Tips for Mastering the Job Interview:

By Jack Farrell

Interviewing is a key part of the hiring process. Here are a couple suggestions that come from direct feedback from hiring managers and from my own personal experience hiring folks for over 20 years. I hope these tips are useful as you prepare for your interview.

1. First impressions are paramount: look professional, jacket and tie for men, professional garb for women.

2. Greet with a firm handshake and a smile.

3. SMILE OFTEN….few other mannerisms will make a more lasting impression.

4. Maintain eye contact as much as possible.

5. Keep your energy up. If you have a long interview, be sure to ask for WATER and stay hydrated.

6. Know the product line as much as possible. Visit the web site, poke around. The more familiar you are with the product and company, the richer your questions will be. Plus, it’s a healthy signal that you are engaged and interested in what lies ahead.

7. Write a follow up Thank You note right after your meeting. It sounds corny, but it’s still impressive. The old fashioned letter is most memorable, but a follow-up email works too.

8. Make sure your resume tells a story. By that, I mean that ALL your past jobs should point toward the job you are interviewing for. Fact is each job you’ve had has given you new skills and facets that make you THE BEST applicant for the job in front of you. You should be comfortable telling that story in the interview. Hiring managers oftentimes want to know “how things fit together” from your past. This exercise helps you convince the hiring mgr of this fit.

9. Have a couple “success stories” at the ready to cite in the interview. These specific examples demonstrate your abilities – in marketing, in sales, in editorial, in management, in IT – and give the hiring manager a more vivid picture of your skills.

10. If you like what you hear in the interview – TELL THE MGR YOU WANT THE JOB. It might seem obvious, but doing this will distinguish you from 90% of other candidates.

11. Don’t feel that you have to discuss salary. When working with a recruiter, that’s the recruiter’s job. On any application you complete (online or hard copy), it’s recommended that you leave salary questions blank. This is confidential information. Applications are sometimes handled very cavalierly and salary information can become public knowledge quickly. Plus, salary is an issue between the hiring manager and the recruiter who represents YOU….you don’t need it documented in an application.

12. Be positive. Never run from one job to “this job.” Instead, have a cogent reason why leaving your current job for this one makes sense in your career progression and in “your story.”

13. Bring an extra copy of your resume with you…just in case.

Lastly, here’s an interesting article from The Ladders on The Seven Deadly Sins of Interviewing, read and heed!:

© 2007 John Hartnett & Jack Farrell

November 28, 2007 at 12:09 am 2 comments

The Resume: Common Sense Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes

Much has been written about and much has been paid out for products and services related to writing, revising and formatting the resume. A logical first step to determine whether you are comfortable creating your own resume or require professional assistance is to assess your ability to write clearly, concisely and to understand how the presentation of functional skills, industry experience, job history and related accomplishments combine together to “speak” directly as to why you’re qualified for a specific position.

A logical second step when creating or revising a resume is to do your best to understand the perspective and the motivation of the human resources professional and the hiring manager charged with determining who is and who is not qualified for a particular position.

In many cases, the HR professional works as the liaison for the hiring manager — creating job specs based upon the hiring manager’s needs, posting job descriptions and salary requirements on job boards or contracting with outside recruiters to handle those tasks, handling initial screening interviews, etc. When resumes come in, the HR pro generally represents the first level of qualification in determining whether a prospective candidate meets the stated criteria and will be passed along to the hiring manager for review.

Because there are so many departments and functional areas within an organization, it is not often realistic to expect that an HR liaison understands the hiring manager’s needs as well as the hiring manager. Remember, their job is to provide assistance and the resources necessary to allow the hiring manager to continue meeting day-to-day responsibilities until their time is required to assess, interview and hire candidates. Under those circumstances, the HR pro relies more heavily on the qualifications, skills and responsibilities stated in the job spec in assessing a candidate’s fit and is more likely to pass on candidates who do not appear to closely match the spec and/or compensation expectations.

There are also circumstances in which a company’s HR department will hire an outside agency or consultant to screen candidates and conduct first round interviews. which depending upon how information is shared between the company and the agency can create additional challenges for prospective candidates.

That is why it is so critical to create a resume that will end up in the hands of the hiring manager — the one who knows the department, culture and personality traits — the one who is much closer to the “pain” he or she is hoping to eliminate by filling a position. It is not uncommon for a hiring manager to see something in a resume or cover letter that — while not matching up completely with the spec –may trigger an interview anyway or even create a situation in which a position is modified or in some instances created in order to hire an individual who brings “more” to the table.

