Interviewing: A Three Step Process

You finally landed an interview for your dream job, now what? The proper interviewing technique can be broken up into a three step process: preparation, presentation, and pursue. Each step is a key ingredient in the recipe for success.

Step One: Preparation:
One of the biggest mistakes you could make is going into an interview unprepared. Know as much as you can about the company, your interviewer, and the position you are applying for. During the interview you will be tested on your knowledge of these subjects, so expect questions such as, “What do you know about our company?” “Tell me why you would be a good fit for this position specifically,” and “How do you see yourself fitting into the company?” If you don’t prepare for your interview, these questions will be almost impossible to answer, and not only does it show you did not prepare, it also seems as though you don’t really care, or you don’t really want the job. During this step, you should research as much as you can about the company, practice interview questions, have two or three intelligent questions to ask your interviewer, and have a professional outfit selected.

Step Two: Presentation:
The time has come, and it’s time for you to present your best self. The key to succeeding in this step is to stay relaxed and be confident! All of that built up anxiety and anticipation will only hold you back if you allow it to. The first component of being successful in this step is the handshake. Make sure it’s a firm handshake, you make eye contact, and don’t forget to smile! When the interviewer is asking questions make sure to sit up straight, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly. If you get stuck on a question, don’t be afraid to pause for a second and collect your thoughts. It is much more impressive to an interviewer that you carefully choose your words, than ramble off the first thing that pops into your head. Finally, don’t forget to ask questions at the end of the interview when you are prompted to. You can even write down a few beforehand, so you don’t forget in the heat of the moment.

Step Three: Pursue
This final step is often taken for granted, or even forgotten. You have made a great impression on the interviewer, but forgetting to follow up, could be your largest mistake. Taking the time to thank your interviewer, or multiple interviewers, shows that you truly care about their time and that you really want the job. Sending a simple thank you email will suffice, however, if you really want to stand out, send a handwritten thank you note on nice stationary to go the extra mile. These responses should be sent out within 24 hours of when you interview, especially if it has to go through snail mail. In your note, or email, make sure you include how much you appreciated them taking the time to speak with you, why you like the company, and reiterate why you would be the right fit for this position.

For more interview tips visit our website!

Self Improvement Month

This month is national Self Improvement Month, which means it is the perfect time to reevaluate your interview habits. Interviews can be an especially daunting part of the job hunting process. Here are some tips that will make your interview less nerve wracking!

Do Your Research

Research will help you look more prepared and interested in the opportunity. Start by researching general interview questions  that you are likely to be asked. Then research the company that has asked you to interview. Knowing information about the company shows you care about this job and the success of this company. This can also help you to gauge the company culture to decide what is best to wear to the interview. Knowing what is appropriate to wear can show that you are a good fit with the other employees. If you are still unsure as to what to wear to the interview, it might be worthwhile to call the office where your interview will take place. Go to sleep a little early so that you are well rested for the interview.

At The Interview

Go to your interview alone, do not take your children or any friends. Bring a copy of your resume to the interview and possibly a notepad in case you want to write down any follow up instruction. Get to the interview on time or 10 minutes early if possible. First thing to remember is to relax. You are prepared so make sure that you look confident, keep eye contact and remember to smile. Make positive and upbeat comments. Talk about what previous work experience you have that would relate to this position. Make sure that your phone is on silent and that you don’t check it during your interview. Never badmouth a previous boss or job, it looks unprofessional.

After the Interview

Make sure that you follow the follow up instructions. Check your email and phone for further information so that you can get back in a timely manner. Make sure to send a thank you note either written by hand or via email (handwritten is preferred most of the time). Thank them for their time and the opportunity they gave you to interview. If you had an obviously unsuccessful interview send a thank you note and ask for feedback on what you could have done better. For more tips like these or information about The Wilson Group, please visit our website or our Facebook.

