No matter where you are in your career there will most likely be a time that you will need to brush up on your interviewing skills. Yes, skills. That means that you can learn what it takes to not go blindly into an interview and go blank on any question! Good news, right?
Over the years I have been told that I was the best candidate based on my interview. Now, I ask you, do you think they knew how my job performance would be based on that interview? Well, yes and no. That is why it is so important to learn these skills. Let me share my thoughts on this with you so that you too can land that job you want!
One: First Impression Your Resume
The very first impression you will give to the prospective employer is your resume. This tool gets your foot in the door so to speak. So make it stand out. Everyone has skills and experiences they can draw upon. It is important to learn how to showcase them.
First take a good look at the job description. Print it out and highlight the things that you have experience in or know a good deal about as it relates to your prior experience.
Next, look at the other things that you may not have experience in but have been exposed to. These are the things you will need to research before going on the interview (keep this in mind).
Then, look at the required experience wanted for the position. Do you have the required years, certificates, degrees, etc? Don’t dismiss them if you have the equivalent in experience. Someone fresh out of college may have the degree, but a person that has been doing the job already may have an advantage if the position requires a fast startup.
Lastly, research the company. Look at their website and their about page. If they have a leadership page, look at that and read the bios of the leaders. This gives you a little bit more of an idea if this company and the job is going to align with your core values. A bit more on this later.
With this in mind, write up your resume in chronological order and put the tasks first you have experience in that fits the job description. Then list the other tasks that you do. Also, if you have metrics to support any accomplishments, list them at the end of the description of the task. For example: Responsible for accounts receivable collections by phone. Collected 95% on average for accounts 160 days past due. This tells the prospective employer that you aware of the contribution you are making to the bottom line. Always be sure that you can substantiate your claims by expanding on them in the interview – don’t ever claim something that is not true.
I have used the same resume template for over 20 years now. It is along the lines of keeping it simple. Unless you are going for a graphic design position or something in a more creative field, this template covers all you need to get your foot in the door. I am offering it to you a complimentary copy when you sign up here.
I always ponder on whether or not to write a cover letter. In all honesty, I have not gotten an interview based on my cover letter, nor has anyone ever commented directly to me about any cover letter I have submitted. I will say that if you do write a cover letter, simply state the experience you have in short sentences that relate specifically to the job description.
Two: Second Impression Your Phone Interview
Most jobs start with a phone interview. This is a critical step to get to the next level. Don’t underestimate the power this conversation has on making that second impression. You are giving a voice to your resume.
When you first submit a resume in your job search, remember to always answer your phone professionally to unknown numbers. This could be your potential new boss! I usually just answer, “Hi, this is Laurie” in an upbeat tone. Nothing fancy, just a welcoming hello. Then continue the conversation with enthusiasm and if you can remember anything specific about the job description, or the company be sure to mention it.
It also helps that you know a little about the company, as I alluded to in step one. The interviewer may ask you if you knew anything about the company and it is always good to say, “I did look at your webpage and was impressed with ….”. This tells them that you do your research and care about where you want to work.
The interviewer will then ask you more about your experience as it relates to the position. Again, I stress for you to be honest. If you have experience says so with confidence. Give a short but specific answer. Your goal is to get to the face to face interview so save all the details for later unless you are asked to expand on your answer.
If you don’t know or don’t have experience, simply state that. “I’m have not performed that task specifically, however, I have been exposed to it in my current position by observing …” Draw upon the research you did in step one on the skills that you do not currently do. You can also add something like “I have not done that specific task but my ability to do xxxxx, will allow me to jump right in get started.”
So there are a few things that you are doing in this phone screening to position yourself for the in person interview:
- You are confident and well spoken
- You do your research and are interested in the company as well as the job
- You have the skill and/or experience to meet the job requirements
- You are personable and someone they would have no problem communicating with
One thing that is often discussed or you could bring up is the salary range for the position. This should be done around the end of the conversation. First, you should already have an idea of the lowest offer you will take and be true to that. Never offer that amount first. Listen to what the range is first and foremost. If the range is not worth your time, simply state that with respect. Two things can come from being honest about that. They could possibly offer more if you are meeting their needs and can get in without too much of a learning curve or they or you can just decide that it would not be possible.
Always leave it on a good note though, and wish them success in their search. You never know. I was offered a position after I was told my salary requirement was too much. They admitted that they went with a lower paid candidate and soon realized that the person did not have enough experience and cost them more money in the long run. I had already taken another position so I was not able to help him out, but it was a learning experience for me.
That is the very basics of the phone interview. Just remember to have confidence. They reached out to you because you made impression with your resume. Don’t forget that!
Three: Third Impression One one One In Person Interview
How exciting! You did it! You got through the first two hurdles and made good impressions. Now it is time to make that final, Lasting, impression. This is your chance to shine. Make it your very best.
The day before the interview, revisit the company’s website and the job description. Memorize people’s names and positions you see. Get your business attire out and make sure it is clean and pressed. Do not go casual. Regardless of what you know about the company, you want to appear clean and groomed to show that you are confident and take pride in your appearance. Get a good night sleep and be sure to set your alarm early so you can go over the job description one more time before you meet.
