Dear Aspiring Young Professional,
With graduation looming, there’s a sense of panic – “oh no, now what?” If you’re like I was, you’re scurrying to make those final edits to your resume, reaching out to every contact, in just about any industry out there. You’re sending e-mails, making phone calls, scheduling meetings, all to gain some perspective on the “real world” and decide how to approach the next phase of life.
While your resume speaks volumes – it can either be the key that unlocks the door or the nail in the coffin – it is not the final determinant of whether you’ll get offered the job. This post is not the “how to land my dream job” bible, and there may be a few “duh” moments as you read, but sometimes the simplest things are qualities your employer might find most attractive. If you pay attention to detail during the interview, you’re more likely to pay attention to detail in the workplace.
In your next interview – along with your dynamite, typo-free resume – try these simple tips, and let us know how it goes:
1. Dress Professionally: Call me vain, but before you open your mouth, how you’re dressed is the first thing a potential employer will notice. I cannot tell you how many times people have shown up for interviews with low cut shirts and ill-fitted skirts. Unless you are applying to become a professional street walker, go home and button up. No need to get decked out in a head-to-toe suite, but dress like a professional with tailored pants. For ladies, a skirt, crisp shirt, nicely ironed blouse, preferably tucked in works. Do not be afraid to show a little personality with your outfit…p.s. skin does not equal personality. Try a printed scarf or a statement piece of jewelry. J.Crew and Banana Republic have a great selection of professional attire.
2. Eye Contact & Firm Handshake: Here’s a “duh” moment, but it speaks volumes. Put simply, a limp handshake is awkward at best. Shake someone’s hand like you mean it, with confidence (and without breaking anyone’s knuckles); keep it firm and look him/her directly in the eyes. Eye contact is imperative when you are shaking hands with and speaking to someone. It’s a sign of respect and shows that you are fully-engaged and paying attention to the conversation. While I’m here, I should note, body language alone can say it all. Sit up straight, lean forward, keep it comfortable and confident.
3. Establish Rapport: Know with whom you will be interviewing, learn whatever you can about him/her – hobbies, extra-curricular activities, expertise, alma mater – whatever you can get your hands on, then make a connection. During the interview establish that common ground and discuss topics that will be of interest to your interviewer. Part of what will sell you, is how personable you are and how you connect with people. Certain skills can be developed over time, but personality is inherent. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it. The human connection is priceless.
4. Tailor Your Skills: Here’s a secret; winning the job is about what you bring to the table. Think long and hard about your skills and what makes you marketable. Apply those characteristics to the job requirements. No employer wants to spend months training you. They want to know you are a quick learner, you’re versatile, and by all means resourceful and efficient. It’s all about the bottom-line and whether you can deliver, keep that at the forefront of your mind.
5. Thank You: Want to be forgotten? Then say good-bye and never look back. Want to stay top-of-mind? Send a handwritten thank you note, immediately after the interview, to everyone with whom you interviewed. Give it a few days, then follow up via e-mail with the HR person – ask if there is anything else he/she needs from you, and then wait for your job offer.
If you’ve got a number six or seven to add to the list that would help the next generation of career-chasers, let us know. We love your input. Any interview horror stories, we love those too! Best rule of thumb – learn from experience – the good, the bad and the “holy cow that did not just happen to me!”
Happy job searching!