Interview Follow Ups

Walking out of an interview can be a great feeling. You’ve gotten yourself in the door, made connections, made a great impression and now it’s just a waiting game to see if you are the chosen applicant for the job, right? Wrong! This is a common misconception many people have after interviewing for a job. After an interview it is crucial to follow up with the company to express your gratitude and reiterate your interest in the position. Oddly enough, this could be the most important step in the interview process. There are several ways to go about this and you must be sure not to cross the line of staying in touch and nagging your contacts. Here are some tips on the appropriate ways to follow up and complete the final phase of your interview.

1. Take a business card. Be sure to get a business card from each person that interviews you. If they do not offer one, do not be afraid to ask. Getting this will show them you’re interested in keeping in contact and provide you with all the needed information to reach out to them in the future.

2. Get a time frame. Ask for the hiring deadline so that you know when it is appropriate to reach out to them regarding their final decision if you have not yet heard from them. This serves as a quick reminder letting them see your interest and is a way for you to find out if the hiring process has been extended.

3. The first 24 hours are key. Email is today’s primary and fastest form of communication, so use it! Send a follow up email to thank your interviewer for his or her time, briefly highlight again why you believe you are a strong candidate and include anything important you may have forgotten to say in the actual interview. While 24 hours after the interview is appropriate, the sooner the better, so send the email within the first few hours following in order to show you are efficient and motivated.

4. Snail mail is still alive! Sending a hand-written thank you note in addition to an email will stress your interest and add a personal touch. Keep a set of stationary and stamps at your desk so you are able to write the letter and put it in the mail immediately following your interview. This does not have to be a novel, but rather a simple, sincere and to the point note expressing your appreciation.

5. Feel free to check in. If the interview process drags over a long period of time, send a quick email to keep your line of communication open every so often. Emailing the company once a week would be overkill, but if you interview in the fall and a position will not open till the spring, sending a brief email once a month is acceptable. Doing this will keep your name current and at the top of their list so when an opportunity arises you’re sure to come to mind.

Forgetting to follow up after an interview is a mistake that no interviewee has room to make and can make or break a career opportunity. Employers take time out of their schedule to interview you and it is necessary they know you are respectful of their time and consideration. Following up is easy and requires minimal time, so be sure to actively do so to protect your professional reputation and keep you in the running for your dream job!

What To Wear To An Interview

With the new year just around the corner, your job search should be on its way to success! The best way to proceed is to get prepared for your new year interviews. You can do this by researching the company and getting answers ready for some questions about you. For other advice on preparation, look at our first impressions blog. The next best thing is to find an interview outfit. Here are some things to consider when deciding on your look:

Do some research
Look online to see if there are any pictures from an office function to get a look at some possibilities. You can also get a cup of coffee close to the office and check out the attire from there. If you are still lost, you can ask the local professional organization and ask what they would suggest. The best way to ensure you are a good fit at the company is to look like you belong. Dressing similarly to others in the office is a safe and calculated decision.

Choose a solid color
Patterns can be distracting. A better choice is a clean, solid color. This usually looks more flattering on the professional and does not distract. Using a solid color shirt and neutral pants is a very classic look that adds a little personality. Never go too bright with the color choice, but something other than black is preferable.

Try the sit down test
Before going to your interview, try your outfit on the night before. Sit down and make sure everything is tailored appropriately. Make sure the outfit looks modest when sitting or standing. Also, be sure that your accessories add to the outfit. Pick one statement piece and make sure the other jewelry is understated, as not to look too gaudy and distract the interviewer.

We hope these tips help you find your perfect outfit. For more help in finding a position or more tips on job searching and interviewing take a look at our Pinterest boards.

Back to Basics: Silly Resume Mistakes

resume mistakes

You can find a plethora of advice and articles that contain intermediate and advanced tips for improving your resume. However, sometimes it’s good to go back to the beginning and review some of the basics. Typos, misspellings and poor grammar will get your resume tossed much quicker than using passive language or not writing effective section headings.

Sometimes candidates get so focused on the difficult bits of the resume that they bungle some of the easy stuff. Here are a few very basic, but very common resume mistakes.

