listening. 

After the Interview

Know the Timeline – upon the end of the interview, it is appropriate to ask what the hiring timeline looks like for that specific position.  Ask them when you can follow up. 

Follow Up – do what you said you’ll do.  Follow up!  I learned a neat trick from a colleague early in my career that I’ll pass on to you.  Be tenacious, but kind.  Don’t bombard them with relentless emails, phone calls, and thank you notes.  Once you know the timeline for follow up, follow that.  Leave a pre-written note, thanking them for their time at the front desk when you leave.  Wait a week.  Then follow up again.  You can write a handwritten thank you letter and send it to them.  Use this opportunity to restate why you’re so excited to work for them and why you’re the perfect fit.  Again, be tenacious, but kind

Share the love, pass it on, and pay it forward.  If you know someone that would benefit from these tips, please help them out!  Sometimes, it just takes an act of kindness to get them kickstarted and on their way to success.

Next week, the final part of this series, Landing Your Dream Job, will be available. Part 4 – I Got the Job! Now What? will highlight the some of the ways a newly hired employee can position themselves for success through mentorship, professional development and much more.

Subscribe to my blog (right side of the page) to be the first to know when a new post is available.  As always, thanks for reading.





Landing Your Dream Job: Part 2 – The Phone Interview

23 03 2010

Picture this: you’ve successfully navigated the career fair, researching employers, dressing as a professional, and conveying confidence (see Part 1 – The Career Fair).  You even got contact information for follow up and have since made that connection.  After all your efforts, you receive an email or phone call requesting time for a phone interview.  Congratulations!

The phone interview can be something that isn’t given the preparation it deserves.  After all, it’s just a phone call, right?  You talk, text, instant message, tweet, and Facebook all day long with friends.  How hard could it be?

Here are some tips from experiences I and other HR professionals have had around this topic:

Before the Call

Free Yourself from DistractionFind a quiet place away from outside noise such as dogs barking, traffic, television/radio, etc.  Nothing is worse than trying to interview a candidate while a car alarm is going off in the background or while what sounds like a frat party is happening in your house.

Landline vs. Cell Phone – If you have a landline, provide that number.  If you must use your cell phone, make sure that you’re in a good area for reception.  Also be sure that your outgoing message on your voicemail is professional.  “Hey guys, this is Susie.  I’m not here, leave a message” isn’t appropriate.  It is suggested to use something to the effect of this: “You have reached the voicemail of Sue Smith.  I’m not available to take your call at the moment, but if you’ll leave your name, number and brief message, I’ll return your call as soon as possible.  Thanks and have a great day!”

During and After the Call

Dress and Sound the Part – Would it be easier to sound the part if you dressed for it (think pajamas vs. suit)?  Opinions vary on this, but many feel that they would have a more professional tone just by wearing what they would during a face to face interview.  Bonus tip: smile when you answer the phone – you’ll come across as happy, energetic and will set the tone for the entire interview. Watch your “um’s”, “uh’s”, “you-know’s”, and “like’s”. 

Answer and Ask Questions – Answer each question asked.  Don’t make up something just to sound smart – they’ll know when you’re doing this.  Also, don’t forget to have questions of your own to ask when the time comes.  Know some sample interview questions for both the interviewer and interviewee.  Practice the interview with a friend or family member before the phone call.

Write It Down – Make sure you have a pen and notepad handy.  You’ll want to write out notes during the call as you learn more about the specific opportunity.  At the end, ask how you need to follow up and get their information.

Follow Up – Ask the interviewer what the timeline is for this position. How soon should this position be filled? Would it be appropriate to follow up in a week?  These are great questions to ask that will show that you’re serious about the job.  Respect the timeline they give you.  15 emails/phone calls in follow up comes off as desperate.  Most times, the hiring process takes longer than expected, so give a little extra buffer, following up a second time if no word is received by the time mentioned.  Don’t forget to send a handwritten thank you note, if possible.  Believe me, you’ll stand out by doing this.

Please feel free to share these tips with your friends, colleagues, classmates, and any other jobseekers out there that need help with a competitive advantage. 

Next week, part three of this four-part series, Landing Your Dream Job, will be available. Part 3 – The Face to Face Interview will highlight the different styles of interviewing and some tips on making a positive impression.

Subscribe to my blog (right side of the page) to be the first to know when a new post is available.  As always, thanks for reading.





Land Your Dream Job: Part 1 – The Career Fair

16 03 2010

We just set our clocks forward one hour, thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s genius idea of Daylight Saving Time and we’re all a little groggy from the sleep that has been taken from us. Well, wake up, sleepy-head! Now is not the time to fall asleep on your career search. For many universities, the Spring career fair (or Job Fair if not associated with a college) is just around the corner. In today’s job market, what will set you apart from over 2.7 million unemployed jobseekers?

