Like it or not, a good part of the impression an interviewer first forms of you depends on appearance. All protests aside about not “judging a book by its cover,” appearance still counts in an interview. Wear a nice suit, business casual, or whatever is considered appropriate clothing for the work environment. Even if you know the work place to be a casual place, I believe it is OK to “dress-up” anyway. By wearing clothes that are coordinated, clean and pressed, it is one more way for the candidate to show interest and that they want the job. I hear that some job candidates believe they are not being true to themselves if they dress differently than they typically do. But with competition for the best jobs very keen, why not improve the odds of success by changing those things within your control?
Another long-time area of conflict is facial hair. Though beards are popular and more accepted on men of all ages, I still see surveys of hiring managers indicating a bias toward the clean-shaven.
And speaking of bias, though tattoos and various body piercings are becoming main stream and extending beyond age or generational boundaries, they can still evoke negative bias on the part of interviewers. Therefore, best practice is still that all body art be covered and all visible body piercings removed (with the exception of earrings) when attending an interview. If the position requires you to represent the company to customers and/or the general public, hiring companies still may have rules against such displays.
Put your best foot forward in the interview, and “dress for success.” You will be glad you did.
Who isn’t nervous during a job interview? Even the most self-assured candidate is going to have a moment or two of self-doubt. But the trick is to keep this to yourself and portray an image of confidence. This is what a potential employer wants to see if you are not confident in your own abilities why should they be. Here are a few ways to exude confidence.
Make eye contact, nothing is more of a dead give away of poor self-confidence than a person that will not look someone in the eye. Walk up to your interviewer, extend your hand and look in them in the eye when you greet them and express your pleasure of meeting them. And don’t beat around the bush when you are talking. Saying thinks like, “Well, I kind of helped with a project but I didn’t run it myself,” screams I do not think I am worthy of this position. Instead, say this, “I assisted in a very successful project and played a key role in bringing it to completion.” Your role in the project may not have
changed the perception the interviewer has of you has.
If you haven’t been on very many interviews or it has been some time since you last attended one, it is understandable to be nervous. The more interviews you complete, the more confidence you will gain in your abilities to sell yourself. And you have to remember that if you were not qualified you would not have gotten the interview in the first place. Use that knowledge to your advantage and instill confidence in yourself. As a back-up measure, get some friends or family members to remind you of all of your great traits and what makes you special – an ego boost before an interview can certainly
boost your confidence level.
A resume is a one- to two-page document summarizing your career objectives, professional experiences and achievements, and educational background. To stand apart from other candidates, you should consider the information in your resume carefully and make sure that it is personal to you. Here are three tips on making your resume unique to you:
1. Customize your career objective. Think of your whole resume as a sales tool; your career objective is your opening statement. You want your employer to know what you want, not just restate what other people want. State your commitment to your career goal. If you are unsure of what you want, how is your employer to believe that you really want the job at their organization and you are not just applying because you want to get out of your current work environment? Don’t be afraid to state what you want from a job and from an organization. While you want to state your commitment, you also want to show that you are willing to take action to achieve your goal. Indicate what direction or action you are willing to take in order to accomplish your career objective. Lastly, be specific about what you are looking for in a work situation. While you can say that you are looking for a “challenging” environment, this doesn’t mean anything to your employer, as people define challenges in various ways. Avoid using generic and broad terms. Simply state what you want, and what you are willing to do to get it.
2. Highlight the best elements of your experience. This is the most commonly missed aspect of writing a resume. The entire professional experience section on your resume is unique to you. Take advantage of that. Use power words to list your responsibilities, and make sure that you have a winning attitude in each of statement. Focus on those responsibilities that best describe the skills you acquired while in each job that make you the most qualified candidate for the position you are seeking. Quantify your responsibilities when possible to showcase to your potential employer that you are drive by results and are capable of exceeding goals. Don’t be shy about promoting your qualifications – you earned them with your hard work and dedication.
3. Personalize your cover letter. The biggest mistake professionals make is not spending any time on their cover letter. Your cover letter should receive the same attention as your resume as they go hand-in-hand. Address your cover letter to the appropriate person at the company (contact info is typically listed in the job description). Make sure to mention what position you are applying for, and demonstrate how the information in your resume aligns well with the job requirements. Your cover letter also allows you to address any information in your resume that may raise questions – take the time to do so, as you don’t want your resume discarded because you chose not to create a personalized cover letter. Overall make sure that your cover letter supports your resume and presents you as the most qualified candidate for the job.
With every resume submission, you should have a cover letter that accompanies it and presents you as a positive and qualified candidate for the job. A cover letter should highlight areas of your resume which promote your professional experience, and should address any questions an employer may have about hiring you for the job. There are five common cover letter mistakes outlined below that you must avoid in order to get through the first round of resume review and move one step closer to getting the job that you want.
