Whether it's your preliminary phone interview or the final face-to-face interview, you need to gain an edge on your competition without looking like you're in competition with others. How do you do that without being so obvious? The key is careful listening to the interviewer's questions and providing answers that correlate to what the company is seeking in a new employee. Use your intuition and confidently express why you're the best candidate for the job.
Telephone interviews seem easy enough. You don't have to dress up to for them, you can refer to your notes and you needn't be concerned about eye contact while you glance at your records in front of you while you're talking about the job. Those are the benefits and the bane of the telephone interview, because you don't want to sound like you're actually reading from the same resume you submitted to the prospective employer. Acing the preliminary interview means you add something more than what's on paper.
Work History Chronicle
When you're asked to recount your work history, don't read from your resume. Have a copy of the job posting next to your resume if your interview is via phone. When you describe your work history make connections to the job requirements. For example, if you have an initial interview for a pharmaceutical sales rep and you have an extensive background in the area, articulate your understanding of medications, how they benefit patients and your ability to convey those benefits to prescribing physicians. Likewise, if you're interviewing for a paralegal position for a litigation firm, elaborate on your skills in preparing for trial, identifying exhibits and counseling witnesses before they take the stand. Make the connections so the interviewer says to herself, "She has the precise kind of background we're seeking."
If your face-to-face interview is the first one where you have an opportunity to make a personal impression, do it right. Don't overlook details about appearance or demeanor. Practice your responses so you can give fluid, well-articulated responses to the interviewer's questions. Study the company's background, management and customer service philosophy to you align your professional values with those of the organization. Make eye contact and exude confidence without being cocky or arrogant. Establish a comfortable rapport with the recruiter or hiring manager and express enthusiasm about what you have to offer the company.
When the interviewer asks if you have questions, never turn down the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions about the company and the job. What's particularly impressive is if you pull out a list of questions that you've already thought to ask -- not a long inquisition, but several questions that show you've given serious thought to the joining the organization. In fact, at the beginning of your interview, ask whether the interviewer minds if you take a few notes. The purpose of note-taking is to demonstrate genuine interest in the job.
Employers appreciate initiative and excitement. That doesn't mean bounce in your seat when given the opportunity to share what you think about the job, but don't be reluctant to say to the interviewer like, "I'm very interested in joining your team. I believe my skills are what you're looking for. Given the chance, I'll make significant contributions to your business." That kind of go-getter spirit is what many employers want to see instead of the milquetoast kind of demeanor that many job seekers exhibit as if they're begging for a position. Confidence is powerful and persuasive in any job search.
Write an outstanding thank-you letter that shows you were paying attention to what the organization wants in the next employee. Refrain from sending a standard, form-letter-type thank-you note -- write something that shows you were paying attention to the interviewer. Send the thank-you note within 24 hours of your interview to make the most favorable impression.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.