The 8-Point Checklist for Job Hunters
Whether you are just starting a job search or have been at it a while without success, here are eight things you can do to prevent common errors that often result in being rejected in favor of someone else:
> Find a job as a career coach1. Be prepared at every stage of the game. No matter how spontaneous you normally are, excellent job-search communication requires strong preparation. Rather than winging it, you should do your research about a company in order to write an intelligent cover letter highlighting why you would make a good fit at that particular place.
That means researching in advance the people you'll communicate with on the phone or in person and understanding the parameters of what's possible in a negotiation.
2. Be engaged. While you want to avoid projecting either desperation or overenthusiasm, you also can't afford to appear to be standoffish. Be conscious of your body language. Don't slouch in your seat, put an arm behind your chair or look anywhere but directly at the person with whom you are speaking.
When talking about the projects or activities with which you would be involved, let the tone and expression of your voice demonstrate some of your inner gusto and passion for the work at hand.
3. Know your own resume. It's often a good idea to hire a well-qualified résumé writer to make certain that your primary marketing piece offers a well-honed message embedded with the right keywords to get through an applicant tracking system. Still, it is your absolute responsibility to make certain that everything in the document is 100-percent true.
Remember that any bullet point is an invitation for an interview question, and you don't want to have to say: "Did I say that in my resume? Really?"
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4. Turn off your cell phone before you enter the building for an interview. Don't be the person who is surprised that his or her spouse or partner calls just to leave a good-luck voice mail, only to pick up the call during the interview and say: "Thanks ... I love you too, but I'm in the middle of my interview, and I'll talk to you later."
5. Be professional at all times. No matter how well you click with your potential co-workers or boss at an interview, you aren't yet part of the team. Don't let your guard down to tell an off-color joke or use inappropriate vocabulary. Be careful about getting drawn into intradepartmental controversies, and don't get caught in the trap of telling too much about a negative employment situation from your past. In fact, never ever say anything negative or unkind about your current or former boss.
6. Be succinct. One of the most common pitfalls is totally self-inflicted: overly long-winded, unwieldy answers to interview questions. Rather than speaking for minute after minute and sounding in the mind of your interviewer like you are speaking for hours without pause, stop yourself before you begin to answer an interview question. Plot out the key points of what you want to say, say them, and then be quiet.
7. Be on time. Simply put, short of being detained by the police to serve as a witness at a traffic accident on your way to the interview, there aren't many good and acceptable excuses for showing up late to an interview.
8. Dress appropriately. The old dictum still applies: Dress for success! The general rule of thumb is a suit and tie for a man and the equivalent for a woman. However, some industries have gone completely casual and the suit may be a turnoff. It is up to you to know and play to the environment in which you will be interviewing. When in doubt, it never hurts to ask the human resources rep at your target company about appropriate attire.
Arnie Fertig is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.