Take Note: Preparing for a Job Interview

It’s never too early to prepare for a job interview. Get started the moment you receive the call. Jot down notes with the following topics in mind:

  • The company’s mission. What is the goal? Satisfied customers, a great dining experience, technical help without a hassle? Find out and remember it.
  • Your job skills and abilities. Communication, problem solving, code writing, technical assistance, and fashion coordination?
  • Hidden talents—such as leadership in a crisis and conflict resolution.

You don’t have to write an entire essay or a perfectly executed document. Just jot down some notes related to the topics above so that when you’re sitting across from the hiring manager you have something concrete to refer to.

Keep in mind that he or she wants to know what makes you tick—as a person and as a professional. Specific examples help hiring managers ‘see’ what you’re talking about so they can envision you in the job you’re discussing. Vague references (I’m good with people or I never missed a day of work in three years) may win a smile, but not the job. Hiring managers are looking for professionals who can muster the physical energy and mental commitment necessary to take on the responsibilities the job requires, and to accomplish measurable goals.

Some job seekers are SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) interviewees. They feel confident their sparkling personality and engaging smile will do for them what they’re unwilling to do for themselves. Not true. As important as it is to be friendly and outgoing, employers are most interested in whether or not you fit the profile of the kind of employee they’re looking for. And they usually want to hear about previous work-related accomplishments and crisis management.

On the Spot Help

Your prepared notes will help you get through the rough spots if you get nervous or forgetful. Simply glance at the card, and then pick up from where you left off.

Should you memorize the facts rather than putting them on a card or paper? That’s up to you. But in the event you start feeling anxious your mind may go blank. So don’t put any pressure on yourself to commit all this to memory. Rather than risk embarrassment, be prepared with notes to get you through.

Does Your Resume Speak For You?

When it comes to resumes many job seekers put together a list of previous employers, working dates, and a description of their skills. That’s it! Some consider this the ‘short and sweet’ method. But it might also be classified as ‘cut and dried.’ In other words, it has the basics but is lacking in personality and character. Such a resume does not speak for you. It simply lays out the facts about you. But that’s not enough in today’s tough job market and fragile economy.

How you present the material, the words you choose, and the style you use to convey your experience and skills can make all the difference between landing the job and landing a rejection.

Which details in your resume will give the hiring manager a glimpse of who you are as a person?

Call to Action!

Action words (verbs such as convinced, handled, managed) tell your employment story in a way that creates a picture in the mind of the reader. So make them the centerpiece of your resume. Focus on what they can do to help convey your talent and skills and also your style and personality. Consider the two following examples. Which one would you pick if you were a hiring manager?

Example #1:

Sales Trainer:

For a number of years now I’ve been employed by a sales company to train some of the new people who come onboard, showing them how to communicate more effectively with clients and fellow workers and I’ve also been able to help employees work out their differences with one another so more of them stay with the company rather than leaving for another job, and of course this increases the bottom line too.

Whew! This paragraph contains a single sentence of seventy-three words. That’s a lot to sort out and digest for someone who has to read hundreds of resume a week.

Example #2:

Sales Trainer:

Conducted effective sales trainings with new employees

Reduced staff attrition by such and such percent

Increased company revenue by x number of dollars

Resolved conflicts between managers and subordinates

Notice the verbs. They communicate actions taken and results produced.

Such writing also provides clues to the job seeker’s personality. Here is someone who is detailed, thorough, clear-minded, and precise. Clearly the man or woman behind this paragraph would be one worth calling for an interview.

Cover Letter Recipe for Success

Picture this. A hiring manager walks into his office one Monday morning and there in the center of his desk is a stack of unread mail. He knows what’s ahead of him—based on what he received last week and the week before that­­––job search cover letters that are poorly written, unclear, and just plain boring. He feels a headache coming on and reaches for an aspirin!

But once again he thumbs through them, hoping at least one of the letters will catch his interest enough to contact the job hunter for an interview. If you want to be the one he calls, then commit now to writing a cover letter that will grab his attention.

Here is a recipe for cover letter success.

Step #1:           Create a one-page cover letter. Period.

Step #2:           Leave plenty of ‘white space’ around the writing so it’s easy to read.

Step #3:           Include three paragraphs: (1) Introduce yourself and your qualifications and experience; (2) state your interest in the job; (3) request an interview.

Step #4:           Write only three sentences per paragraph for quick scanning.

Step #5:           Use action verbs and short sentences. Example: As assistant manager I identified and resolved employee conflict quickly.

Step #6:           End your letter with a polite ‘thank you’ for taking the time to read your letter.

Many job seekers overwhelm the hiring manager with a slew of words that runs two or three pages. They go on and on about themselves and use convoluted language that requires a dictionary. Pursuant to said job description I am corresponding with you today in order to attract your interest in my qualification for stated job for which you are interviewing prospective job searchers. Hiring managers don’t have time for pretentious appeals for a job. They want to hire down-to-earth individuals who are willing to work hard, take their responsibilities seriously, meet deadlines, communicate well with others, and carry out the company mission.

You’ll want the hiring manager to sit up and notice how different your cover letter is from those in the pile he’s already rejected.

Invest Now to Win the Job You Want

You have only one chance to make a good impression and to communicate your intention and desire to fill the job opening. Make it count by following the recipe for cover letter success above.