Can you spell your own name?
Okay, so I’ve never seen a resume in which the writer actually misspelled his or her own name.
Believe it or not, however, people misspell the name of their city and/or state all the time. Whether it’s just a typo, or you just moved to Mississippi and you still miss the occasional “s” or “p”, it doesn’t look good.

Don’t rush through the proofreading of your contact information – you’d be surprised what you might miss.

“Mr. Smith is outstanding candidate”
Many people make the mistake of writing their resume in the first person. For example, you should never say “I increased sales by 50 percent”. Resumes should always be written in the third person. However, writing in the third person and referring to yourself in the third person are very different things.

If you want to turn off a hiring manager, use the following summary as an example:

“John Smith is an outstanding leader with 20 years of experience in turning around underperforming departments. Mr. Smith has undergone extensive sales training and he is ready to put it to work for your company.”

That paragraph is perfect for someone else to write as a reference for you. However, you should remember that you are not your own reference!

Okay, now just hit the spellcheck key and you’re done!
Spellcheck is not a fail-safe. It will catch misspelled words, but it won’t recognize your grammar fouls. Grammar is a particular pet peeve of many hiring managers, so mixing up you’re & your, its & it’s, hear and here, their and they’re, to & too, and lose & loose will lose (not loose) you the interview.

We have extensive experience helping job candidates perfect their resumes, so whether you need basic or advanced assistance, please contact us. If you’re in the market for a new career opportunity, please take a look at our list of open positions.

Working With a Recruiter – What You Should Ask

Working with a recruiting firm can be a great way to explore new career opportunities. Good recruiting firms will have established relationships with a number of companies and can help you get past the HR “gatekeepers.”

As with any industry, some recruiting companies are more successful at their jobs than others, and some take ethical considerations more seriously than others. Here are some tips to help you determine if you are working with an effective, reputable recruiting firm.

A good recruiting firm should:

  • Have a real knowledge of your industry. They will understand your expertise and how it fits into the marketplace. If you ask an industry-specific question and hear an answer that doesn’t sound right, or they don’t have an answer at all, you may want to politely terminate the conversation.
  • Have real relationships with their client companies. They will know the company, the corporate culture, and the decision makers. They will also spend time getting to know you, both professionally and personally, to determine which positions and clients would be the best fit for you.
  • Not be “promiscuous” with your resume. You don’t want a recruiter to present your resume for every open position they are working, regardless of whether it’s a good fit for your background and skills. A good recruiting firm will have a more targeted approach that will not waste your time or their clients’ time on positions that are clearly not a good fit. And, they will respect you and your confidentiality by not submitting your resume to a company without your prior knowledge and consent.

You may or may not decide to work with a recruiter during your job search. If you are approached by a recruiter, ask a few questions and make an informed decision:
Do you specialize in my industry?
What is your relationship with the employer?
What kind of relationship do you have with the decision maker(s)?
Will you submit my resume to any employer without first notifying me?
What can I expect as far as communication?
Will you prepare me for my interview?
Will you let me know the result, even if it’s no?

What’s Up With That Interview Question?

There are some common job interview questions that always seem to stump candidates, no matter how well they’ve prepared beforehand.

The questions are not complicated. But candidates often fumble around or give inappropriate answers because they don’t understand the reasoning behind the questions – what the interviewer is REALLY getting at.

Here are a few common interview questions, with explanations of what the interviewer is actually trying to determine about you.

“Tell me about yourself.”
For the record, the correct answer is not, “Everything you need to know is on my resume.” Besides possibly coming off as a bit of a jerk, you’re not really telling the interviewer what he or she wants to know. They want to know that you can intelligently and succinctly sum up your professional accomplishments and goals without giving your whole life story, throwing in irrelevant information or going off on a tangent.

You should have a one-minute maximum answer – also known as your “elevator speech” – rehearsed and ready. If you don’t have an elevator speech prepared, here is an excellent article from Forbes to get you started.

“What are your weaknesses?”
This may be the most universally dreaded interview question, and the most challenging to answer. However, it’s a very common question, and you should be prepared.