So what should go into a strong resume? Here are some tips from Jack Farrell:

1. Shoot for 1 page, and never be more than 2 pages.

2. Add a short, punchy headline under your personal info that in essence is YOUR billboard. Someone can scan this in 10 seconds and know what you and your career are about. These are very effective. Here are some examples:

Highly motivated product-builder of online publishing solutions for financial traders with a proven track record in leading Development and Sales teams to on-time delivery and the successful achievement of revenue targets

Goal-oriented sales professional with a proven track record of achievement for winning course adoptions in medical and veterinary schools and increasing retail sales in health science bookstores

3. For each job, add what the resume books call: “the responsibility statement.” This is a couple of short sentences that summarize what you are doing or did in each job.

4. After the “responsibility statement” list your accomplishments or key duties in bullet form. WHY BULLETS? Because they are easy to read and scan quickly. Hiring managers love bullets.

5. Leave out stuff that’s not really relevant like awards or other things. If awards are very germane to your field, it’s ok to keep them, but not imperative. They are good grist for the interview.

6. Use high impact words when describing your accomplishments in bullets: increased, grew, created, built, analyzed, saved, implemented, etc…….

7. Be quantitative wherever possible….increased sales 53%, achieved 112% of quota, Reduced production cost 41%, etc.

8. Say more about recent jobs, less about distant jobs even those with sentimental value that occurred 18 years ago. Fact is everyone focuses on what you’ve done recently.

9. In general, keep things short and not verbose. It’s hard to write short, but the best resumes showcase that skill.

10. It’s OK to have several versions of your resume based upon your various skill sets. And it’s fine to tweak your resume to align with the current job you are seeking. The hiring manager ultimately will decide whether you are the best fit for the position, but getting in front of that decision-maker is half the battle. An “on target” resume helps open this door.

© 2007 John Hartnett & Jack Farrell

November 28, 2007 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

The Strategy Behind the Post Interview Thank You Note

By John Hartnett

The job interview is over and you’re feeling good about your discussions, the company, the opportunity and the hiring manager’s apparent interest in you as a candidate. What’s the next step?

Most people recommend that you send a thank you note — often one that’s preferably handwritten — thanking each individual for taking the time to meet with you and to briefly reiterate your continued interest in the position, should that be the case. Putting myself in the shoes of the hiring manager, I think there is more a prospective candidate can do with a thank you note to differentiate themselves from those they are competing against.

My approach when interviewing with a hiring manager is to regard that individual as someone with a problem or a “pain” they’re looking to you to provide a solution for. So what are examples of pain points within the context of an open position? Perhaps it’s a need to hire someone to handle responsibilities that are either not being addressed due to the unfilled position or are being delegated to someone who is either too busy or not qualified. Could be a need to find someone who can get up to speed quickly, because there is little time or resources available for mentoring and training. Perhaps it’s a need to make process changes to increase productivity and reduce expenses. Maybe the need is revenue based — a sales rep already equipped with a Blackberry full of contacts to expand or create a new market.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the pain points coming in to an interview but it will matter to you and your chances of being hired if you’re unable to identify them during the course of the interview.

An insightful candidate will ask probing questions to get a strong sense of the pain points or needs the hiring manager hope to address with the new hire. What are some typical questions that will reveal what the manager needs to strengthen a department or team? “What are the biggest challenges you currently face in your department?” “Is this a newly created position or one that was recently vacated?” “What are the short and long term expectations for this department from the perspective of senior management?” “How would you categorize the relationship between departments that are dependent upon one another?” “Has the company invested in or kept pace with new technologies?”

These questions help to shape the course of the interview and to provide you an opportunity to deliver concrete examples from your work experience that are directly relevant to the needs of the hiring manager and the organization at large. Which brings us to the Thank You letter or letters — for my recommendation is to send two.

I have had good success in the past writing two thank you notes — the first — a same day or immediate next day email to those you met during the interview process: the HR contact, the hiring manager and anyone else you sat down with for an extended period of time. The email need not state anything more than your thanks to those you met for taking the time, that you are very interested in the position, etc., with a line included in the email to the hiring manager that indicates that a more formal note will follow to address what was discussed in the interview.

This follow up note, which is sent regular mail, should underscore your interest in securing the position and substantiated as best you can by “mapping” your skills and experience to both the requirements in the job spec –and most importantly –whatever specific needs or sources of pain came out of your discussions with the hiring manager. Put another way, your goal in the second thank you letter is to communicate directly how you will contribute to the organization within the context of the stated expectations and employer needs associated with the position your are interviewing for. Indirectly and perhaps more subtly, the letter should help persuade the hiring manager that you will make his or her life easier.

Whether the Thank You letter is handwritten or printed is entirely up to you — but as a former hiring manager, my feeling is that the message makes a bigger impact on a hiring decision than the format in which it’s conveyed.

© 2007 John Hartnett

November 28, 2007 at 12:09 am Leave a comment


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