Presenting Yourself During the Hiring Process
Because most organizations use interviews as part of their selection process, you have probably already been an interviewee and so you know how stressful interviews can be. With the following information, we describe strategies and tactics you can use to make your next job search more successful and less stressful.
Getting the Interview
Because interviewing is time consuming, most organizations do not interview all the people who apply for a job. Rather, they use a variety of screening devices to eliminate people who don’t meet their qualifications. Chief among these is evaluating the qualifications presented on your resumé and in the letter that accompanies it. The goal of your resumé and cover letter then is to “sell yourself and get an interview.”
It All Begins with Research. In order to write an effective cover letter and resumé that highlights your qualifications for a particular job, you need to know something about the job requirements and about the company.
Write an Effective Cover Letter. A cover letter is a short, well-written letter expressing your interest in a particular position
Prepare a Professional Resumé. The resumé is a summary of your skills and accomplishments; it is your “silent sales representative.”
PRESENTING YOURSELF IN AN INTERVIEW
An interview is a structured conversation with the goal of exchanging information that is needed for decision making. Careful handling of an interview includes getting ready for the interview, conducting yourself during the interview, and performing interview follow-up.
PREPARING TO BE INTERVIEWED
While the resumé and cover letter make you an attractive candidate for an employer, it is your behavior at the interview that will solidify your chances to receive an offer. There are several guidelines that can help you prepare for the interview.
- Do your homework. If you haven’t done extensive research on the position and company in preparation for writing your letter, do it before you go to the interview. Be sure you know the company’s products and services, its areas of operation, ownership, and financial health. Nothing puts off interviewers more than applicants who arrive at an interview knowing little about the company.
- Based on your research, prepare a list of questions about the organization and the job. The employment interview should be a two-way street where you size up the company as they are sizing you up. So you will probably have a number of specific questions to ask the interviewer. For example, “Can you describe a typical workday for the person in this position?” or “What is the biggest challenge in this job?” Make a list of your questions and take it with you to the interview.
- Rehearse the interview. Several days before the interview spend time outlining the job requirements and determining how your knowledge, skills, and experiences meet those requirements. Practice questions commonly asked in interviews.
- Dress appropriately and conservatively. You will want to make a good first impression, so it is important to be well groomed and neatly dressed.
- Plan to arrive on time. The interview is the organization’s first exposure to your work behavior. So you don’t want to be late. Find out how long it will take you to travel by making a dry run several days before. Plan to arrive ten or fifteen minutes before your appointment.
- Bring supplies. Gather and bring extra copies of your résumé, cover letter, and references, as well as the list of questions you plan to ask. You will also want to have a writing tablet and pen so that you can make notes.
BEHAVIOR DURING THE INTERVIEW
While interviewing can be stressful, several guidelines can help you put your best foot forward.
- Use active listening. Work on attending, understanding, and retaining what is asked. Remember that the interviewer will be aware of your nonverbal behavior, so be sure to make and keep eye contact as you listen.
- Think before answering. If you have prepared for the interview, you should be able to tell your story as you answer the questions posed.
- Be enthusiastic. If you come across as bored or disinterested, the interviewer is likely to conclude that you would be an unmotivated employee.
- Ask questions. As the interview is winding down be sure to ask the questions you prepared that have not already been answered.
When the interview is complete there are several important follow-up steps.
- Write a thank-you note. It is appropriate to write a short note thanking the interviewer for the experience and re-expressing your interest in the job.
- Self-assess your performance. Take time to critique your performance. How well did you do? What can you do to do better next time?
- Contact the interviewer for feedback. If you don’t get the job, you might call the interviewer and ask for feedback.