1. Addressing the cover letter using a generic greeting, or misspelling the name of the personal contact or the company. The address line is the most prominent part of the cover letter; it should be included even if the cover letter is sent via email. Generic greetings are not favored; they make it seem like you have a template for your cover letter and you simply send it to all employers you are interested in working for. Do the research and find out who the appropriate contact is for the cover letter. However, make sure that they name and the company name is spelled correctly. If your address line contains errors, your cover letter is likely to never make it to the hiring manager.
2. Telling the company what they can do for your career. Simply stated, employers care about your qualifications and what you can do for the company. Do not spend your time telling the company how working for them can be great for your career. While that could be true, it certainly is not what the employers want to hear. Your potential employers want to hear how you can benefit their team; they want to know what you can bring to the table that is innovative, and focused on results. Make sure that your resume lets your employer know just why you are the best candidate for the job.
3. You re-state your resume. Do not go over the information that is in your resume in your cover letter. Your cover letter is meant to entice, and provoke the employer to review your resume in great detail. Re-stating the information in your resume doesn’t address what the employers want to know, which concerns reasons why you are the best candidate for the job. Highlight certain areas of your resume but do so in the context of your career goals and how such qualifications benefit the company.
4. Starting every sentence with “I”. While your cover letter is about you, starting each sentence this way will make your employer believe that your communication skills are not up to the level of your professional background. Discuss your qualifications, your goals and what you bring to the table in terms of the company, and your professional attributes.
5. Asking the employer to call you at their convenience. The most generic closing statements in cover letters ask the employer to contact you at their convenience. If you are truly excited about the opportunity with the employer, you won’t want to wait for them to call you back whenever they feel like it. What you should do instead is let them know when you want to follow up – and then do follow up. Close your cover letter by letting your potential employer know that you will contact them, as well as the manner in which you will do so. This shows your interest, and your take-charge attitude.
The most difficult and time consuming section of any resume is the listing of your work experience, no matter the level you have reached in your professional career. The key is to consider your career objective and prioritize your work in accordance to your goals.
Your professional experience should not only showcase the activities you have done in your previous jobs, but should demonstrate your qualifications in the way that motivates employers to want to know more. Of course, we are referring to results, any tangible, measurable items that are impacting to the bottom line. Let your employers know that your project came within budget, that you exceeded the timeline, that you acquired X number of new customers, or that you increased sales by a double-digit percentage. Employers can wrap their minds around numbers, because they are focused on them daily. You want to let your potential employer know that you can think in the same way they do and that you take results into serious consideration as your perform your job on day-to-day basis.
To get started with your work history, begin each description with a power word, such as managed, developed, communicated, etc. Do some research and use only the power words and phrases that are appropriate for your industry. Make sure that the statements you list first under your job responsibilities quantify your achievements – don’t be afraid to list sales figured, customer acquisition rates, budget and timeline successes, or any other figures which help put your responsibilities in a context of the business/field you are working in. Be specific. The only way your statements are truly quantified is if you include numbers. Saying that you acquired new customers is significantly different from saying that you increased the customer database by 10%. As mentioned above, this is the most critical aspect of listing your job descriptions on your resume. Your employer wants to know not only what you did, but how well you did it. Also, these statements should be aligned with your career objective you included at the top of the resume. If you want to get a job in project management, letting your employer know that you managed a team of 20 people and the overall results you achieved will effectively highlight your qualifications. It is important to quantify your job description statements on your resume; however, as a word of caution, do not quantify all statements, just one or two that are most critical to your job and are goal driven. This shows your employer that you think in terms of exceeding your goals. All subsequent descriptions of your responsibilities should support the first one or two items on your list.
As a final test, put yourself in the shoes of your employer. Cross-check the job description and make sure that you address the qualifications required for the job with the information on your resume. Let your potential employer know you have what they are looking for, and you’ll be sure to make a great impression.
There is a difference between telling a story highlighting the positive to make you sound better and lying to the interviewer. It is rare for a company to not conduct reference check these days so don’t say anything that can not be verified by your boss or other references that you provide.
There are many ways to get into trouble during an interview and lying is the most severe. Common fibs that are told include educational degrees that you do not hold, saying that you are a manager when really you are a team lead and taking credit for a project that was completed by a co worker. All of these things can make you sound good at the time of the interview, but what if the interviewer talks to your boss about the stellar project you ran for the company when it really wasn’t you. Your boss is not going to lie for you and if you were in the running for the job, you won’t be anymore.
The best way to handle these scenarios is to tell the truth but put you in the best light. Maybe you were a part of the project, instead tell the interviewer the part you played and share the success of the project as a whole. An employee that can recognize and share in the success in others is preferable to one who doesn’t tell the truth or wants all of the credit for themselves. This does not mean that you have to share all anything that doesn’t put you in a positive
position though. The key is to be honest and only bring up examples that are going to highlight your talents and work history in the best possible way. Don’t claim or state anything that cannot be backed up by your references.
