Friday, February 1, 2008

Successful Job Hunt Starts with the Interview

Article Title: Successful Job Hunt Starts with the Interview
Author Byline: Judit E .Price
Author Website: http://www.careercampaign.com

There was a time when skills, experience and accomplishments were the keys to a successful job hunt. After all, companies want the best person for the job and a strong record of accomplishments ought to put anyone at the head of the line. Or at least it should. Fortunately for firms and unfortunately for job seekers we are in a situation where the number of qualified professionals available for a position is higher than the demand. In too many cases, qualifications are only the door opener.

Screening potential employees has become very complex. Hiring managers really look for the perfect candidate. The fact is firms today reject the prospects that are "good enough" or even "very good." They don't want anyone who is willing and tries hard. And any candidate who "just wants a chance" will be shown the door. In addition, career managers, who believe that managing is the job and have lost their edge in their particular expertise, are also rejected routinely. The fact is each hiring decision is analyzed and each candidate is scrutinized as if the fate of the organization depended on this single decision. The screening process may seem to go on forever. As a result, the frustration of waiting can be torture. Yet that is today's reality.

Job seekers must understand no matter how good they consider themselves, candidates must take on a new or enhanced set of skills. As an interviewee, you must acquire those interviewing communication skills that will set you apart and create a comfort zone of confidence in the interviewer that this person is the right person for the job. The interviewer can only see what the candidate reveals. That means you have to respond to what they want to see. If you get that interview and position yourself as someone who has a record of accomplishment in the specific areas sought, and position yourself as well qualified with the human characteristics they value, you become a very viable candidate.

Since a candidate gets only one chance to make a good first impression, careful preparation must precede every interview. Preparation generally means five golden rules: Know the company with which you are interviewing; know the job requirements; know how your skills, experience and accomplishments fit the job requirements; know why you are uniquely qualified to fill the position; and know why this firm has unique qualities, values or culture that make it a particularly good fit for you.

It is essential to remember each organization is a type of community, with values and expectations that go well beyond the mechanics of the job. These values extend to factors such as honesty, reliability, efficiency, personal chemistry, leadership traits or a whole host of other criteria that significantly influence the hiring decision. Consequently, research into these traits can make a huge difference. Perhaps a former colleague works for the firm, or a networking event can offer an opportunity to meet someone who can supply information. Candidates must never lose sight of the "human side" of the organization, those values that interviewers consider critical for success.

It is also possible that many of these traits are totally irrelevant to being successful. Nevertheless, if the corporate culture says certain factors are important, then by definition, they are important.

Success on the job and frequently in life is often linked to good communications skills because almost all work calls for some form of communication. Communication is speaking, and most candidates know what they are going to say. However, candidates often fail in an interview because of the other side of the equation: the need for good listening skills. It is essential to develop good listening skills with sensitivity to nuance and body language. Interviewers are interested in both the facts and the delivery. Consequently, listening carefully, with good eye contact, good posture and focus on the question and questioner may elicit a response from you that has far more thought and depth than you might otherwise deliver.

As preparation, put yourself in the interviewers shoes and think about what you would want to know about a candidate. Then develop a set of responses based on your knowledge of the organization. Finally, listen carefully to the questions to ensure that what you have prepared is truly relevant and substantively responsive to the question.

If after all of this, you are on track, there is one more step. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will almost always ask if there are any questions. This is your opportunity to "close the deal" with this interviewer. Ask if there are any questions or concerns you should address. Second, ask if the interviewer believes you can do the job. Finally, try to get the interviewer to relate their own experiences, challenges and issues, and how they tackled them. Ask them if they are happy in their job; do they like the company; what are its strengths and weaknesses and how employees are measured. Demonstrate interest about the values and philosophies that guide relationships within the firm. And, as best you can, create bridges between those issues and challenges and your own experiences.

Stay alert. From the moment you walk in the door and announce yourself to the receptionist, the interview has begun. After the interview debrief your experience with a coach or friend. Remember, the interview is also a learning experience in preparation for the next one. Finally, send a thank you note. The debriefing may uncover a point or two you want to re-emphasize in the note. Then follow up a few days later. Based on any response it might be advisable to stay in touch with the hiring manager even if you were not chosen. Even if they do not want to hire you for this position, a positive impression can sometimes result in a call back for a different job.

Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry-level jobs and other career opportunities.

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