When it comes to getting hired, the whole process can feel like a bit of a mystery. How, in fact, do you stand out from the crowd in that pile of resumes? Why does one person get noticed over any other person? And then if you do end up getting an interview, what about that process leads a hiring director to choose one person over another?
You’re not the only one who is confused. Most jobs get about 250 resumes per application, and hiring directors typically whittle that down to about six candidates. Once they do that, then it comes to in-person time and that’s really where you can find some tips to lead you to success in your next interview. For example, can you and do you make eye contact? Then that’s an automatic positive in the eyes of the person doing the hiring. What else can you do? This graphic has some ideas.
What’s an Informational Interview?
The quick answer: an informational interview is an interview you hold with someone who works in an industry or job that you are interested in. The aim of the informational interview is for you to learn as much as you can from someone who can tell you about the day-to-day of their job.
The point of an informational interview is not to get a job. It’s to learn if a specific field or job is right for you. It can be a connection you make, and keep, that could help in your job search, but you shouldn’t go in expecting to get an offer out of it.
How to get an Informational Interview
An informational interview can be with anyone. Someone you know personally like a parent, aunt or friend. It all depends on what you’re aiming to learn. If you don’t know anyone personally who works in a place you’re interested in, asking friends if they have connections is another way to find people.
Don’t forget social media. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people with jobs you’re interested in. Send someone you don’t know on LinkedIn an InMail explaining you’re looking for the opportunity to have an informational interview; you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to chat! Twitter is another platform where you can follow and message with people building up connections. Again, you’ll find it surprising how often people are willing to share perspectives about their work with interested students and job hunters.
One key thing to remember: You are asking a favor of the individual you’re interviewing. Be willing to move your schedule to fit theirs. Offer to do it by phone, or if they work/live near you and suggest meeting in person and be willing to travel to their location.
What to Ask During an Informational Interview
Prepare for an Informational Interview like you would for a real job interview. Research the person’s company and their position. Learn what you can about what they do before you go in. Your interviewee will appreciate the time you put in. Keep the interview professional. Avoid questions about money or salary. Ask them what their day-to-day is like. Ask where their job leads. Ask them what led them to the job they are currently in.
Again remember that the interviewer is giving you their time. Respect that by keeping the interview short; usually aim for under 20 minutes. If it seems the interviewee is not in a rush, offer to end the interview but feel free to continue if they suggest they aren’t in a hurry.
Once the Interview is Done
Thank them for their time. One of the most important things to do after an informational interview is follow up. It can be as simple as an email thanking them for their time. If they gave you suggestions let them know if those suggestions helped. Staying connected with your informational interviewee is a great way to build your network and stay ahead of the curve.
What is Your Greatest Strength?
Of the many questions you’re likely to be asked during a job interview– like Where do you see yourself in 5 years or Tell me about yourself, — What is your greatest strength seems like one of the easier ones. Don’t take it too lightly. This question gives you the opportunity to really sell yourself and your abilities, and, more than the others, is designed to see if you’re the right fit for the job.
Do Your Research
The first thing you want to do is some research. Find out what the company values. What traits do they look for in employees? Take a look at the job description and see what the job requirements are. What seem to be the most important ones? Choose strengths that align with those traits.
Quality Over Quantity
When it comes time for you to consider what strengths you want to mention at your interview, focus on quality rather than quantity. Mentioning a whole host of things you consider yourself good at only shows you’re not great at anything. Focusing on only a couple things you consider your strengths will allow you to paint a stronger picture of yourself and those talents.
Back It Up
When you’ve picked the strengths that best suit the job and position, make sure you have specific stories you can use to demonstrate those qualities. Talk about how and where you developed the skills and instances where they have proven useful. It’s easy to say you have a given strength, it’s much more impressive when you can give specific examples.
About: Careers has a couple examples of how to best answer this question, here’s one:
I am a skilled salesman with over ten years of experience. I have exceeded my sales goals every quarter and I’ve earned a bonus each year since I started with my current employer.
In this short example, a strength is given, and followed up with proof. Do the same, and you’ll knock this interview question out of the park. Good Luck!
We all know the importance of first impressions. How we should dress for success. For some companies dressing for success means a suit. Others prefer business casual. Prior to your interview it’s important to get a feel for company culture through their social media channels, and dress accordingly.
Make sure you feel good in what you wear
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you feel comfortable and well put together. If you’re uncomfortable with what you’re wearing, all the interviewer will notice is your discomfort. They’ll most likely assume it has something to do with how you’re feeling about the job.
Don’t wear new shoes for the first time. Who knows how they’ll feel once you get to the interview. If you think something is too loose or too tight, choose something else. Feeling good in the clothes you choose is as important as what you choose.
