Best Interview Prep

Unsurprisingly, interviewers want to hear where you think you are in your career and where you want to go next—hence you’re very likely to be asked a potential showstopper like Why do you want to work here?

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Within the broad requirement of wanting to know about your career goals, different interviewers have different reasons for asking:

  • If you’re a recent graduate, interviewers want to know that you expect to start at the bottom and work up, rather than start at the top and see how it goes from there.
  • If you’re in the middle of your career, interviewers want to know how you got there, where you want to go next and whether you have the energy and the ability to make the move up.
  • If you’re hoping to move sideways or planning a fresh start in a new industry, the interviewer will expect you to be clear about why you think you should be given a shot, and that you know what will be expected of you in the unfamiliar environment.
  • If you’re hoping for a job that’s significantly bigger and more taxing than the one you have, the interviewer will want to know that you’re motivated by something other than money—because money is usually not enough to keep most of us interested in a job we can’t do or that we don’t like, at least not for long.
  • If you’ve had a large number of jobs recently, the interviewer will be keen to know why, and whether you’re likely to flee from them too.

It all adds up to the same thing: no interviewer wants to get you on-board if deep down you’d rather be somewhere else. Wrong hires are not just time-consuming and expensive to deal with—they can also be acutely embarrassing to the hirer’s reputation as a manager. Also, if you have no idea where you’re going in your career, chances are you won’t be in a position to inspire anyone else to travel with you—in which case you probably shouldn’t be trying out for anything resembling a leadership role.

For all these reasons and more, you need to prepare a strong picture of your professional outlook, and be in position to quickly relate it to the job specification and to the culture of the hiring company.

If the job is consistent with the career path you have envisaged for yourself, show them. If, deep down, you’d rather be somewhere else, then you should be.

Please describe the job you’ve applied for

The Real Question: We know you know, else you wouldn’t be here—but how well can you sum it up?

Top-line Tactic: Have the confidence to give them the briefest of answers.

At interview, the difference between success and failure often comes down to knowing when to stop talking, and, when that time comes, actually having the confidence to stop too.

Most jobs require at least forty hours a week of activity, and there’s probably something you could say about each hour. Therefore, this question truly does separate the gabblers from the strong and silent types.

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Business Cards To Get A Job

As a resume writer, have you ever given advice to a job seeker about the design or use of a job-search business card? If so, what was your advice?

I have given advice on this. I recommend clients incorporate a personal branding statement, and not just say what they do. You want to be memorable. This was not a client of mine, but I met a woman who was a marketing executive. She had mini-business cards that were very simple, her name, Strategic Marketing Executive, phone and email (personally I would have added her LinkedIn URL) on one side. The other side of the card had a tag line, like Dynamic Leader, and each card had a different line. When she passed out cards in a group interview it became a talking point and people were comparing what each card said.

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I suggest to my clients that their business card design should match the formatting, color, and tone of their resume and other career communications tools whenever possible. I also suggest using a networking title on the front of the card and including a short WhyBuyROI on the reverse side. This succinctly summarizes for the reader why a company should hire the person and what impact their tenure has made for past employers.

A business card or a double-sized card (folded to the typical size) is easy to carry and hand to someone as part of a job seeker’s networking and self-marketing process. It would include the job seeker’s name, contact info, the target job, brief bullet points, LinkedIn profile URL, and the URL and/or QR code to access the full resume.

Business cards can be printed at most office supply stores and are reasonably inexpensive for a few hundred cards. In addition, many online companies produce business cards inexpensively. And if you’re technology savvy, you can print your cards using special paper and a template that is already loaded on most computers.

When creating your job-search business cards, keep the design simple. Use traditional fonts and conservative, business-appropriate color schemes. If you are pursuing jobs in advertising, media marketing, or other creative fields, you have more latitude with design and use of colors.

Infographic Business Card

An infographic business card is a very unique concept. It is not a “business card” in the traditional sense. Instead, it is more of a “networking handbill.” In concept, an infographic business card is a colorful, high-resolution document containing persuasive background information and accomplishments presented through pie charts and bar graphs of creative design.

An infographic business card was briefly addressed in the Infographic Resume section of the article. It is larger than the standard three-and-a-half inch by two-inch business card. Although there is no rule, a four-by-six-inch card is a good size or starting point.

The infographic business card is ideal for networking events, especially for association gatherings and conventions. Printed on business-card grade paper, with colorful graphics, it is a clear differentiator. If not too large, it can still easily slip into an inside jacket pocket or portfolio of a networking contact or hiring executive.

If this infographic card idea appeals to you, it is highly recommended that you use the services of a professional with experience creating infographic resumes, as this experience translates well to infographic cards. Remember, networking cards, resume cards, and infographic cards do not replace your resume. They are designed as job-search marketing pieces. Always have these cards handy, regardless of which version or versions you decide to use. Who knows who you could meet, and if they’ll contribute to your search? You never can tell.

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Thank You Letters

The primary purposes of thank-you letters are to express your appreciation, reiterate your relevant background, qualifications, and successes, and differentiate you from other job seekers. Most hiring executives appreciate a thank-you correspondence after an interview. And “some employers may expect a job interview thank-you card.” However, it has been said that only 20 percent of all job seekers take the time to write a thank-you note. If so, writing a thank-you note can differentiate you from other job seekers. And not sending a thank-you note may reflect negatively on your candidacy.

