My Top Ten Tips and Advice – Interviews

1. Preparation Removes Anxiety

If you haven´t prepared for the interview, you aren´t in control of your career. You´re leaving the outcome of the interview to chance. A salesperson prepares for a sales call so preparing for an interview makes complete sense. But an accountant or a computer whiz, for instance, is not only NOT used to thinking in a sales frame of mind, but often their interaction with people is minimal compared to someone in marketing or public relations. Preparation removes anxiety. It turns a potentially stressful Q & A session into a professional conversation between two people in the same industry who are exploring if their goals and philosophies are mutually beneficial. The benefit to you in preparing for an interview is that you will be more relaxed during it. The more relaxed you are, the more in control you will feel, because the less likely you are to get blindsided by an unexpected question and perhaps later regret your answer.

2. Your Cover Letter is NOT Your Resume!

Don’t labor over a résumé cover letter that fills the page with long, uninviting paragraphs restating your experience. It will be neither fully read nor will your hard work be noticed or appreciated. Your cover letter should not resell your résumé. If you’ve written your résumé correctly, it will speak for itself.

3. Keep Track of Your Job Search

Contact the recruiting firm or company personally by finding their contact information. Find out the name of who to send your résumé to, confirm the spelling and address, ask if they prefer it by fax, email, or snail mail. Make a note of this information in your JOBFINDING notebook or on a computer spreadsheet. Not only will you need records of this information, but also records of WHEN you sent out your résumé, WHEN you followed up, WHAT the results were, if you need to RESEND it, WHAT the conversation was about, WHEN your interview is scheduled, etc. Don’t rely on your memory. Keep it in one central place.

4. Don´t Bother With These!

Neither recruiters nor a potential employer is interested in personal references. Of course your brother-in-law is going to say great things about you or you wouldn´t list him. Your friend on your weekend baseball team may say you can hit a ball far but what has that got to do with your career? Nor do you need to bother with written job reference letters from previous employment addressed to: To Whom It May Concern. Your recruiter or the employer want to ask their own questions through conversation; it yields much more telling information. The written professional reference letters are usually fairly simple and generic. If the conversation duplicates the written reference, great. But the person conducting the reference will want to find out for himself.

5. Placement of Dates on Your Resume

Make sure the dates you started and ended with each company are clear. Ideally, they should go in the left margin, and the dates for positions WITHIN the company a few spaces to the right of the title(s). If you put all the dates flush with the right margin, your resume format is confusing to both the eye and the mind, and at first glance (and possibly LAST glance), it seems that you’ve changed jobs very often.

6. An Important Closing Question

An important interview question that most people are hesitant to ask is, “Are there any concerns you have about my background or qualifications that I can address for you?” But if you don´t ask this question – assuming you want the job – then you are missing the chance to clarify or elaborate on any points that might have been misunderstood. You are missing an extra chance to sell yourself. And while some employers might volunteer their concerns, the majority won´t unless you ask them.

7. If You Want to Know – Ask!

You never leave the sale on the table unless you know you don´t want the deal. You never leave without asking closing questions, unless you know you could care less about the job. But what if you do care? What if you are interviewing with other companies? What if you have a second interview scheduled for next week with a company you like but not as much as this one? What if they are interviewing other candidates? Don´t you want to know what your options and time frame are? Coyness is great on a first date, but it has no place in an interview. You have a right to know what transpires from here, what the next step is, and what you can expect. That information will help you know where you stand and assist you in making your decision, or even where you stand if you aren´t interviewing elsewhere.

8. Thank You Letters After the Interview

Make sure you collect business cards. You need to send a thank you letter to everyone with whom you met within 48 hours of the interview. The cards, of course, will give you their correct title and spelling of their name. Make sure all the letters are different. Review and restate some of the points about the company and the specific conversation that you found interesting and exciting. And if you want the job, make sure your letter expresses your interest in pursuing the opportunity.

9. Why A Phone Interview?

If relocation will factor into the equation, you´ll probably have a telephone interview first. When a company is interviewing several people, especially if those people are located in other states, a phone interview is the most productive way for both parties to determine if a mutual interest exists. This prevents the client company from having to lay out thousands of dollars in airfare and hotels right up front.

10. They Ask So Many Questions!

Executive recruiters put you through a multitude of questions, and a lot of them are very personal. There´s a reason for that. If the recruiter fails to take an in-depth search assignment from the client, how does the recruiter know what the client is looking for? And more than that, how will the recruiter know if they come across that person? Without a detailed profile of the position, the company, and the hiring authority, all the recruiter is doing is faxing resumes and hoping something will work. It´s tantamount to shooting arrows at a target in a dark closet. The same works in reverse for their questions to you. They simply cannot assume to know what you have done, what skills have you have, what you want in your new job, and where you envision your career going. There’s a right time and a wrong time to ask you these questions, but they definitely need to be asked.