Hundreds of thousands of students will soon graduate from high schools and colleges across the nation and will seek either summer or full-time jobs. It’s no secret that the job market is extremely tight as the ripple-effect of the Great Recession that began in 2008 continues to be felt here in America. If you’ll be one of those graduates ‘selling’ your services, you’ll likely find it’s a ‘buyers’ market where potential employers will have lots of applications to choose from to fill a limited number of job slots. In many cases, you’ll have only one shot at making a great impression. Here are seven tips to get you noticed:
- Be early. Expect the unexpected to happen and make sure you arrive early for your interview. The last thing you’ll want is to start the interview with an explanation about how a traffic jam caused you to be late. At the same time, you shouldn’t arrive too early. Action plan: Plan to arrive 30-minutes early. Wait in the parking lot so as to time your arrival five minutes early. Use the time to focus on the key points you want to cover in the interview.
- Control your image. Recognize that your very first impression will be visual so a neat groomed and well-dressed appearance will make a difference. I realize that crazy hair, facial hair and body piercings may still be ‘cool’, but cool isn’t what most employers are looking for. As old fashioned as it may sound, most employers are still looking for the All-American guy or lady. Action plan: Take a long look in the mirror before heading out on your interview and make sure your overall appearance is congruent with the job you are seeking. Also be sure to review your Facebook page. You’d be surprised how many potential employers will review it to get a sense of who you are. Pictures of you at the beach partying hard with your friends might not be the image you want for your employer!
- Research the company. It’s never been easier to learn about the company you are interviewing. Most companies have some Internet presence through either a company web site or Internet articles. Action plan: Develop (and write down) three to five key points about the company about which you can discuss during the interview, particularly if you can relate to how you can positively impact the company through your job.
- Focus on the opportunity. Too many job seekers focus on what the company can do for them versus how their skills can benefit the company. Avoid initiating conversations about salary, vacation time or perks and instead focus your comments on how your skills can help the company achieve its goals as well as the opportunity you see for yourself in the company. Action plan: To the extent you can, get the interviewer talking by asking both good questions and good follow-up questions, you’ll stand out from the pack. Let’s face it, most folks prefer to talk rather than listen so ask the interviewer to describe the job responsibilities; follow with a ‘drill-down’ question like, “Describe the typical workday or work week”. Do your best to engage the interviewer in a conversation versus you simply responding to his or her questions.
- Exude confidence. People want to work with people who are fun, relaxed, and confident in the way they deal with others. You can help build your confidence by being prepared for the interview by following the steps outlined. Also, the more you interview, the easier it will become. Action plan: Make a list of at least a dozen companies where you might be interested in working. Begin interviewing with the companies you are least interested in working for and save your best prospects for the end. Consider your initial interviews as ‘practice’ for your later interviews. Your goal is to become a master at the interview process. And don’t be surprised if one of your early interviews is with a company you love and hires you!
- Be prepared to promote yourself. No one’s going to blow your horn for you so you’ll need to be prepared to discuss your unique skills for this job. Action plan: Think of two to three personal characteristics that make you a great choice for the job and be prepared to weave them into the conversation.
- Say, “Thank You”, in writing. Most job seekers simply move to the next interview without so much as a thank you to the interviewer for their time. Others do send a thank you note but rarely is that note handwritten. Action plan: Be a standout by writing a hand-written note of thanks to the interviewer on custom stationary. This assumes you have good penmanship; otherwise it should be a typed note on fine stationary. Be sure you include something specific that impressed you during the interview.
My partner and our Director of Operations, Greg Weyandt, says that what employers are looking for is the ‘Wow!’ factor…that something that makes you stand out among all the interviews. It could be exceptional maturity, being very prepared, asking great questions, being very at-ease during the interview all while focused on communicating that you want that job!
Next week, I’ll discuss the keys to being a superstar employee.