Many people have been advised to try to spin a weakness into a strength. For example: “I’m a serious perfectionist,” or “I’m a workaholic – I’m just too dedicated to my job and I’m always in the office until 8 p.m.” Contrary to popular belief, this is not the right approach. First of all, interviewers can see right through your well rehearsed martyrdom. Everyone has weaknesses, and they want to know if you’re honest enough to own your shortcomings. It’s difficult to coach and develop employees who are afraid to admit they’re not perfect.

How do you answer the question? First, you should only discuss your weaknesses as they relate to a work environment. Your personal shortcomings relating to family and friends are irrelevant in this case. Second, be honest. Every human being has weaknesses – even the one interviewing you. Finally, be prepared to discuss the steps you are taking to overcome your weakness or make it work to your advantage. For example, people who are described as “too shy” are often great listeners.

Please check out this excellent resource if you’d like more help formulating your answer to the “greatest weakness” question.

“Why do you want to work here?”
One simple rule – this is NEVER the time to tell the interviewer what you hope to gain from the company. Answers like “I’ve heard you pay well,” or “I need benefits,” won’t go over well. This question is designed to determine two things: 1. How do you think your skills and background will benefit the company? and 2. Are you excited/enthusiastic about the company and the position?

This is a good chance to show the interviewer you’ve done some research on the company and tell them why you think you would be a good fit. For example, “After studying your website, I can see you do a lot of work with the Widget industry. I love Widgets and I have a lot of experience with them, so I saw this as a perfect chance to put that knowledge and passion to work for a progressive, stable company.”

If you are consistently having difficulty with these or other tough questions, The Wilson Group offers one-on-one interview coaching designed to improve your interviewing skills so you can land the job you want. Contact us today for more information.

Rescue Your Resume from the Black Hole

“I’ve sent my resume to a dozen companies weeks ago and I haven’t heard from one.”

If you’ve been in the job market or know anyone in the job market, you’ve heard this statement. Your resume has been sucked into the infamous HR “Black Hole”. Today we’ll explore how the black hole is created, and some ways you can rescue your resume from the abyss and get it in front of the hiring manager.

Big companies can get hundreds of resumes for a position. If the company has several open positions at one time, multiply that number. Simple math will tell you that the handful of recruiters in a typical HR department simply can’t process thousands of resumes each month. That’s why most companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which automatically parses incoming resumes and converts them into database records.

When searching for candidates, corporate recruiters will plug in keywords related to the particular job opening, and resumes containing those keywords will turn up in the search. If your resume turns up toward the top of the list, it has a chance of being viewed.

How can you increase your chances of turning up in that search, or perhaps bypass the black hole completely?

Keywords are key 
The ATS will return results that contain the keywords the HR person has entered. Be sure your resume contains plenty of words that relate to the particular job you’re seeking. Think like an HR person – if you were searching for candidates for this job, what terms would you use? Also, try to include variants of those keywords. For example, if you are applying for a copywriter job, include copywriter, copywriting, writer and writing.

One caveat – be sure the words you use make sense in the context of your resume. If you include a block of text at the top that reads “analyst analyst analyst analyst analyst”, you may show up at the top of the results for an analyst search, but it’s going to look ridiculous to the HR person when they actually open your resume.

Format is important
Always submit your resume in Word, plain text (.txt) or rich text (.rtf) format. DON’T submit a PDF. A PDF is basically a snapshot of your text document. It’s visible to the human eye, but an ATS, which is designed to parse text, won’t recognize any information on a PDF document. It will most likely attach your resume to a blank database record, which doesn’t do you any good.

Also, keep your resume formatting simple. An ATS will look for certain patterns when parsing your resume. It will assume that the first block of text is your contact information, and then it will look for common headings like “education”, “experience”, and “skills.” If you have a complicated format with graphics or pull quotes, there’s a good chance your information will either go into the wrong database fields or not be imported at all. The best format for an ATS is a simple, straightforward, chronological resume.

So remember, don’t let your resume get trapped in the black hole! Remember you are writing for a computer AND Human Resources.

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