Earlier I mentioned a symposium I attended on helping homeless Veterans find jobs and some of the job seeking advice I heard there. There was one more bit of advice that’s been running around in the back of my head – do I blog about this or not? I decided the answer is yes. There’s nothing earth shattering here but it can’t hurt to get this kind of advice periodically during your job search.
Here are 15 basic tips that you need to aware of when you go to an interview or a networking meeting. Again, I hope there are no surprises here, but if there are, at least someone told you. These are not in priority order, you need to do them all.
- Be on time. Before the interview know where you are going, how to get there, where you will park, etc. Plan to arrive 10 minutes (or so) early. Sit in your car and relax if you’re too early. Use the power building suggestions from by Body Language post while you wait.
- Be clean. I shouldn’t need to explain this.
- Smell good. This really should be “don’t smell.” Too much cologne or perfume is sometimes worse than none at all. I suggest you be a neutral as possible.
- Dress appropriately. I suggest you dress one step above what that office’s every-day work attire is. Guys – a business suit is not required or appropriate for all occasions. If they wear ties, you wear the suit. If they are business casual, you still wear the suit. If they are in jeans you wear dress pants and a dress shirt – tie is optional. If they are in shorts and filp-flops then you’re in business casual. Never less than business casual. Rarely more than business suit. If you don’t know what they wear, call the company and ask the receptionist. You don’t have to tell her your name J. Ladies – sorry but you’ll have to take your dress cues from my advice for guys. I’m not qualified to translate.
- Bring copies of your resume. I suggest between 2 and 5 copies. It depends on how many people you expect to meet.
- Bring something to take notes on. Not your hand or a pack of post-its. Don’t forget the pen.
- Remember your body language – smile, look people in the eye, offer a firm handshake.
- Speak clearly. Talk slowly, clearly. Use full sentences. Answer the question that is asked, nothing else. Don’t ramble.
- Remember your manners. Say please and thank you. I think you can use “sir” and “ma’am” but be careful. I may get some backlash on this, but some women take offense to ma’am because they say it makes them feel/sound old. I grew up with parents from the South and sir and ma’am are just part of who I am – no offense intended.
- Be patient. Take time to consider the question you’ve been asked before answering.
- No lying. Enough said.
- Ask questions. Be prepared to ask several questions (even if you already know the answers). You can ask about the company history, the strategic plan, their products, whatever – but show an interest in the organization.
- Ask when you can follow up. Even if they tell you when they plan to get back to you, ask when you can check back with them. Be proactive.
- Relax. This is a job interview. You are not being investigated for murder. The worse thing that can happen is that you don’t get this job. That’s okay – there will be others.
- Be yourself. Let them know all the ways you can make their organization better.
There you go – fifteen simple things to remember. Have a great interview!
My son just recently entered the professional job market and one networking contact recently asked him “what do you want?” My son (not really knowing what he wanted) answered the best he could and the manager repeatedly asked “so, what do you want,” or “why?” The interview was certainly annoying, but good natured and in the end, very profound.
Too often, when asked “what do you want” the job seeker says “I just want a job.” While I can understand the frustration and urgency behind that statement, rarely is it true. There are always jobs open if you want to work hard and not get paid much. I was fan of the TV show “Dirty Jobs” and they shared lots of jobs I really wouldn’t want.
As a job seeker, you need to be clear with yourself and others, who you are, and what you want. You may have to accept reality and you may not get what you want every time, but you can keep working toward that goal. If you just earned your degree in Accounting and think you want to be a CFO someday spend you energy looking for jobs that utilize those skills and fit that path.
Try to avoid begin overly general like “something in sales” or “something where I work with people” – both Wal-Mart greeters and corrections officers work with people but they are very different jobs.
Spend time thinking about what job you’d really like. If you’re not sure, use networking to learn more about different jobs. Go to a local Career Center (aka Unemployment Office) and they’ll probably offer a free job interest assessment. Figure out what you do best and what you like to do, then look in that market for a job.
Focus your job search and it will improve the quality of your networking and help you find that next job. And as the Rolling Stones Say “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, well you just might find, you get what you need.”
Let’s face it; very few of us have truly reached the pinnacle of our careers. Many have earned good educations, held responsible jobs, and been respected in a communities. But there still may be (or we think there are) holes in our resumes. It can be awfully tempting to “enhance” that resume to fill those holes and make ourselves more desirable to recruiters. Some might call this “putting the right spin on your experience.” In more extreme cases others might call it “lying.”
Let me be crystal clear, I do not advocate in any way or at any time lying on your resume. Listing jobs, responsibilities, accomplishments, education, etc. on your resume that are not true and accurate is wrong and should not be tolerated. If you hire someone who had blatant likes on his/her resume or application they should be terminated immediately for a lack of honesty. Never, never, never lie on your resume (or any other time for that matter).
That being said, there is also no reason to draw a red circle around every hole in your resume and intentionally bring those issues to that attention of every recruiter you talk to. Let’s try a simple example. Say your job was eliminated from company X on February 4 and you found a new job with Company Y on November 24. If you use the full dates in the Job History section of your resume it will be obvious to everyone that you were out of work of just over 9 months. However, if you simply list the year on your resume the only thing that is obvious is that your changed jobs in 2009, but the gap disappears. You’ll want to be honest about that gap if it comes up in an interview or when you complete an application, but there is no need to volunteer the information.
When constructing your job history, it’s okay not to list jobs that don’t fit your career objective. If during the gap in previous paragraph you worked at McDonald’s because you needed income, you don’t need to list that on your resume, unless it supports your career objective. You should include it on a formal application, but let it come up in the interview, rather than when your resume is being screened. Similarly, if you’ve had lots of jobs (I’ve had 10 professional jobs since I graduated from college) there is no need to list all of them on your resume – unless they show a clear progression that supports your career objective. Only list the most recent ones that best support the position you are applying for.
What I’m advocating some might consider simple common sense. Make sure to include factual information that supports who you are and why you are the best candidate for a position. At the same time, don’t include anything on your resume that does not support that same objective unless leaving it off will create more questions than including it. Your resume is just that, your resume. You get to decide the best way to present yourself. You choose the format, the style, and the contents. Choose the things that present you in the best possible light.
Honesty is clearly the best, and the only acceptable policy. But, discretion may be the better part of valor.