Upon meeting anyone in the organization, extend a handshake and say your name if you were not properly introduced. Always have a relaxed smile on your face. Only get serious when you are describing details regarding your experience as it fits. Otherwise, treat this one on one as a two people exchanging niceties as though you were just introduced by a mutual friend. What I am trying to say is that there is nervousness on your side but if you can take a moment to breath and relax and realize you are both just exchanging information, you will feel a bit more relaxed and natural in your responses.
A lot of interviews, especially with Human Resource people, tend to start with behavioural questions. These types of questions reveal your personality type. How you fit in to the company’s culture. How you communicate. How you handle yourself. I find it best to be as casual as you can with your answers. Take a moment. Repeat the question. Then answer. Something like this, “Hmmm, That is a good question. I have found in my experience I was able to overcome a challenge by ….” Tell a story. If you can’t think of anything, often when you get started talking by repeating the question, something will come to you.
Having done a lot of training in behavioural interviewing and giving those types of interviews, I find that it really has become second nature. I also have rehearsed answers to most of them by now and use them in every interview. That way I can sound confident, assured, and able to handle myself in any situation good or bad. Practice these in front of a mirror. Do you like what you see when you answer? Work on it until it is comfortable.
Some examples are:
- Tell me a project that was successful and how you achieved it?
- Tell me a time that you failed?
- How did you handle a situation when a decision you made was not popular with others?
- How do you handle stress?
Then the interview will turn into your skills/experience assessment. This is where you can go into detail in response to questions asked. Be short and concise. Don’t ramble. Don’t offer more than asked. You can tell by the interviewer’s body language and/or facial expressions to see if they are engaged. If not then end your answer.
Always be positive. Try very hard not to be negative or relate and answer as being negative. Everyone has a bad experience but how can you spin that to make it positive? For example, “There was a time when I was reprimanded for not being prepared as usual, I realized my mistake and immediately made note not to allow that situation to occur again. “ So you can see that I took responsibility and corrected behaviour. That is what they want to know that you are capable of doing.
Other than that, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. You don’t want to have to try to be that person in your position so don’t start out that way.
Four: Panel Interviews
A lot of people are intimidated by panel interviews. My thoughts on this are that the interviewees are saving time by doing this together as well as getting a chance to interact with you in a team setting. It really is not different then a one on one as I advised previously. Just remember to make eye contact with each person around the table as you answer the questions. This will give you an opportunity to see their facial expressions as you speak and see reactions so that when the next person asks the questions you already have a bit of familiarity.
Five: Questions for the Interviewer
This to me always was awkward until I, once again, came up with some standard questions you could ask anyone and rehearse it. Here are a few that I use:
How soon are you looking to fill the position?
Why is the position available?
How long has the interviewer been at the company?
What is the company’s plans for growth?
What is the culture/values of the company?
Six: Follow up
One thing you should try to do is to get the names of everyone that you interviewed with so that you can include them on your thank you email and/or any follow up. The follow up email should be thanking them for their time, acknowledging your interest in the position and the contribution you feel you feel you could make.
You should send it within one to two days following the interview. It is the opportunity for you to put yourself back in the forefront of their memories while making their decision and could be the clincher. Suppose there were two good candidates of equal perceived value. One sent a thank you and one did not. Who would you hire?
Seven: The Offer
If you are at this point, Congratulations! Wow, that was a relief! Now what? I know you are excited and want to jump at the chance but stay excitedly calm! First thing to do is to get some facts about the offer.
If you have not already discussed wages as I had discussed earlier, take those same steps to negotiate a salary. At this time it is also important to understand their benefits. You could be offered the salary you want only to find out the benefits are not good and will cost you more in the long run.
Now that you have all the information to make a good decision, then you can accept or try to renegotiate. Because I am married, I often ask if I could get back to them the next day so you had time to discuss with your significant other. This gives me a chance to think things through.
Should you decide you need a higher wage than what is being offered, don’t be afraid to ask. Listen to me, this is the only time you will have the opportunity to ask for anything. If you want more money, you may be able to negotiate a higher wage if you don’t need to take part in a company paid insurance program, you may be able to negotiate a better vacation plan, or working times. There are many factors to negotiate and right now they want you so you do have a little bit of an advantage. Just don’t go overboard or be unreasonable. Also, ask for time off for any upcoming vacation you have already planned. Most employers will give you unpaid time off for that if you have not accrued enough vacation time.
Finally, you accept. You should get an offer in writing with the terms as you agreed to for you to acknowledge and sign with your acceptance. This is a binding legal document. I won’t go into all that right now, just know that it is for your protection.
You get what you put in. So getting a job that you want is not just simply applying to open positions. If you put in the effort as I describe above, you will open more doors and have better opportunities presented to you.
I have used the Simple Resume Template with every single job I have ever landed (and there have been plenty due to moving about over time). I use the exact same techniques and have been able to negotiate the best salary and benefits possible. I believe it is all in your confidence, your ability to communicate your experience and relate to others.
Simply put – You Got This!
Let me know in the comments if you found this to be helpful and were successful in landing a job!