It’s that time of year again: the first quarter of the New Year. LinkedIn, Forbes, and USA Today all report that we—the American workforce—are on the move once more, looking for new, exciting opportunities in the job market. How about you? Are you one of those people who’s checking the job postings, sending out resumes, and hitting the streets in search of your fortune? If so, here’s an under-five-minute read that just might land you your dream job!
1. Do some serious due diligence on the company you’re applying to, and make sure this is a company you really want to work for. No sense wasting your time or theirs.
2. Learn what you can about the company culture, to make sure it feels like a fit for you. Culture counts as much as salary, hours, or benefits when it comes to your job satisfaction.
3. Memorize some interesting facts about the company, and reference them by offering a sincere compliment or two to the interviewer. You’ll appear likeable and informed.
4. Practice smiling, making direct eye contact, shaking hands, and saying your name, over and over again, until you have it down perfectly. This establishes a positive first impression with the interviewer.
5. Memorize the job description for the position you’re applying for, and make your interview answers match up to the wording in the job description. You’ll appear to be a perfect fit.
6. Make a list of questions to ask about the company and the job you’re applying for. Ask one or two of them when you’re asked whether you have any questions (this always occurs at the end of the interview). You’ll look interested and involved—and research shows that interviewers tend to hire candidates who ask thoughtful questions.
7. Arrive on time. What’s “on time?” It’s considered to be ten to fifteen minutes ahead of time, but no earlier. (You run the risk of irritating people if you arrive too early, and arriving late is a for-sure, automatic-out, job killer.)
8. Turn your cell phone completely off before you arrive—and don’t turn it on again until you leave the building. This demonstrates that you’re focusing on the interview and not on your social life.
9. Always bring extra copies of your resume in a plain folder—there may be multiple people interviewing you. And unless you’re Ron Burgundy and you’re “kind of a big deal,” or you’re a world-famous brain surgeon, keep your resume to one page only. (It’s standard across all industries.)
10. Immediately send an email thank you note to your interviewer(s), and follow it up with a snail mail note. Make sure each note is worded slightly differently, and you get extra points if you handwrite your snail mail note (yes, with a pen and paper!).
1. Don’t talk too much. Be careful not to ramble. Interviewers have short attention spans, and you can expect them to pay attention for about 90 seconds at a time, max, before drifting off and eventually hearing nothing you’re saying. Keep it short, to the point, and on topic.
2. Don’t trash your former boss or employer. When the interviewer asks the inevitable question, “So why are you looking for other employment,” don’t be negative—not even just a little. Simply say you’re seeking new challenges, you’re looking for a company with room for advancement, or that you believe your skills may be put to better use elsewhere. Keep it positive.
3. Don’t speak too softly. If you speak too softly, you appear insecure, unsure of yourself, or timid. (Quick tip: How do you know if you need to ramp up the volume? Watch for feedback from your listeners. If they routinely have to lean forward, read your lips, or ask you to repeat yourself, dial it up. )
4. Don’t put yourself down. This is no place to be self-deprecating. Catch yourself before discussing a failure, a shortcoming, or a doubt, and do your best to reframe it into something positive. Speaking enthusiastically about your strengths (while always being honest) will send the message that you are mature and self-confident.
5. Don’t swear or curse. It’s absolutely unacceptable to swear during a job interview, period. The message you indirectly send by cursing is that you have no self-control, you’re rude and unsophisticated, or you have zero respect for the interviewer—and any of these messages can definitely cost you the job. In an interview, you are expected to be on your best behavior.
6. Don’t appear angry, disgusted, agitated, or any other “state of being” that’s anything other than pleasant, positive, and professional—no matter how your day is going! No interviewer is going to take a chance on recommending someone who exhibits a negative attitude before they’re even hired.
7. Don’t fidget. It’s distracting to the interviewer, and it makes you look nervous or flustered. Don’t pick at your cuticles, play with your hair, rub your chin, kick your feet around, cross and uncross your legs ten times, or do anything other than sitting calmly and placidly, as if you’re relaxed and in control. You want to give the appearance of composure and self-assurance.
8. Don’t ask a bunch of “me-me-me” questions. While salary and benefits are completely fine to discuss, don’t ask about taking personal time off, if it’s possible to leave early on Fridays, come in late on Mondays, or any other question that will make you appear as if you can’t wait to get out of there before you’re even hired! Along with other considerations, the interviewer is going to choose the person he/she thinks will be the most committed and dedicated to the job.
9. Don’t wear anything clothing that’s uncomfortable, dirty/wrinkled, dated, or outrageously trendy. Uncomfortable clothing will distract you from your performance, dirty/wrinkled clothing will make you look like you don’t care about your appearance, dated clothing will make you look like you’re not paying attention to the world around you, and outrageously trendy clothing may be off-putting to the interviewer. Instead, choose clothing that’s basically “neutral.” You want your sparkling personality and brilliant mind to stand out—not your outfit.
10. Don’t arrive unprepared and expect to wing it. Do your homework beforehand. Know everything there is to know about the company and the job you’re applying for. Memorize your resume. Know the questions you’re going to ask. Then relax. That way, you’ll appear calm and confident, and ready to handle whatever comes your way.
All together, these do’s and don’ts make up a list of twenty simple things you can immediately incorporate into your job-hunting repertoire—things that’ll wow your interviewer and make you a standout candidate. Now go get ‘em, Tiger, and best of luck!