Grab an extra large mug of your favorite caffeinated beverage and let’s get started! I have outlined a few recommended steps for achieving career fair success below.

Know Before You Go: Research the companies that are exhibiting at the career fair, their common entry-level positions, their brands, and what exactly it is that they do. Step out of your comfort zone and research some of the companies that you think you don’t want to work for. You may surprise yourself! Another tip: never approach a recruiter at the booth and ask “what does your company do?” In the day of Google, it’s too easy to do your homework on a company, yet many jobseekers still don’t.

Bring Your Résumé: I can’t say this enough. Yes, some companies today require candidates to apply online so that their applicant tracking system (ATS) has all your information in compliance with government regulations such as Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). However, even after you apply online, it’s still a good idea to take your résumé. Use it as a follow up tool. Tell the recruiter where you think you fit with their company (have to do the research first), and hand them your résumé while you’re telling them this. Don’t forget to tell them that you’ve already applied online!

Dress for Success: You’re most likely a college student, right? Khakis and a polo shirt sound fine for a career fair, huh? Don’t do it! Set yourself apart from your friends and peers. Treat the career fair like an interview and wear appropriate clothing. Wear clean, professional clothing (club-wear isn’t appropriate) and use an iron. You may be the only college student in a suit at the career fair, but believe me, you’ll stand out. Recruiters will know that you’re serious and could see you working for their company.

The Handshake: Do you have a friend or family member that has a crushing handshake? How about that friend that just dangles their hand out there so you can shake it? A firm, commanding (yet kind) handshake is very important. Look them in their eyes, smile and introduce yourself as “hi, I’m (insert name)” and shake their hand with a firm grip that doesn’t crush, nor feel like a limp noodle. Two seconds is more than enough time to hold on.

Follow Up: Follow up is perhaps the most important part of the entire process. After you’ve done the research, dressed for success, introduced yourself and learned about your fit within their company, don’t forget to ask for their business card, asking “when should I follow up with you?”. Since you’ll have their card, send a short, handwritten follow up thank you note for their time, reminding them how you met and the opportunity you’re interested in. You could also mention that you’ve applied online since and list the job requisition number or position name.

This wraps up Landing Your Dream Job Part 1 – The Career Fair. Tune in next week for part two of this four-part series, Landing Your Dream Job: The Phone Interview

Please feel free to share them with your friends, colleagues, classmates, and any other jobseekers out there that need help with a competitive advantage. 

Subscribe to my blog to be the first to know when a new post is available. As always, thanks for reading.





Finding Your Passion

10 03 2010

How many people can say that you’ve found your passion in life?  I have recently realized that I have found mine: it’s LIFE!  I am very fortunate to have very supportive family, wonderful friends, and a career that allows me to make a difference every single day.  In reflection of this, I would like to share some of the things that helped me find that passion.

 

Do What You Love

Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  My parents have been instrumental in reinforcing this principle my entire life.  I’ve had lots of jobs to date, from landscaper to fry cook to sales associate to radio disc-jockey to human resources.  All have been challenging in their own way, fun, and rewarding at the same time.  Some of the jobs were not “chosen”, but rather a necessity of life.  After all, we have to pay the bills somehow, right?  But even with those positions, I worked with some really great people, learned a lot about business, and eventually found my passion. 

Know Who Your Supporters Are (and Who Aren’t)

Through all of my jobs throughout my career, I’ve had someone (or a group of people) backing me the whole way.  In most cases, it has been my parents.  As the oldest child of four, I’ve always been the one that has gone out on my own, moving away for college, not coming home on the weekends so mom could do my laundry, give me gas money, or stock my refrigerator.  Would she?  Yes.  But instead, she and my dad supported me in every job adventure that I set out on. 

Knowing who my supporters were and those who weren’t allowed me to be successful in what I set my mind to.  While there was much positive reinforcement, there were some negative people in my life, telling me that I couldn’t do this on my own, or that I was stupid for making certain decisions.  Did I make mistakes?  Yes!  But, I have learned from them positively, and am a better person for doing so.

So, in closing, finding your passion isn’t as hard as it sounds.  In my opinion, you simply have to enjoy what you do and have the right people supporting you.  That’s it.  That’s my secret. 

Have you found your passion yet?





Résumé Essentials

3 03 2010

Most people will need to create and revise a résumé multiple times over the course of their professional careers.  So, what are some of the essentials that make up this important document?  I’m going to highlight some of the essential components that every résumé should have.  Opinions may vary, so please feel free to add your insight in the comments below.

