Posted by Larry Brantley on November 25, 2008
In today’s market it is tough enough to find a job opening, much less secure your place as the client’s number one choice. Old habits of passive interviewing do not work. You have to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Here are some key points to set yourself apart from the crowd-
*Dress to Impress-
Always dress appropriately for the position you are interviewing for, as well as for the person you are meeting. Some jobs are more casual in the work culture than others. Don’t assume to know without first asking around. It is better to over dress than under dress for an appointment. You can come across as unconcerned or even dowdy if you dress too casual. Most Human Resource contacts watch professional appearance as a first level of screening. ALWAYS dress professionally for a senior-level hiring manager. In most advertising and communications environments business/casual is the best attire. Client side interviews should always be business attire in a first meeting.
*Research the Company History-
Find out as much as possible before your meeting with the prospective employer. Things such as key clients, current employee contacts, financials, their competition, and the reason for the opening show your level of interest as well as prepare you for what kinds of questions may be addressed in a meeting. The web is a great tool for investigating a potential employer as well as industry magazines that may features the company’s success stories. Network with people who know about the employer. Many bad hire stories can be prevented by knowing more about the company before you walk through their doors!
*Position Your Strengths to match their needs-
Make sure that the key traits they are looking for in this position are highlighted in your resume and when you speak in your interviews. Don’t assume that they see the same things that you do. It is your role in communicating to the interviewer why you are the BEST person for the job. Don’t overstate your capabilities or try to say you’re a quick study. Employers want people who have all of the skills they are looking for in a job opening. They do not want to train someone.
*Show poise and confidence in your face to face meetings-
Keep eye contact with your interviewer. Sit up straight and as comfortable as possible. Don’t cross your arms or legs into a closed position. Closed body positions come across as protective and not open to sharing. Speak with a clear definitive voice. Answer questions succinctly and honestly. If the answer is “you don’t know”, say so.
*Express genuine interest without sounding desperate-
Remember the name of your interviewer and refer to it during your discussions. Confirm you are excited about the opportunity without throwing yourself at him/her. Employers know that the market is saturated with candidates looking for a job. They can be picky, but ideally want to fill the job as soon as possible. If you are comfortable, they will likely be comfortable around you.
*Send a follow up note and manage next steps-
Always conclude an interview by thanking the person for the invitation to meet with him/her, even if you think it is going bad. It is also VERY important to send a thank you note via email or mail the very next day. Unless told to call the next day, you should give the interviewer time to reflect on your meeting by comparing you to the other candidates. Typically it is appropriate to follow up 2 to 3 days after a meeting by telephone, unless a specific date is specified. Be sure to ask the interviewer BEFORE you leave the meeting; “What are the next steps?”
When you are competing (and Yes, this is a competition) for a job, you must be specific and make sure you are creating a positive memory for a potential employer. Some candidates focus on personal charm and name dropping to let the client know more about his/her work history. Others go above and beyond the interview requirements by creating a full-blown presentation of their skills and highlights with multimedia CDs or self-promotion packets. It truly depends on the job and the company if these methods work, but they certainly can’t hurt.
Confidence, poise, intelligence, personality, and a good work ethic will always prevail.