By Jason Lee
Tribune Media Services
February 27, 2013
For months, you've been sending out resumes, filling out online applications and waiting, waiting, waiting.
And just when you think all hope is lost, like a bolt of lighting from the sky, you land that ever-elusive interview.
There's nothing more exciting and confidence-boosting in a long job-hunt than landing an in-person interview. Finally, you have a chance to take center stage in front of your potential employer and show off your true personality, knowledge and talents.
But how you come across in this critical part of a job search depends on how well you prepare, so it's key to use your time wisely beforehand to ensure you aren't left sweating under the collar and scrambling for the right words.
Be ready to sell yourself. Instead of just talking about your work history, be prepared to present your achievements as challenges overcome or problems solved, noting what you did when something went wrong or needed to be fixed. Know how to quantify your career success using dollar amounts, percentages, and other specific details to present your value.
Be ready to ask, not just answer, the right questions. Often the questions you pose in a job interview can be just as significant as the questions you answer. Not asking questions can demonstrate disinterest in the company and the position.
Go into the interview with some thoughtful questions that demonstrate both your knowledge of the company and the industry, as well as your enthusiasm in learning more and advancing your skills, says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, an administrative staffing firm.
"Job seekers can set themselves apart by asking intelligent questions about the company and the position," Hosking says. "Before interviews, candidates should thoroughly research the employer and come up with questions that show interest in and knowledge of the organization."
Don't ask questions on topics such as compensation, benefits and vacation time until the employer has expressed serious intent on offering the job.
"It's also useful to pose questions that will shed light on the corporate culture and what it takes to be successful in the role," he says.
Professionalism still counts. While many workplaces have eased their rules for employee attire, it's important to project a polished look in an interview. Hiring managers usually size up a candidate in the first few minutes, so you don't want their focus to be on your un-tucked shirt or open-toed sandals. Always dress professionally and err on the conservative side when picking an outfit.
Before you head into an interview, be sure to turn off your cell phone or leave it somewhere safe outside the room, says Matt Eventoff, a communications professional and owner of Princeton Public Speaking.
"Glancing at your phone, texting, taking a call, etc., all sends the message that the phone is more important than the person you are talking to," Eventoff says.
In addition, small steps like handing out a personalized business card or sending a short thank-you note or email shortly after the interview can go a long way toward leaving a good impression.
Don't be too "exposed." If you're asked to come in for an interview, it's safe to assume your online profiles are being scoured for red flags. Having unflattering photos of yourself on Facebook or Twitter or writing an overly critical blog post about a former employer can quickly kill your chances of getting a job offer.
You never know when an interview opportunity will arise, so it's vital to keep your public online presence as professional as possible.
Don't be late! Sure, this seems obvious, but you don't want to be among those who have blown a big opportunity simply by arriving a few minutes late for an interview. Make sure you adequately clear your schedule and have reliable transportation to get you there at least several minutes early.
Reach out for help, advice. Networking is one of the most important aspects of landing a job, so don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family and former co-workers and bosses when preparing for a job interview.
They might be able to offer a helpful tip or, if they happen to know someone at the hiring company or work in the same industry, even offer a personal recommendation.
"The reality is you never know who holds the key, or knows the person, who may be the most helpful to you," Eventoff says.
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