Obtaining an interview and being successful in your job application requires an excellent resume, careful planning, extensive preparation and well thought out answers to interviewer questions. It is also important to have your own questions prepared to show your interest in the open position and the organization involved. Research and preparation allow you to enter an interview with confidence and display why you are the ideal candidate for the position.

Resume

Your resume is intended to “sell yourself” as an ideal candidate to a prospective employer to obtain an interview offer for an open job position. It is important to maintain a brief resume (it should be able to be read in less than 2 minutes and no more than 2 pages long) that concisely introduces yourself, your work experience and qualifications while only detailing personal and professional information that is relevant to the position you are applying for (read the job advertisement thoroughly to understand the key requirements).

Keep your resume up to date and ensure you include your contact information, work history, skills (what makes you different from other candidates?), education and personal reference information. Work history should remain relevant and only include the past 15 years of experience. It is also important that you have a professional looking email address that incorporates your name and is from a reputable email provider (avoid quirky or inappropriate email addresses).

A well written resume can open the door to the interview process and taking a step towards the career you are striving for.  It is important to produce an original resume that clearly highlights your own personal strengths while maintaining standard consistent formatting throughout (including a common business font) with correct grammar and punctuation without spelling errors (proofread it many times and if possible ask someone else to also review the resume to gain the perspective of a “fresh set of eyes”).

Firstly never lie, keep the document totally factual as this indiscretion may come up during background checks or if you are successful during the interview and later the lie was to come to light it could result in termination of employment. Stick to the facts and earn the job on your own merits.
Tailor the resume to suit the job and company including specific responsibilities and required experience. Use key words that are listed in the job advertisement and are industry specific (this highlights that you are knowledgeable and have done your research). Show that you have the required skills early in the resume to bring them to the attention of the interviewer straight away (they do not want to have to thoroughly search your resume to find if you are suitable for the job).

The wording of your resume is critical. Use succinct action verbs to indicate the strength of your achievements such as “developed”, “implemented” and “performed” and only use professional wording (avoid industry jargon). When detailing your skills and experiences, bullet points and concise phrases are a better approach than lengthy paragraphs.

Highlight your achievements and successes rather than your responsibilities and job duties. Prospective employers want to see how you can ultimately help their bottom line or contribute to achieving overall organizational objectives. Use numerical and financial statistics such as “Increased sales by $2,000,000 per year”. These achievements can make you stand out from other candidates.

Cover Letter

A cover letter should provide a brief overview of your skills and qualifications indicating how they make you the ideal candidate for the open job position. Include your career objective (one to two sentences) to make it very clear what the role is you are aiming to achieve and how it relates to your resume. It is highly important to ensure it is addressed and sent to the correct person at the prospective employer. Follow up your job application with a telephone call within 3 to 7 days (a good way to ensure it has been received and read).

Preparing for the Interview

Once you have obtained an interview with a prospective employer it is important to be well prepared to be successful and get the job. Obtain a detailed job description, then thoroughly research the applicable organization and industry to highlight that you are knowledgeable of their achievements and understand their requirements (their website is a great place to start but research other information to get the complete picture including statistical information).

Prepare for interview questions by practicing your answers and including actual recent examples to highlight why you are right for the job (write them down and go over them as often as required). You will be asked behavioral questions, as the prospective employer wants to know how you will react to certain situations and how you succeed in addressing them (your past behavior is an indicator of your future behavior). Always consider your strengths and weaknesses in regards to potential questions you may be asked. Preparation avoids being caught off guard during an interview.

It is important to make a fantastic first impression. Dress well and appropriately for the interview (verify what is an acceptable dress code beforehand) and bring additional copies of your resume (clear and crisp copies). Be on time (arrive a little early), remain calm, courteous, confident (not cocky though) and professional throughout the interview process.

Know and use the interviewers name during the interview. Greet them with a firm handshake and maintain eye contact. Once the greetings are completed wait for the others in the room to sit before you take a seat. Keep a straight posture; moderate your hand gestures, take notes and do not cut the interviewer off; listen to their entire question before answering.

When you answer interview questions always keep your responses professional and relate them to the applicable organization to show that you are knowledgeable about the company and the relevant industry. It also helps to ensure your discussions about your career achievements are relevant to the requirements of the job you are applying for. Always be concise and honest in your answers, if you do not have a skill discussed it is better to state this upfront and indicate you have similar skills or are willing to learn the required skill.

Questions to Ask During an Interview

During the job interview you will have the opportunity to ask questions of your own. If asked by an employer never say you do not have any. Carefully crafted and well thought out questions can highlight to the interviewer your interest and knowledge of the particular job, organization and industry plus they indicate your analytical skills, which can make you stand out from other candidates.

On a first interview do not ask questions relating to money, benefits, hours of work or vacations. At this stage you only want to indicate that it is the job and organization you are interested in first and foremost. If successful you will get an opportunity to discuss these matters in a following interview.

Generally your questions should help you to ascertain if the organization is a good match for you and your career objectives. Ask questions about what the culture is like within the organization, clarification on certain job responsibilities, whether it is a new role (if not why did the previous person leave?), what is the organizations management style, who the position reports to, what the interviewer likes about the organization, the career path they followed to get to their current position and what gives them the most job satisfaction (this helps better understand employees and the strengths of the organization)?

In addition there are two key questions you should always ask the interviewer(s). Firstly to ensure they are comfortable with your answers and skill set, ask if they have any concerns about your ability to fulfill the requirements of the job. This provides an opportunity to reiterate your strengths or cover areas not already discussed to dispel any concerns (you won’t get a second chance after the interview). Then express your excitement in the job opportunity and ask what the next step will be in the interview process. This helps to get the ball rolling and may sway them in your favor to get the job.

At the completion of the interview once again firmly shake hands and sincerely thank the interviewer(s) for taking the time to meet with you. This indicates that you acknowledge they have interrupted their busy working day to meet with you and that it is appreciated.

Follow-up

A thoughtful gesture is to send a thank you note to the interviewer(s) expressing your ongoing interest in the job position (an email is fine, but an actual handwritten note will really stand out). It is also appropriate to contact them after one to two weeks of the interview to check on the progress of your application. This also reiterates your interest in the available position.

Your confident display of preparation and positively highlighting your skill set through quality answers to interview questions will ensure you stand out from other candidates. This accompanied with courtesy, professional conduct and sincere follow-up will make the difference in going on to the next stage of the process to winning the job.

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