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An important secondary purpose is to make sure the hiring executive remembers you. In a survey by The Ladders, a combined 76 percent said a thank-you note was “somewhat important” or “very important” to their hiring decision. That’s three out of every four! Therefore, capitalize on this opportunity to reinforce your skills and accomplishments. Write a thank-you note after every interview. And keep it short. This is a thank-you letter, not an interview transcript.

To maximize the impact of your thank-you letter, use the following approach:

1. Express your appreciation

2. Match

3. Emphasize past achievements

4. Close

Let’s look at each step in more detail:

Express your appreciation

Thank the hiring executive for their time. Then, build rapport, depending upon the circumstances. Your first paragraph could look something like this:

I appreciate you taking time to meet with me regarding your implementation consultant position. I enjoyed learning how you derived the concept behind your state-of-the-art system. As we discussed, my knowledge in this area could assist your department with the challenges it will face in the coming months.

Or, perhaps like this:

Thank you for meeting me on Tuesday regarding the regional sales position. I appreciate your time. And, by the way, good luck to your son during tryouts for the starting quarterback position!

Match

Because you were interviewed, you should know what the hiring executive is looking for in the position. Briefly restate and match your qualifications to the need.

During our plant tour last week, I was impressed with your use of robotics in the manufacturing process. I can honestly say I have never seen such an efficient after-market manufacturing plant! With over fifteen years as an industrial engineer from near identical manufacturing environments I am well-suited for the challenges of this position.

Emphasize past achievements

Express your interest in the position, and link two or three job requirements with your accomplishments. For maximum impact, try to make them relevant to company needs, a position’s special qualifications, or topics mentioned in the interview. Your paragraph could look something like this:

I am interested in joining your company in an engineering operations capacity. As we discussed, my recent accomplishments include:

• Implemented a manufacturing process improvement system resulting in an $800,000 savings.

• Designed and implemented an inventory auditing system that increased turnaround time by 30 percent and reduced spending by 12 percent.

• Developed and implemented a “Visions” business plan that forecast budgets for a variety of business operations including equipment and technology upgrades, new facility construction, and reduced operating expenses.

Close

Here, express your continued interest and outline your plan to contact the hiring executive. Here’s an example of this final paragraph:

What I achieved for Sinc Company, I can do for you. I will follow up with you in ten days, as you requested, to discuss additional steps.

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Cover Letters and Recruiters

When contacted by a recruiter for a specific opportunity, the following technique can differentiate you from other job seekers since you will be competing against other well-qualified candidates.

Here’s the scenario and how to gain a potential edge:

You have been contacted by a recruiter regarding a specific opportunity. You are interested and qualified and the recruiter is willing to submit your credentials to the employer. Ask the recruiter if there is a job description or job posting. If so, get it and read it. In the same conversation or a follow-up call, tell the recruiter that you are going to send a brief cover letter (by email) regarding the position. Most, if not all, recruiters will accept the letter. Ask the recruiter, at his or her discretion, to include the cover letter as a part of your submission to the employer. Here’s why: Many recruited candidates don’t bother with cover letters because they think a recruiter’s involvement makes a cover letter unnecessary. Differentiate yourself from your competition and showcase your accomplishments and qualifications by writing a cover letter (remember the word cloud technique, which could help). Employers will note that you took the time and effort to write the letter, and draw the conclusion that you must be more interested than some of the other candidates who did not. And when the letter gets read, you have differentiated yourself even more.

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Marketing Emails—Proactively Marketing Your Professional Credentials

Proactively marketing your professional credentials by email directly to hiring executives is an effective job-search technique that drives straight to the heart of the hidden job market. With reference to the Cover Letter Success Formula, write a compelling email cover letter.

Marketing emails essentially follow the identical formula for content as any other letter with some distinct differences that should be observed to increase effectiveness. These differences include:

Subject Line. Good use of the subject line is vital. It must be short and attention-getting. A poor subject line would read: “Accountant looking for work.” A good subject line would read: “#1 Provider Technology Sales Representative.”

A very good approach is using your Headline from your LinkedIn profile, and then modifying it as needed using your professional judgment.

Inside Address. This is a communication sent by email, not by the US Postal Service. Do not put an inside address in the email. A date is unnecessary as well.

Attaching a Resume. Here you have to make some decisions. Some companies have servers with robust firewalls that screen out all unfamiliar emails with an attachment. You can either send an attached resume or not. If your email that had a resume attached is returned with an undeliverable kickback, try again without the resume attached. Another consideration is your current employment status. If you are unemployed, it is recommended that you attach a copy of your resume. If you are currently employed, think through whether you want to provide a copy of your resume. You may decide to be selective and send a copy to some companies and not to others.

When it comes to attaching a resume, customize the name of the document. It should at least be your first and last name with a space between them e.g., John Smith.docx. A better approach would be your name plus a branding statement e.g., John Smith Lean Six Sigma. docx. Or, add a position type or function e.g., John Smith Senior Engineer.docx.

Close. Your close should be different due to the “reply” function with emails. It is recommended that you ask the recipient to act in response to the email. An example of a good close would be:

“If you have an interest or a need for a proven account manager with a documented track record of success, please reply or call me.”

Telephone Number. Always put your telephone number in your marketing emails. The hiring executive may want to bypass the reply button and speak to you directly. Give them a way to do so.