Sometimes – or more like every time – you go for an interview, your nerves make it hard to concentrate and answer questions to the best of your ability. The important thing to remember is to really listen to the questions being asked. If the interviewer tells you they want a specific example, don’t answer with a general how you would do something – it is a surefire way to ruin your chances for the job.
These types of questions are known as situational questions. If an interviewer were to say to you, “Tell us about your favorite vacation.” You wouldn’t respond by telling them about all the places you would like to go or make a generalization:
“My favorite vacation is to go someplace hot with my family and sit on the beach.” Instead, you should answer as specifically as possible including all the pertinent details:
“My favorite vacation was two years ago when I went to California with my family. We spent a lot of time on the beach. It was very relaxing.”
The second answer adds credibility. It is obvious that you are providing information from something that actually happened as opposed to making something up just to answer the question.
Potential employers are trying to gauge how you react or perform in specific situations.
Common questions that are asked include:
“Tell me about a time you led a team project.” Include what the project was, how many people, and any challenges including how you overcame them.
“Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker.” Only pick situations that had a positive outcome.
Employers today want to know how you are going to perform on the job before they even hire you. By answering situational questions specifically you can assure the interviewer you have the skills and thought processes that they are looking for.
If you love to talk and when you are nervous can go on and on, or if you are the opposite and clam up when you are in a stressful situation – you need to be conscious of this and not do either in an interview. When asked a question, an interview wants enough
information that will help them understand what you are talking about, but not extraneous irrelevant information.
If you are answering a question using an example from your previous or current job and there is a lot of jargon or acronyms – try to use more common place term that more people are familiar with or explain what you mean in the beginning. If you are asked to describe a time when you lead a project – explain what the project was about, how many people you managed and any key points that demonstrate what a great job you did. What you don’t want to do is get side-tracked and give details that aren’t relevant to the question. The interviewer is not going to be interested in a play by play of the entire project – they want to know your role in it.
Keep on topic; take a moment before answering a question to organize the details in your mind. You don’t want to start answering, get sidetracked and forget the point you were trying to make. If you stay on topic and know what you are going to say, you are going
to be able to keep the interviewer’s attention.
If you are a person of few words, practice with a friend or family member before your interview. Learn how to expand your answers so you give thorough information without living the interviewer wanting more. But if you are in doubt, less is better – an interviewer will ask follow-up questions if necessary.
Are you excited at the prospect of getting a new job and are thrilled that you were called in for an interview? Well, then show it when you are being interviewed! Bring an energy and attitude to the interview that will make the company take notice. The process
of interviewing is usual a long and boring one for those on the other side of the table. Do your part to make it easier for them to choose you as the best candidate.
Just think of all the people before and after you that are also going to be interviewed for the same position. If all other things were equal – qualifications and the answers to the interview questions – what is going to set you apart from the rest? You can be enthusiastic and smile when answering (when appropriate) and still maintain an aura of professionalism. You want to exude charisma and keep the interviewer’s attention. They have heard a lot of the answers already, but you can get the message across with more than words.
Someone who is excited to get a job and lets that excitement be known is going to have a better chance than someone who talks in a monotone and with little to no emotion. Don’t be afraid to smile and use phrases as “that’s great” or “wonderful” when you are told about the company. Be the type of person that the company wants to represent them and you will increase the chances of a job offer.
A few words of caution: don’t go overboard. Be genuine in your enthusiasm and be yourself. Sincerity is key or your enthusiasm could work against you instead of for you. If you are naturally bubbly by nature, tone it down a bit for the interview so you do not overwhelm your hosts.
In addition to a list of questions you want to ask and a pen and notepad you should also bring duplicate copies of anything else that you may need to provide to the interviewer. When booking the interview, ask if there is anything specific you should bring with you
(normally references is the only requirement). But if you are applying for a driving job, a driver’s abstract may be required or if you are applying as a writer you may be asked to bring in a sample of your work.
Make sure to write down the requested items to bring and make duplicates. If more than one person is going to interview you, bring one for each of them and then one more. This show forethought and preparedness. You also don’t want to make your interviewer look
bad by not being prepared if they forgot or lost your resume. Let them know that you brought an extra copy for them and hand it over.
Chances are this won’t happen, but won’t you be happy if it does and you are prepared? By brining more copies than are required, you can provide your extra copy to the other interviewers so they are not all huddled around the one copy of your writing portfolio or resume.
Even if you are not asked to bring references to the interview, take the time to type out and print copies anyway. If the interview went well you are sure to be asked for them and this again, shows that you think ahead and make the necessary preparations. Do not show up without any special documents that were specifically requested of you, if you do not think you can obtain them in the timeframe given be sure to let the person know before you arrive for the interview.