No matter what you do for a living, interviewing will be something you have to do.
Whether it be a first job as a teenager, a first career as a graduate or simply a change in your path, being able to successfully navigate the interview process can often mean the difference between a job offer or a raise on the one hand and a rejection on the other.
In this article, we’re going to focus on 8 job search and interview tips that can help you get the job if you prepare them before the actual interview. On top of that, we discuss interview questions in our next guide, so stay tuned.
By following a few simple steps, and preparing your interview, landing your dream job can soon become a reality. We already discussed What To Wear To An Interview so have a look.
1. Figure Out the Job You Want
This step may actually take the longest, because finding a new job starts with reflecting on what you do and do not want in a job. It’s a tough question, and it also needs to be answered in terms of what is realistic. Do you crave fulfillment, authority, or just a paycheck? Ask yourself what you do and do not like about your current job, and then figure out how you can apply those needs to a job search. More flexibility could mean looking for companies that are known for flexible work policies; more advancement opportunities could mean looking for rapidly growing firms. Create a list of your needs and create a matching list of target companies.
Finally, create a back-up plan in case your goal job is out of reach. It may be to stay in your job for a while longer, make a lateral move, or make a small step in the right direction.
2. Network, and Then Network Some More
It’s hard to make an online job application stand out these days – filters and HR staff will quickly discard candidates based on factors that you as the job applicant are not likely to know. Instead, building your network is the face-to-face, human way to increase your exposure and harness the knowledge of others to position yourself for a job. Personal recommendations and connections nearly always trump the faceless people in the resume pile, so pull up your LinkedIn profile and start asking friends, relatives and former colleagues at your target firms if you can buy them a coffee.
The key to successful networking is to show genuine interest in the knowledge people have about their field and company. You want to learn from them, and if they learn enough about your character and goals they will likely be willing to help you. They will also give you valuable information about the culture, pay and benefits of a company that would otherwise be taboo to ask about at an interview. Once you’ve developed a relationship with them, ask if they would be willing to put you in touch with other people and if they can inform you of upcoming job openings before they are officially posted.
Unlike with an interview, networking is based almost entirely on the willingness of people to help you because you asked. It’s important that you show them you appreciate their time and insights, either through a thank you note or email.
The next step in finding the perfect job is to check online job boards of the companies you’ve targeted. Once you’ve found a listing, you can ask your network if anyone knows anything about it.
3. Do Your Homework
Once you’ve developed your short list of jobs you want to apply for, it’s time to conduct a more research. A good start is to check out their website so you can learn about the company, what they stand for and what they are trying to achieve.
Second, take a look at sites such as Glassdoor.com where employees of the company can anonymously post information about what they like and dislike about the job, company or direct manager. They can also list salary ranges if the ad doesn’t come with one and tips or tricks for the interview process. Bear in mind that, people are far more likely to write about the negative things than positive experiences.
If the job post does list specific people, try to locate them on websites like Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter to learn a little bit more about them. Even if you won’t be working with them and they’re just conducting the interview, having some information on hand about their likes and dislikes is a great way to develop a rapport with them. This doesn’t mean finding out what their kids names are or that they spent last weekend in The Hamptons. We’re going for generic information.
4. Keep The Cover Letter Clear & Simple
Once you’ve established that you want to work with a certain organization, it’s time to provide them with your resume or C.V. To do that, you want to write a short cover letter.
Do you need one? It’s never a bad idea!
If you’re sending in the application via email, the actual body of the email can serve as the cover letter. It should briefly introduce you, explain in one or two sentences why you’re perfect for the job and showcase your enthusiasm and interest in the opportunity. Often recruiters will take a quick glance at the cover letter and decide whether to look over the resume based on what’s said in the letter. It’s vital that every cover letter being sent out appears to be written for that specific job.
Follow the directions listed in the listing exactly. Many employers will provide very strict instructions in job ads to see which candidates are capable of taking direction.
It seems obvious but ensure that if your resume is being sent to a specific person, that you spell their name correctly in the cover letter and don’t use gender-specific titles like Mr. or Mrs. if they have a unisex name. It’s also wise to only refer to women as Ms. if you’re unsure whether they are married or not. Once you are finished writing it, have someone else read over it. Ideally, you seek out a person with HR experience.
5. Your Resume Must Be Specific
If you are targeting specific industries or positions, the best idea is to have a job-specific resume. Your resume is the first impression and you only get one of those. It is your one opportunity to brag, but it’s equally important to remain humble. Always keep it to one page, and keep the font size readable. Nobody is going to read a C.V. that looks similar to fine print. Less is always more and it shows that you can break down complex things to their essential parts.
Be Honest & Highlight Your Achievements
That’s a must. Don’t embellish or lie about your experience or qualifications. Ensure that everything on your resume is accurate, but do try to market yourself in a positive light.
