I’ve had the privilege of being a manager since I was 24 years old and have interviewed enough people to develop a set of pet peeves when it comes to hiring new employees. While I can’t say “I’ve seen it all,” I’ve been through enough bad interviews with candidates to know there are some easy steps people are missing. Here’s what I’ve learned that might help others find his/her way to the next phase of the hiring process:
- Have a good resume. Paramount. It must be neat, error free and speak to your experience. Make sure it can be read in less than one minute. Bonus points if you cater the resume to the job you are applying for. Make several versions — one for each industry you are targeting.
- Have a trusted friend or colleague critique your resume. By all means, don’t assume you have a great resume. The best thing you can do is to have someone read it and give you constructive feedback. The worst thing that can happen is that your friend says, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”Frequently, I get asked to read over a resume and I never say nothing. I can always find a period out of place, a summary that doesn’t state enough, and if I really know the person’s professional history, there is always something that I can tell them about what needs to be added. Some salient point they forgot.You’ll know a really GREAT friend when you get asked if he/she can give you unsolicted advice on your resume. Don’t get bent out of shape if this ever happens to you. It’s a gift you can’t put a price on.
Network. Start telling everyone you know that you are looking for a job. If you have a job and don’t want your boss to find out, then create a special list and tell those people to keep this information on the down-lo. If they are professionals, they will do this for you. If you don’t tell people you are looking, then you might as well get in line (at the very end) behind all of the other people who are out of work and/or looking for a new job.
- Keep an open mind. If your job search is too narrow, you might have a hard time finding something, especially in this market. Start thinking about what you enjoy doing, not necessarily what you have always done. Don’t discount an opportunity because you think it’s not what you are looking for. You never know what you will find if you keep an open mind.
- Show excitement. You MUST SHOW ENTHUSIASM for the job. If you just sit in the interview and talk about your skills and experience with a straight face, you won’t get hired. You must show the person you are meeting with that you are qualified and that you’re actually interested in and WANT the job. Saying, “This sounds like an interesting position that I would enjoy,” doesn’t cut it. You have to let your passion out and give examples to show that you mean what you say. This doesn’t mean you need to jump on the furniture Tom Cruise-style, but you need to show a level of excitement about what is potentially being offered you.
- Tell stories. I’m not talking about lying here. When asked about your experience, turn your answers into stories. Don’t just say that you did X, Y and Z. Tell a short narrative on how you got to X,Y and Z. Not only is it more entertaining, but it will help the interviewer remember you.
Pretend the job is yours. While you are going through the interview process, pretend you already know this job is being given to you. It takes the pressure off of you to “perform” and allows you to act like you would once you have the job. The best part about this tip is that you can start talking to your future boss as if you already work there. Say things like, “I’d love to establish a system for the department that monitors …” Or I’ve done some research on the competition and noticed they are going to be offering product X within 6 months. I’d love to use my experience at Company Y to bring a similar solution to market sooner.”
- Don’t be afraid to say something negative about the company or product. Too often I ask job candidates what they think about X or Y from my company. (Normally, for me it’s a Web site.) I am continually amazed at how often people haven’t looked at the site, or say something lame like, “it looks good.” When in an interview, if asked an opinion, give one. Don’t trash the company, but give an honest, respectful opinion. If your response it’s negative, turn it into a way that you can help make the company or product better ex.: “I love that you offer the ability to track orders on your Web site, but it was difficult to find the link from the home page. You might consider adding a ‘track my order’ button near the top of the page.” Companies can’t pay for this kind of information and welcome the feedback and ideas.
- Visit the company Web site. This is huge for me since I work in an online industry, but it applies to all companies. Never, ever go into an interview without having viewed the company’s Web site. Many companies have multiple sites — look at them all. Study them. Be prepared to talk about them. Give advice about them. Even if your job has nothing to do with the Internet, you’ll find valuable information on the sites and look like you’ve done some homework about the company.
- Talk during the interview. OK, this sounds crazy, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed people and they barely speak. They give one or two word answers. Sometimes it’s nerves (an interviewer can tell that), but if I can’t communicate with a person I won’t hire them. Communication is key to many businesses and effectively communicating with your future employer is the first step.If you’re an introvert and have a hard time with this, role play with a friend. You won’t have the problem of saying too much in an interview, but you’ll have to balance that with saying too little. Just remember, the interviewer doesn’t want to drive the entire conversation. The best interviews are ones that get me talking about things in the industry, something I can relate to, or just having a great conversation with the person with whom I’m considering hiring.
- Write a thank you note. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, by all means don’t blow it by forgetting to thank the person for the opportunity. I’ve known managers who will not hire a candidate who doesn’t send a thank you note. I believe in doing this via email, especially if you know the interviewer is going to be making a quick decision.Not only is sending a thank you note a polite thing to do, but it’s a personal PR move on your part. It’s a way to get your name back on top of the stack of resume. You can take the time to remind the interviewer why you are the best candidate for the job.
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