Acing the Job Interview

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Job interviewAs of August 2010, 9.6 percent of Americans (14.9 million people) were unemployed according to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sheer numbers can make landing a job appear to be too tough a task. But, if you take certain steps you can increase your chances of getting hired.

Managing Initial Contacts

A well written and structured resume can help to catch a hiring manager’s or a human resource recruiter’s attention. Review your resume at least two times before you email or snail mail it to the business professional who could potentially become your next manager. If you don’t think your resume is important, consider this fact. 84% of executives surveyed by Office Team reported that if they spotted only one to two errors on a resume they would not consider the candidate for a job. For 47% of the executive respondents all it took was one error on a resume to remove a candidate from the hiring pool.

Once you are contacted by a hiring manager or a recruiter to schedule an in interview, the next steps that you take can influence whether or not you land the job. To increase your chances of landing a job make sure that your skills match the needs of the job. 

For example, if you are a cosmetologist by trade, you might find greater success going after a salon manager position than you would a hotel manager job. Sounds simple but as a former human resource professional, it might surprise you to know how many people apply for jobs that do not match their skill set.

Do Your Homework

After you ensure that your skills match the needs of the job, dress suitably for the interview. Consider asking the human resource professional who schedules your interview if business casual is preferred during interviews. Different companies prefer different styles of dress for interviews.

And now to acing the job interview…

•    Research the company. At the least know the president of the company’s name, when the company was founded, the industry that the firm operates in, and the last major initiative that the firm undertook. This might include a recent merger or acquisition.
•    Bullet-point your experience. Be prepared to discuss your prior work experiences that directly relate to the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a mid-level administrative role you can include project management work you completed that reduced client account reporting redundancies by 37%.
•    Arrive 5-10 minutes early to the interview. Avoid arriving too early as this could cause you to appear desperate. Also avoid arriving to the interview “in the knick of time” as this could give hiring managers the impression that you would arrive to work in the same fashion or even late. You also might need a few extra minutes to find a parking spot before the start of the interview.
•    Treat everyone you meet with respect. It is not uncommon for hiring managers to ask staff outside their office what they thought of a prospective employee.
•    Be confident. Look everyone that you meet in the eye. Shake the interviewer’s hand and introduce yourself at the start of the interview. Thank the interviewer and shake their hand at the close of the interview as well.
•    Bring three to four copies of your resume with you to the interview. Consider bringing copies of projects that you worked on if the interview allows for it (e.g. copywriting position). Humans are visual beings. Presenting a hiring manager with samples of your work allows the manager to relate to your skills beyond the information listed on your resume.

Lasting Impressions and Discussing Salary

Be prepared to interview with more than one hiring manager. This is when you will appreciate the fact that you brought three to four copies of your resume with you to the interview and have mentally bulleted your key work experience. As Dennis Gros, president of Gros Plastics Recruiters said in the April 7, 2005 Forbes “Hitting a Job Interview Home Run” article, “The candidate may assume that his material has been passed on to key executives. Maybe it has and maybe it hasn’t–maybe that person has read it and maybe not. You should remember that for each person you meet going up the ladder, it is interview No. 1 for that executive. So, start with a brief summary of your credentials and experience and state your interest in the job.”

Being familiar with the company that you are interviewing with can leave a lasting impression on hiring managers. Company executives like to know that you want to work with them for particular reasons and not solely because you are seeking a steady paycheck. Also keep in mind that some industries that pay employee bonuses (e.g. investment firms) tend to slow their hiring near the end of the year. 

Should the interviewer ask you to tell them the salary that you want, ask them what they would pay someone with your experience. Stating an expected salary could put you out of the running for a job simply because your salary expectations might be above what the company typically pays for the position. Keep in mind that you can also discuss telecommuting, bonus and benefits options at a later date; each of these events will impact the total amount of income that you receive from the firm.