For employers, the best indicator of future performance is your past performance. Use specific numbers, and time-frames that show your accomplishments. If you can show your potential employer these three things, chances are very good to get the job.
- How you made your employer more money
- How you saved your employer money
- How you increased customer satisfaction
Rather than saying, “I am a performance driven individual, who adheres to deadlines and excels under pressure”, write this: “Increased revenue by $255,000 within the first quarter; restructured the order submission process which saved the company 5,000 hours per year. Launched product x 30 days before due date…”
You get the hint. Be specific and use numbers to show the impact you had on the business, not just descriptive words that every resume uses.
6. Pay Attention To The Font & Readability
The font should also be easy to read. Simple fonts like Arial and Times New Roman work well. Avoid anything that is cartoonish or difficult to read. That also means you want size 14 with enough spacing or 12 if you have to, but not smaller. Otherwise, people simply will not read it.
For titles and headers, increase the size of the font or make it bold. For items such as dates, consider italics.
Resumes should be clean, concise and easy to read. Some people opt to add color to the resume to stand out from the other applicants. If you do want to incorporate color, simply place your name at the top of the resume in a color such as navy blue but keep the remainder of the resume in black. If you apply for a position in a creative field, you can even take a step back and come up with a unique way to apply, that will certainly get you noticed more than a regular paper resume.
If you apply for a position in a creative field, you can even take a step back and come up with a unique way to apply, that will certainly get you noticed more than a regular paper resume.
7. Be Ready for the First Contact
If the employer is impressed with your resume and wants to learn more about you, they will generally contact you by phone to schedule an interview or tell you about the interview process.
Different jobs require different types of interviews. If you do receive a call from the employer, the goal is brevity and professionalism. Be kind, attentive and polite. If you happened to answer the phone in a noisy environment, excuse yourself from the situation or ask if you can call them right back. A recruiter will be happier to wait for you to call back over having to ignore background noise.
In some cases, this phone call is simply an introduction to say that your resume was received and they would like you to come into their office for an interview. In other situations, they might have some follow-up questions for you, or they might ask if you have time to do a phone interview to help them determine fit before they call you in for a formal interview.
If they are simply asking you to come in for an interview, thank them for the opportunity, ask them if there is anything specific you need to bring with you and confirm their address, the date and the time of the interview. Be sure to get the name of the person conducting the interview and ask them to spell it if you’re unsure.
If the recruiter called in hopes of obtaining some basic information or wishes to conduct a short pre-interview, accept the opportunity. There are two reasons that recruiters will do this:
- If they truly don’t have specific information they need in order to determine whether you’re qualified for the position. This might mean confirming items listed on your resume or asking if you have a specific accreditation for the job.
- They might be trying to catch you off guard. Most recruiters understand that when you show up for an interview at their office, you’ve had time to prepare and most likely planned some answers for their questions. If they are trying to catch you off guard, it’s not to trick you or make you look like a fool. It’s so they can see how to react under pressure and without having a chance to plan. If for whatever reason you really don’t have time for the interview that moment or secretly feel the need to plan, ask if you can schedule something with them later in the day or the following day.
8. The Job Interview
At this point, you’ve been asked to come in for an interview. Depending on the position you’ve applied for, the interview may be conducted by a single recruiter, a direct manager that would oversee you or possibly a team of people. It’s normal to feel nervous or intimidated. Just remember they called you in which means they already have an interest in you.
What to Bring To The Interview
If the recruiter specifically instructed you to bring documents, be sure you have two copies of each document. If they did not request anything, it’s wise to bring the following items with you, so you’ll appear prepared and interested.
1. Two Pens
Why two? In case one stops flowing or you accidentally lose it. Often interview sessions will require you to complete some paperwork or an examination. Be sure to bring two working pens with black ink. If specific writing instruments are required such as a pencil or a red ink pen, the recruiter will often have one on hand for you to use. We highly recommend bringing a fine writing instrument over a generic BIC or PaperMate pen.
2. Your ID
If the job is in a secure building, chances are you’ll be asked for ID when you arrive. The other reason to bring identification is if they offer you the job. They will need to be able to confirm your identity. Be sure to bring with the following:
- Driver’s License / ID card
- Social Security Number
- Work Visa or Immigration Documents
- Copies of Certifications or Accreditations Needed
- Multiple Copies of Your Resume
- List of References with Contact Information
You don’t necessarily have to offer all these items, but if they mention that they’ll require them, it’s a great way to show them how organized and prepared you are.
Prepping an interview is anything but easy. It requires diligence, hard work and time on your part. But if you are willing to go the extra mile, it will pay off. If not at the first, second or third interview, don’t give up and try to understand what went wrong, so you won’t make the same mistakes again. If you follow all the tips in this guide, you are likely more qualified that most of the other applicants and that will elevate you from the test.
Next, stay tuned for our next guide, which is all about Interview Questions and How You Should Prepare them.
This guide was written by J.A. Shapira and Sven Raphael Schneider