4 Tips to Go from Job Seeker to Employed Professional

(This post was originally seen on the Simply Hired blog, written by Grace Williamson.)

As you prepare your new job search or transition to another career field, here are four essential strategies that will help you stand apart and land the job.

Refine your Resume

The first step to a successful job search is creating a well-written resume. It’s important to select a format that aligns with your career goals. If you’re a traditional job seeker and intend to remain in the same career field, a chronological resume is the best option. However, if you’re trying to break into a new field, you may consider using a functional resume. The functional format allows you to demonstrate your proficiency by focusing on specific skill sets instead of relying solely on your work history and previous positions.

Include keywords that will pique the interest of hiring managers and recruiters. Find and reiterate words that are included in job listings that refer to specific skills or functions sought by the employer. Most companies use applicant tracking software to initially review resumes and online applications by searching for assigned keywords. Integrating keywords will improve your qualification ranking and possibly get you one step closer to an interview.

Lastly, make sure you use spellcheck and proofread.  Nothing hurts your credibility more than stating you have strong attention to detail followed by typos or factual errors in your resume.

Audit your Online Presence

Many companies conduct online searches to see what they can learn about candidates before an interview. Keep private information private by utilizing the appropriate privacy settings on social networks. Google yourself and review the results. Be sure to remove any information that may be difficult or embarrassing to explain during an interview. Auditing your online presence will ensure that you have an opportunity to create a positive first impression.

Use LinkedIn

Sync your LinkedIn information with your resume—there shouldn’t be any inconsistencies. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, sign up for one immediately! Connect with coworkers, employers, and other professionals in your field. It’s a great way to join professional groups, stay informed about industry trends, and grow your network. Consider asking for recommendations or endorsements from trusted colleagues and supervisors to draw attention to your accomplishments and to showcase the quality of your work. Encourage your connections to endorse your skills and write recommendations for you.

Use your connections to your advantage. Check LinkedIn to see if you’re connected to someone in the organization to which you’re applying. LinkedIn connections may help you obtain an interview especially if your shared connection is willing to act as a professional reference. You can also research information about a hiring manager in preparation for a meeting.

Prepare for the Interview

Do your research and be prepared to clearly articulate what you know about the company and how your job relates to its mission. Provide examples of accomplishments that demonstrate your skill level and proficiency. Practice common interview questions so that simple inquiries such as, “Tell me about yourself,” prompt you to give engaging answers that clearly demonstrate how you can deliver outstanding results. Practice succinct responses to these types of common questions and you’ll appear professional and polished in your response and delivery.

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Grace Williamson is the Senior Manager of Corporate and Strategic Relationships at American Public University.  As a certified career counselor with a strong background in employer relations and career services, she has lectured on many topics related to private industry and federal careers for Transition Assistance Programs at Walter Reed, West Point, and other military installations.  Grace serves as an adjunct college professor and has instructed courses in computer science, management, business and communications at private universities.  Grace has many years of experience in academia focused on establishing strategic relationships with Fortune 500 employers, federal agencies and government contractors interested in hiring students and alumni.  She is passionate about education and has a special interest in supporting career transition for federal service employees, military veterans and their dependents.

 

How to Ask for the Job – During or After the Interview!

Accepting a position is a two-way street. A potential new hire needs to want the job as much or more than the employer wants to hire the candidate. Many candidates fall short when they don’t ask for the job during the interview, initiate proper follow up, and instill confidence in their interviewer.

To ask for the job, here are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting the offer.

  • Ask the question, “What is the next step in this process?” or “What is the complete hiring process?” Here you want to prepare for what’s entailed, how many more people you’ll need to interview with, and how long the process can take.  This shows your interest in the position and is the first step to asking for the job.
  • Let the interviewer know you are interested by saying something like, “With my work history, personality, and drive I’m confident I’ll be a good fit for this position. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.” Here, you want to be honest and bring attention to what you feel most fits between you and the company. For example, if the company culture seems to be a good fit, say so, provide examples, and state what you are excited about with this opportunity.
  • Follow-up shows that you are interested in the position, even after the interview. A lot of candidates will act as though they are interested in a position during an interview, but after they’ve had time to think about it may realize they are not a good fit. Follow-up shows that your interest is still the same. If you’ve done additional research, or completed any other tasks since the interview, it’s okay to mention those. Such as, “After our interview on Thursday, I researched XYZ. What I found is that this is something that really excites me, and has further increased my interest in this position. I’m looking forward to our next meeting.”  Additionally, if you were told you’d be contacted by a certain time or date, contact the interviewer as soon as possible after the date has passed if you have not heard back from them to restate your interest.
  • As you get closer to completing the interview process, don’t be afraid to say, “Great, when can I get started!?” Hiring managers like to see that their new hires have the confidence in themselves to ask for the position, and are eager to get started and become a part of the team. On the flip side, being too aggressive may not get you the job. Find a way to balance asking for the position without seeming like a domineering person.