Don’t forget about how you smell
We are not here to remind anyone to take a shower before heading into a job interview. That goes without saying. What we are here to say is, no matter how much you love your favorite perfume or cologne or how great it makes you feel, don’t wear it. Many offices have a scent-free policy.
Even if that’s not the case you don’t know if the person interviewing you has a fragrance allergy. Even if they don’t, scents are distracting. You want the interviewer focusing on your skills and attributes, not on what you smell like.
Do a final check before you exit the house
Before heading out the door give yourself a thorough once over in a full-length mirror. Ensure you are wrinkle free. That you don’t have any pet hair tagging along with you, or lint.
If you look good, you’re more likely to feel good. If you feel good, you’ll have the chance to distract them for all the right reasons!
Some people are natural born communicators and excel at job interviews. Nervousness and inexperience cause many more to stumble through them – especially when first starting out in the job market. By learning about common interview mistakes you can make sure to steer clear!
Answer a ringing phone
First off, always turn your phone off before heading into an interview! A phone that’s left on for during the interview tells the interviewer that you aren’t fully invested in the interview. If for some reason you forget and it rings, do not answer it.
Lose track of your body language
Some people concentrate so hard on the answers to questions being put to them they lose track of the message being sent by their body. Their crossed arms, fidgeting hands, and tapping feet are all communicating nervousness and distraction. Remember to sit up straight. Hold on to your hands if you have to. Smile and look into your interviewer’s eyes.
The world certainly isn’t as formal as it used to be. However, that doesn’t mean you can dress down for an interview. Business casual is appropriate.
You might have left your previous job because of a toxic environment but a current interview is no place to bring that up. Avoid any negative talk because it always reflects back on you. You can say it was not a good fit then mention something positive from the experience. Something you learned or an experience you had.
Lack of preparation
You should be able to answer all questions put to you clearly and decisively. If you drop a lot of uumms and ahhs you sound unprofessional and ill prepared. Do your homework. Review common interview questions and their answers. Have interesting, tangible things to say about your experiences and qualifications. Be specific. By implementing a new work flow I was able to raise productivity by 12% over the course of six months.
No thank you note
An interview, whether you think you did a stellar job or not, always ends with a thank you note. Thank the interviewer for their time, remind them of an interesting point of discussion and finish by reiterating how excited you are about the opportunity.
You had your job interview and things really seemed to click, but you’re still not sure how you might be ranking. These are signs you have ranked as a top contender.
One of the first signs of definite interest in when the interviewer checks in with your references. When they call your references you are in the running.
You are interviewed by more than one person
In general, interviews are conducted by one person. Sometimes you might find yourself in a group interview situation. If you are called back to be interviewed by different people, it probably means the first interviewer wants to confirm their choice with others in the company.
Next steps are discussed
At the end of an interview, the interviewer will often finish by letting you know they’ll get back to you if they’re interested. If your interviewer provides specifics about next steps, like we will be in touch to arrange for your next interview by the end of the week, you’re in good shape.
You are introduced to other people in the office
If you are introduced to other people in the office, even in passing, you know you are a top candidate.
You get a response to your thank you note
Everyone sends a thank you note at the end of an interview (or at least they should). Not everyone gets a response. If it’s an enthusiastic response you can rest easy that wouldn’t be happening if you weren’t somewhere near the top of the candidate pyramid.
The interviewer walks you out the door
The interviewer is a busy person with a lot of people to see. Generally, you shake hands with them and make your own way out of the building. If the interviewer walks you out of their office, they’re interested in spending a couple more minutes with you.
You won’t actually know whether or not you got the job until the offer comes through, but you can use these clues to determine if you’re running somewhere near the front of the pack.
You’re excited about your upcoming job interview. Your qualifications match up with the job description. You’ve had your eye on this company for a while. You believe the experiences you bring to the table can be of great benefit to the organization. There’s just one thing that worries you. The greatest weakness question. You don’t know whether or not they’ll ask it, but you’ve never felt comfortable answering it when it’s come up in the past.
Not really looking for weaknesses
The interviewer isn’t asking the question to determine what possible issues they’ll have to deal with by bringing you on. Rather they want to see how you handle demanding, awkward or uncomfortable situations. Can you recognize when something needs to be changed or addressed? Are you someone who focuses on problems or solutions?
Find what’s positive in the negative
If for instance you’ve had issues prioritizing in the past, don’t answer with I have trouble with organization. Talk about how you recognized the problem and steps you took to improve. When I began my last job, I had trouble finishing my allotted tasks on time. I realized I my attention was being diverted with less significant time-consuming issues like answering emails and returning phone calls. I learned to prioritize my days by focusing on the most important undertakings first and created daily schedules for attention diverting tasks so they would stop interrupting the flow of my days.