According to Wikipedia, a résumé is a document that contains a summary of relevant job experience and education. The résumé is typically the first item that a potential employer encounters regarding the job seeker and is typically used to screen applicants, often followed by an interview, when seeking employment.

Sounds simple, right?  There are many templates and certified Professional Résumé Writers out there these days.  How do you make sure that yours will stand out while achieving the objective of highlighting your experience?  I had the opportunity to survey Human Resource professionals, Corporate Recruiters, and Résumé Writers. 

I discovered two things:

1. All agreed that a résumé should given the attention it deserves.  After all, the résumé is the first thing a hiring manager or recruiter sees.

2. Each professional had their own opinions on subjects such as the importance of listing GPA, objective statement, and the ever-raging debate over one page vs. multiple page résumés. 

So, whether you’re preparing for that first job out of college, a promotion, a change in career, or getting back into the game after being laid off, these résumé essentials should help you get started. 

Templates

Should you use a template for your résumé?  You want to stand out and say “I’m different”, right?  Templates can work to your advantage if you use them correctly.  Each template follows a similar layout and flow.  Regardless of how different you want to be, remembering to keep in mind that recruiters spend an average of five seconds on each résumé, skimming for the basics.  If your information is easy to find (following a common layout), then it could stand out more than if it were printed on pink, rose scented paper (you laugh – I’ve seen some like this).

Templates take the guesswork out of the process, but not the work.  Recruiters and HR professionals continue to encourage job seekers to tailor each résumé for the position.  Making a few minor tweaks can really help yours get noticed.

Objective

Almost every template has this as the main heading.  The objective is to get a job, right?  This will vary by age, amount of experience and the style of your résumé.  Some recruiters feel that it is more important to call out competencies (leadership, customer service, etc) than having an objective statement.  Another way to view this is to tailor the objective for a specific position, ie; “to obtain a summer internship with Company ABC in the areas of marketing, advertising, or web design” or “obtain a full-time Computer Programmer position (IT is a very diverse field – specifying what area helps the recruiter)”. 

In a functional résumé, list what you bring to the position (list of qualifications, using keywords from the job description) rather than what you want.  Show them the “WIIFM”, or “What’s In It For Me”.  You might think of listing a profile, highlighting some of your strengths in a functional résumé format.

GPA (Grade Point Average)

Is it important to list my GPA on my résumé?  Opinions and preferences vary on this subject, but the consensus is that if you’re a recent graduate (3 years or less), GPA should be included.  If you don’t include GPA, some recruiters may think that you’re hiding something (or that it is below 3.0) and may pass up a great candidate.  GPA isn’t everything, though.  There are a lot of book-smart people out there that wouldn’t know common sense if it hit them in the face.  If a person has the willingness and openness to learn new things, then that goes a little farther than GPA in most cases.  What employers are looking for is a well-rounded individual.  If you had a tough time in college one semester, explain that to them in the interview process.  Chances are they’ll understand.  Very few rely solely upon GPA as a deciding factor, but it can be the eye-catcher that helps fuel their interest.

Another thing to highlight would be your volunteer activities, team leadership and any sport involvement.  Showing that you’re more than just book-smart will really put you ahead of the crowd.

One Page vs. Multiple Pages

The everlasting, always debated question: What if I can’t fit all my experiences, achievements, etc. on one page?  I asked a lot of people this question and got several different responses.  Here are few views on the issue:

  1. If you have less than 10 years of experience, the résumé should be kept to one page. 
  2. All candidates should be able to keep their résumé to one page.  Weed out the irrelevant experience, leaving only what is related to the position you’re applying for. 
  3. If your résumé must be two pages, make sure that it’s two FULL pages.  Take full advantage of the real estate that comes with the second page.

For some highly technical positions (IT, Marketing, Media, etc.) an online portfolio should be created to showcase your work.  This should not take the place of the résumé, but rather supplement it with additional information.  Include a link on your résumé to your portfolio.  Managing your online reputation and social networking will be covered in the coming weeks as a separate, but related opportunity.

I hope that some of these résumé essentials are helpful to you as you create, tweak, and revise your résumé for the job search.  Your résumé should be a unique and ever-changing document.  I would suggest updating it at least twice a year, whether you’re currently in the job market or not.  This will ensure that you’re keeping it relevant, listing project accomplishments when appropriate (don’t forget to quantify your results!).

Until next time, I wish you success in your job search.  Now, go after the job of your dreams!

Have something to say to add to the conversation?  Please comment below!  Thank you.