Alrighty. You may be holding that job right now, but you never know when you’ll be dusting that resume off again. Not only do I hold a master’s in human resource management, but I have gone on countless job interviews. Even when I clearly don’t qualify for a job, I’ve still gotten called in. Even if I didn’t get the job, usually because of a test, haha, ohhh how I detest tests, or because I may fall short on that experience I mentioned above, one thing remains: more times than not, I get called back in for a second time.
Well, if you suck during your first interview, you probably won’t get called back. These days, second interviews are highly common. Remember, a job interview is also a time for you, the candidate, to determine how you feel about the company while the interviewers get to know you. It’s a two-way street. There were times when I showed up to an interview and had the steam knocked out of me as it progressed, and sometimes before it started! That’s because I didn’t like the way the atmosphere felt, or I didn’t like what I learned about the position or company as the interview went on. That’s when I secretly pray that they lose my number and hope that they can pick up on my weakened enthusiasm. All I’m saying is, don’t forget, they need you, too. They have to sell themselves to you as well. But, this post is about you, so let’s go!
STUDY THE JOB AD
Before you send your resume through, understand that job ad. Listen, when a proper HR isn’t in place it shows before you send off your resume. I can tell just by the job ad that someone is fulfilling a position that they shouldn’t be. This means that either the company is missing a legit HR team/department, or they have one, but the team is probably small and someone is crossing from a different department to fill in until that position is full.
Okay, the job ad that is quick and messy personally sends me red flags. Be aware of posts made of one paragraph that tells nothing about the job but just what they want. How are you supposed to tailor an effective resume/cover letter when you’re working with scraps? Chances are, this company is desperate to find someone quickly. Mark my words. Pay attention next time. Well-stated job ads that look like they uploaded a copy of the job description to the post will usually be the pickier and better organized companies who will take their time with the hiring process. Also, they usually have a legitimate person to handle the whole process.
A job ad should state the title of the job needed, a snapshot of the company background, your duties (hardest to easiest), your skills needed to perform (hardest to easiest), any restrictions, and maybe the salary! It should be a page long. These are the people you want to work for! Does it mean companies with paragraph job ads are no good? Errrrr, not necessarily, but you have to ask yourself what kind of people they’re trying to attract when they throw out a vague ad. Not a good look. Imagine being single with a summary of yourself on a dating site. You want the best mate possible. Are you gonna be vague and hold back, or give a proper snapshot of who you are and what you want? Are you trying to attract winners or losers?
2. RESEARCH THE COMPANY
So the job ad looks good. Now, take a moment and research the company, because they have a proper job ad, you know the name of the company. Nine times out of ten, you’ll see that they’ve listed their company name. Is this the kind of place you want to work for? Do you like what they stand for? That’s what websites are for. Use them. Don’t waste each other’s time if you don’t have to.
So, you like what you see, and you get a call back.
Head to their website and find out their mission statement and their ‘About’ section if nothing else. If you have limited time or a bad memory, at least read their mission statement and what they’re about and what they do. You know what’s even better? Learning their accomplishments, recent victories, milestones, etc... You want to already know how you can contribute and show an interest in their proudest moments.
3. SHOW UP SHARP AND ON TIME
Maybe no Coco Chanel or Armani suits, but please, no wrinkles, ill-fitted garments or strong scents. If your hair and clothes smell good, skip the fragrance. You just never know when smelling neutral will pay off. You don’t know if your scent is offensive enough to make the ones in charge worry that you’ll clog their noses up with your scent. Err on the side of caution. Also, have no visual distractions. Show up 15-20 mins prior to the appointment. Sometimes there will be paperwork and you can be done by the time of your actual scheduled time. Also, you already know how good this makes you look. It also lends to the idea that you’ll be on time once hired. And instead of saying how organized you are, this shows it.
You probably bragged on your resume that you possess excellent communication skills. You know you promised to possess the same basic traits. Well, great communication isn’t all in moving jaws, but knowing when to lock them until it’s your turn to speak. Don’t talk over an interviewer like he or she is your friend. You want to convey patience and professionalism. Wait. Also, you get a chance to formulate a well-thought out response that will also make sense and support your cause. And make eye contact, but don’t forget to share it if you’re being interviewed by more than one person.
Think it through before it falls off your tongue. Just don’t take forever to respond, of course. But some people cannot communicate without feeling tense. Don’t let this happen to you. As long as you have researched the company, memorized key points, and listened to the interviewers stories, job description, and additional information, you should be fine.
However, don’t say more than what’s necessary. Be careful about mentioning irrelevant things that can be used against you. This includes casual comments—in the name of relating to the interviewer—about your kids, them making you run late, admitting to past faults that the interviewer was never going to know or didn’t need to know (damaging info), bad mouthing past employers, discussing sports and teams, religion, and politics. When asked a question, simply stick to the facts, keep it concise, and answer the question. Repeat: facts, concise, answer. And it’s okay to show the interviewer that you’re thinking of your answer. No one wants to feel like they’re speaking with a robot. Interviewers appreciate a well thought-out answer.
6. GO IN FOR THE KILL
Because you’re detail-oriented, and it’s probably written on that trusty resume, you would’ve spotted key elements on their website that you can mention in your campaign that you’re the best for the job. Now, insert your enthusiasm by speaking more than just using the blanket statement of, “I really wanna be a part of this team.” Blah! Words. It’s like a lover saying they’ll never cheat again. Anyone can profess.