There is room for improvement in everyone
The worst thing you can do with this question is to avoid it by saying you’ve been working on yourself for so long and so hard you don’t have a weakness. Or nothing springs immediately to mind. Next worst are when you try and turn a positive trait into a negative. My job ends up taking priority over the rest of my life. Those kinds of answers sound insincere and dishonest.
Before going into the interview think long and hard about situations you’ve overcome and how. Incorporate your greatest weakness answer into one of those.
When you’re going in for an interview, you’ve got a lot of things running through your head. But some of what we all seem to think about interviews just isn’t true. It’s time to bust a few of those interview myths.
Interviewer is more prepared than you
When you go in for an interview, you expect that whoever is going to talk with you has reviewed your resume closely and is prepared with some specific questions. Ideally that would be great, but sometimes someone else has done the vetting and the interviewer starts the day with a stack of resumes. When they have a lot of candidates lined up one after the other, they barely have time to read each resume five minutes before the interview.
If that’s the case there’s a chance they’ll be completely unprepared and they may ask vague, broad questions to get an idea of who you are. That means it’s up to you to have intelligent questions/answers already planned out that will leave them with a strong perception of what you’d like them to know about you regardless inadequate lead-in questions.
The most qualified candidate will get the job
Just because you’re super qualified for a job that doesn’t mean you have a free ride to the position. Also, just because you may not be the most qualified person, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.
The interview is about finding out what you’re like to work with and who you are. Your personality is what will take you closer to the front of the finish line – a job offer.
There are wrong/right answers
Interviews are conversations. You should not worry about having wrong or right answers because there aren’t any. The interviewer wants to hear what you have to say. As long as you’re honest and amicable, you are giving an appropriate response.
So, prepare as best you can. Ensure you are able to articulate why you are the ideal candidate for the position and answer questions with confidence.
Put the myth of being out of work behind you!
Your resume is an at-a-glace document that highlights your work history and accomplishments. As you detail those accomplishments it’s important to remember to also highlight the skills you’ve acquired along the way.
Some skills are specific to each job or industry. Others are applicable across the board. To make yourself irresistible to employers you want your resume to highlight both. Here are some of the skills employers consider beneficial regardless of the specific job.
Planning and organization
Whether you work on your own doing administrative tasks, are out in the field talking to a variety of people, or are in charge of a group of people, planning skills are essential. Employers want to know that you have the ability to prioritize your undertakings and budget your time appropriately. An organized person who is adept at managing their time will invariably do what they say they are going to do, during the time frame they specified. They’ve figured out how to break long term goals into achievable short term accomplishments.
Communication skills are the bedrock of just about any position. It’s imperative that you understand what is being asked of you and in turn, have the ability to make yourself understood easily and fluidly. Your resume should highlight the ways you excel at communication at all three levels, listening, verbal and written.
Once you’re hired an employer will want to feel confident that you have your job thoroughly under control. Your resume should demonstrate your ability to take initiative to come up with creative solutions to problems as they occur. Demonstrate some you were able to make a difference in your previous position. How you improved systems or work flow or how your efforts saved the organization time or money.
With everything you need to keep in mind when you interview for a job, some basics you may not even think about can get lost in the shuffle. You spent a lot of time figuring out what questions they might ask and coming up with answers. That’s the meat of the interview, but what about the bread? Did you check directions to the location in advance? Did you remind yourself to keep eye contact and have a firm handshake?
Here are a few things to remember when your going for job interviews.
Don’t Be Too Early
Timing is everything. Showing up late is worse, but showing up too early demonstrates a difficulty with scheduling and planning appropriately. If you show up really early it signals that you don’t care if your arrival disrupts other things. If you are very early wait near by. Find a coffee shop to pass the time so you can arrive closer to the expected time.
You might be the best applicant, but if there is something unwashed about you, something in your teeth or if your hair is greasy, you can count yourself out of the game. Give yourself a very good once over in the mirror before heading out. Make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle free! If you use a mint or some gum to give you fresh breath, make sure it’s gone by the time you arrive at the job interview.
Make sure you look your best when you arrive for the job interview. First impressions last! If you have the chance, spruce up in the washroom before heading into your interview.
If you’re conducting your job interview over the phone, make sure to find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. The interviewer has much better things to do than listen to you shush your dog.
It’s commonplace for interviewers to search your online profiles like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Make sure your privacy settings are what you want them to be so everything others can see is positive and professional.