Friday, April 8, 2011

When Does the Interview Actually Begin?

By Amy Michalenko

Have you ever been puzzled when you didn’t receive an interview for a job that you were completely qualified for? What you might not know are your actions leading up to the point when it’s time to schedule an interview might have excluded you before you ever sat down for that one-on-one meeting. When we hear the word “interview,” we think about dressing to impress, practicing answers to questions, sitting in front of a hiring manager striving to say all the right things. However, the minute you make contact with an employer, you are interviewing, and your actions can speak volumes about you long before you make it to an interview.

In a tough economy every little detail counts, and as a job seeker, you have to be on your game throughout the entire process in order to beat out the tough competition for positions. With an increased number of qualified people looking for jobs, employers will use seemingly minor details to determine your fit within their organization.

The following tips can help you be more successful and give you an understanding of how your actions can affect your outcomes:

  • Quality over quantity - Applying for hundreds of positions does not increase your chances. Taking the time to apply for around 5-10 positions that you are qualified for, and tailoring your resume and presentation to each will make you much more successful. Sending out hundreds of form cover letters and resumes indicates to an employer that you are not really excited about their position, but rather you’ll take any job that will take you – not so appealing!

  • Keep your search organized – There is nothing worse than an employer calling you and you can’t remember the position you applied for or you have to ask for the job description. Again, this indicates to employers that their job was not really that interesting or important to you. It also can speak volumes about your attention to detail and the organizational skills you will apply to your job.

  • Your communication must always be professional – Whether it is over the phone, through email or in person, you should always use the highest level of communication. Be sure that things like your email address and voicemail are professional as well. How you communicate throughout the process can indicate how you might communicate with their clients or other team members if they were to hire you.

  • Treat every interaction like it is the first time you are making an impression – Don’t let your guard down. Every time you interact with an employer you leave an impression. For example, maybe you are stopping by their offices to drop something off, be sure to dress professionally; you never know who will see you.

  • Follow directions – If you can’t follow directions in the interview process, will you break the rules when they hire you? For example, the posting says no phone calls please – don’t call!
  • Always do more than the bare minimum – Job searching is a lot of work and will require much of your time to do it effectively. It can be tough sometimes, but you must keep your job searching stamina up. Take every step necessary to go above and beyond in order to make yourself stand out.

  • Be available, at the right time – If you have been applying for jobs, be sure that you are available to return employer calls or schedule interviews in a timely manner. Calling them back a week after they called you can indicate that you are not that interested, and in some cases, taking a couple of days to respond can cause you to miss the interview process. Also, think about where you are before picking up a call. If you are somewhere that would not be appropriate to talk to someone professionally, don’t pick up your phone or be sure to remove yourself from distractions.

  • Always follow up - Every time you send a resume, have an interaction (career fair, networking event, etc.) or go for an interview, take the time to follow up. A quick call to check the status of your application, an email that thanks them for their time or taking action based on a tip they gave you can demonstrate that you are the kind of person they want working for them – someone who gets the job done without being asked.

Every action that you take can make an impression on a potential employer and, quite frankly, can make or break your chances. So the true answer to the question, “When do you start interviewing?”? The minute you make contact.

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Amy Michalenko is the Career Services Manager at Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and a master’s in instructional leadership and corporate training from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pa. She has more than 10 years of experience in the areas of human resources, career services, corporate training and development.

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