Find a way to champion your skill set with their goals. Remember, their proudest achievements should support the mission statement. Be able to tell the company that you support, know, and appreciate their mission statement. Then, squeeze in a specific achievement listed on the company website and how you would love to mimic that same success by implementing your specialty. Weave mission statement talk and listed achievements naturally. It can’t be contrived, corny, or desperate. It means that you’re on board with becoming an asset That you’re not only worried about your needs. Of course, companies already know you gotta eat and that you need health insurance and want perks. It’s just a matter of them being able to afford this. But do they know you’re not just there to collect all the goodies? No. They want to know that you’re in it to win it. They want you to trust that they’ll take care of you.
7. ASK QUESTIONS
Do you have any questions?
I used to dread this part. Looking back, that’s just foolishness. Here’s my rule: Have at least three priority questions to ask. Because, you need to be able to feel out how much time these guys have to spend on you. I’ll never forget the one time this man just wasn’t too polite to me during an interview. It was like he knew he wanted to hire another candidate who happened to be a man, because I heard them connecting and laughing. When I tried to ask a few questions, by the second one, he seemed over it and by the third, he finished answering it and said, “Alright.” He stood up, maybe offered me his hand, and that was that. Every time I think of this recruiting company, I can’t help but think of his rude representation of it.
But if a company likes you, and you can tell, they won’t mind your questions, but still, know when to chop it off, and don’t ask something you can find out on your own time. The questions should include inquiring about what the culture of the company is, because other candidates may mistakenly take the time to focus on questions that may put the interviewers off. Be careful about asking too much about salary and schedules. They may read you as someone who is more focused on your bottom line than theirs. That’s right. They want someone flexible when it’s needed, and if you seem too concerned with pay and time, they may feel like you’re not likely to come through when needed. I never mention pay first. If they don’t bring it up, one way you could bring it up is by saying, “What does the compensation package look like for this position. Remember, compensation is more than cash. It’s health and benefits. Package means salary and any additional benefits. This sounds more sophisticated and reasonable. Or if you simply ask about the benefits, that may push them to just throw in the salary. Sometimes, when positions pay high, employers want to hold on to that information. However, most employers are willing to share this sooner than later.
8. GET READY TO CLOSE
You want to show that you’re organized, because to be quite frank, those basic selling points like detail-oriented, excellent communication skills etc., shouldn’t be listed on your resume anyway. It should show through your described experience on the resume. So, at the end, show that you’re organized by asking when you can expect to hear something. No one has time to keep waking up with fingers crossed.
Remember that two-way street? You need to see how good they are at holding their word and following through. This makes putting the ball in their court more official. You also don’t want to feel like you should be calling or emailing for a follow-up. You’ll feel better knowing that they gave you a date to hang on to. All you’ll have to do is be kind and hop on a thank-you letter.
That should be done ASAP. Make it personal so it doesn’t read like a pre-printed load of garbage. Outline something new that you learned about the company or job or remind them how you can’t wait to use your (blank) skills to achieve next year’s whatever. And do this before 24 hours are up. It won’t seem like an afterthought and they’ll see that you are diligent.
9. REMEMBER THIS ONE THING
Always take any and every opportunity to show employers what you’re made of, because it’s your actions that are under review. Your actions will back up an impressive resume, and remove doubt that you’re all talk. Do you know how many more people you can squash even if they have more experience, just because you exercise a spirit of trust, interest, and follow-through? I beat out one other person for my last job, because I connected with the interviewer, whom became my boss, whom admitted down the line that I beat out the other candidate even though she had more experience. Score! Just don’t make them regret it. Of course they expect people with great experience! But what they usually don’t get, are people who are ready to work with a keen sense of what’s on the line and what makes the company proud. Fall into the culture! That’s your goal.
10. DO THIS ONE THING THAT YOUR COMPETITORS PROBABLY WON’T
When you’re getting ready for an interview, especially for a company that geared you with a website and thorough job description, did you ever imagine that your resume was boring to them? I mean, think about it. Blah, blah, blah. That slip just gets you in the door, but you’re the star of the show. Your resume was the movie trailer. You doing this one thing will make them wanna pardon themselves and return with a bucket of popcorn. You ready?
Come in with a plan, but make sure it’s on paper, even if you can recite it. Why? You’re showing them everything! You’re showing them everything and without the finger-crossing risk! You’re showing them how you can get down to business. How you come up with this is your business. Even if they don’t need this project, at least your mock-up has gone over the competition’s head.
If you know the phone interviewer told you a problem within the role, bring a POA—plan of action. Chances are, they don’t even have the answer themselves and are looking to the newbie to sort it all out. How many of those B.S. basic points did you just knock out by doing this? They can assess your deeper communication, problem-solving, and detail-oriented skills. It’s a win-win!
Just think. No one wants to go on interview after interview, especially while working. Eventually, your boss may be able to sniff you out or dismiss future requests to take off. I once went on an interview that had a huge amount of money on the line, and I didn’t get the job. They never told me why, but I took one thing away for sure. My experience wasn’t quite there, and nope, didn’t have a POA. But guess what? My resume alone got me there. And if you can land a job interview with lacking experience, you’re already halfway there. (Smiles)