Guidelines for Interviewing

Congratulations!  You did it!  You got the interview.  This is the beginning of the second phase of the process.  Be prepared for multiple interviews.  The hiring process never goes as quickly as anyone wants.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

RESEARCH!  Employers only hire people them like.  Who do they like?  People who prepare for meetings.  So learn everything you can about the employer.  Devour their website.  Google them.  Sooner or later you will be asked the question, Why do you want to work here?  That is your opportunity to show off your research skills.  So show them off.  Don’t tell them what a great researcher you are and how well you prepare for meeting, show them!

But researching the company is not enough.  Employers only hire people they like.  Who do they like?  People with whom they share something in common.  So research the interviewers.  Google them.  Look at their LinkedIn profiles.  Learn what you can, and if possible, find a connection and subtly bring it up.

And don’t forget to research the company’s employees.  Do a “Company” search on LinkedIn and read the profiles of the employees.  This will give you an idea of the type of people they hire.  Let them know that you will fit in.

ARRIVE early.  There is never any excuse for being late.  Period.  Dress conservatively.  And absolutely no cologne or perfume.  The interview will not last long if the interviewer can literally not bear to be in the same room with you!

GREET the receptionist with a handshake.  Most people ignore the receptionist.  Don’t.  Be polite and engaging, and most importantly, professional.  A receptionist can kill a candidacy.  If she is not busy, engage her in polite conversation about her job and why she likes working at the company.

When the person you are meeting greets you, give a firm handshake, smile, thank them for inviting you for the interview and, as soon as possible, mention that your aim is to learn how you will be able to make their life easier.  That will frame the discussion around your candidacy.  You see your job as making the employer’s life easier.

MODESTY may be the best policy, but not during an interview.  But you don’t want to come across as pompous.  So, at the very beginning, when you are talking about your success, note that you recognize that you were lucky enough to be part of a team but, for present purposes, you are going to be focusing on what you personally accomplished.

ASK FOR THE JOB, but be subtle about it.  At the end, thank the interviewer again and, if you are interested, tell them that you are interested in the position and want to know what the next step is in the process.

THE THANK-YOU LETTER is your next step in the process.  As soon as you get home, prepare an e-mail.  The purpose of the thank-you is to show that you can write a professional letter, to express interest in the position, to clarify any statements you made in the interview, and to make any corrections.  In the letter you must relate to some of the major points the interviewer raised.  It cannot read like a generic thank-you.  Moreover, proofread it – at least three times.  If you can’t find someone to proofread it for you, make sure you wait a good 20 minutes before your send it.  A poorly worded letter, or one with multiple errors, can and will cost you an offer.

But the e-mail is not enough.  Mail a hand-written thank-you note.  It’s a nice touch and it’s unexpected.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T FORGET, THE ONLY PERSON THE EMPLOYER CARES ABOUT IS HIS OR HER SELF.  SO FOCUS ON THE NEEDS OF THE EMPLOYER, NOT ON WHAT YOU WANT.  WHAT YOU WANT IS IMPORTANT AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE PROCESS, BUT YOU WON’T REACH A SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION UNLESS  YOU FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYER.

GOOD LUCK!

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How to Follow-Up Following a Submission or Interview (Ask Lassie!)

Yesterday one of my career counseling clients contacted me with a question: “A week ago I applied on-line for a position with a non-profit and I have not heard anything.  What should I do?”

My immediate gut response was, “Do nothing.”  He wanted to call HR.  I can understand that, but, as I explained, HR probably received a hundred (literally!) resumes for the position.  If everyone of them calls they won’t be able to get any work done and they may become annoyed.  You don’t want HR annoyed!

As the saying goes, “So what’s a girl to do?”

Submission

If you applied on-line assume the resume was received.   Not calling puts you in the majority.  I always say that the key to getting a job is differentiation.  Of course, it has to be positive.  You don’t want to differentiate yourself by making a fool out of yourself.  So maybe calling is not such a bad thing.  But you have to do it the right way:

Rule #1;  Only call once.  If you are leaving a message, that’s it.  Don’t call back to find out if they got the message.  It’s over.

Rule #2:  Be it an actual conversation or a voice mail message, keep it short.  Sound confident and helpful.  “This is Bruce Hurwitz.  I submitted my application on-line a week ago for the whatever position, and just wanted to follow-up.  Is there anything I can do to help facilitate my candidacy?”  (If it’s a voice mail message then obviously change it to, “I just wanted to know if there is anything I can do to help facilitate my candidacy.  You can reach me at…”)

And that’s it.  Whatever the response is, that’s your answer.  And silence is a response.

Interview

Naturally, the next question has to be, How do you follow-up after an interview?  Here are my rules:

Rule #1:  Ask the interviewer.  At the end of the interview thank her, tell her you are interested in the job, and ask what the next step is.

Rule #2:  Whatever she says, that’s what you do.  “You’ll hear from us,” means that if you don’t hear from them, they are not interested.  Or does it?  Perhaps things are just taking a bit longer than they thought.   In that case, see Rule #5.

Rule #3:  Never lie.  If you have another good possibility, call the person who interviewed you and say, “I just wanted to update you.  I’m a finalist with another company.  My preference would be to work for you.  I’d appreciate knowing my status.”  Again, if you don’t hear back, you’ve gotten your answer.

Rule #4:  If they said, “Call in two weeks.”  Call in two weeks.

Rule #5:  If after doing everything they said, you still have not heard anything, stop looking at the relationship within the job interview context and start looking at it within the networking context.  If you see, for example, an article that the person might be interested in, send it to them with a note.  Write something like, “I remember when you interviewed me you told me that you enjoyed fishing in upstate New York.  I saw this article and thought it might be of interest to you.  All the best, Bruce.”  (It will also work if you noticed something in their office and are sending them something about that.  It could be, for example, something related to a painting or a photograph.)  Don’t ask for the job.  Don’t ask about the job.  The recipient knows you want the job.  If you are still in the running, they will let you know.  And if they don’t respond, you probably would not want to work for them!

And finally,

Rule #6:  For Rule #5 to work you have to LISTEN to the interviewer for clues and cues about how to follow-up.  So follow the good Lord’s hint when he put most of His creatures together: we all have two ears and one mouth.  So we should listen twice as much as we speak.  (And we always have to “listen” with our eyes as well.)  Think about it, animals rely on their hearing (and sight) to warn them of danger or to alert them to opportunities, and their mouths to scare away attackers and to realize those opportunities.  It’s the same for us!

So maybe the best way to learn about getting a job is to watch reruns of Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin!  Or maybe not…