Now go ahead, ask for the job!

Consistency, Clarity, and Integrity in Your Job Interview

Have you ever been in an interview and found that the interviewer was asking very similar questions over and over again? The questions may sound different, but in fact, what the person is asking is essentially the same.

This is why consistency, clarity, and integrity are an important part of your job interview. Interviewers are often seeking to understand a personal fully, and to listen to any inconsistencies.

For example, if you said you left an employer for better employment opportunities (very general answer), yet you bring up a conflict with your manager in your interview, you’ll be sure that the interviewer will pick up on this. They will then ask more questions that will come back around to finding the real answer. Interviewers know that people are going to give the best answers they can in an interview, but when asking a question repeatedly it generally makes the interviewee drop their defenses and get to a more honest answer.

Consider this, if you were asked a question and then were repeatedly asked to dig deeper, how would you respond? What happens is that you are given a chance to really think about your answer as you reflect on the reasons behind your actions. This is where consistency, clarity and integrity come into play.

It’s actually a great topic to think about prior to your interview. You can ask yourself questions such as:

  • What do I stand for?
  • What are my values?
  • What’s really important to me?

Then, when you start your interview you can have a clear direction and focus for your answers. As the person digs deeper, they shouldn’t get a different answer because your first answer will be in alignment with your integrity.

What do you think? Have you been in a situation like this before?

How to Answer that Tough Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”

 One of the most frequently asked questions in an interview is “tell me about yourself.”  This is often the dreaded question by the interviewee – concerned about what the interviewer really wants to know, and how much should one really tell?

 Here are a few tips on answering that question while still gaining ground in your interview.

 First, remember you are still in an interview and while inserting something about your personal life is appropriate here it is not required, nor should it be the primary focus. The question is simply asked to get to know your personality better, your likes, dislikes, strengths, challenges, and weaknesses. 

 If you answered the question by saying in my personal life I don’t do much, but watch a lot of TV and hang out with my friends – well, I’m not so sure it would look that great.  That’s totally okay if you do, but remember the place and the setting of your answer!

Tell the interviewer something they can work with – I love to travel, most recently I went to X. I have the work hard, play hard mentality. Or perhaps you could say that you enjoy being spontaneous and creative, the last trip you took you simply went to the airport and chose a city to travel to.

This question gives you an opportunity to focus on your strengths and talents while utilizing personal examples or professional ones.

You can also answer this question by saying what you like in professional settings. For example, you could say I really thrive in a team environment; I like working with others, and having the ability to brainstorm and feed off each other. I’ve always been a team player. I played sports growing up and a team environment reminds me of that camaraderie.  

Think about some of your strengths and talents and see how you can turn those into a story to answer this question.

Some people get caught up when asked what are your top 3 strengths or challenges and rattle off a few things, but this question and the stories and illustrations you can use here can either support that or discount it.

Finally, just be yourself. This question also gives the interviewer a chance to connect with you on a personal level. Interviewee: I want to Xyz College Interviewer: I went there too, or my wife, or my niece, etc – you get the picture!

Should You Practice Interviewing?

 Does the old saying “practice makes perfect” really matter in your job interview? It’s a common concern for most interviewees, worried about how they come across in their interview and how they’ll answer those seemingly tough questions – so the question remains should practice be a part of your job search strategy?

 

If you‘re not practicing, somebody else is, somewhere, and he’ll be ready to take your job.” Brooks Robinson

 

While the quote may seem a bit harsh, in reality if you aren’t taking the time to polish your interview skills – someone else out there probably is and it can be the deciding factor for what makes your interview go from slightly okay to stellar.

 

If nothing else, practice for confidence. The more you rehearse and visualize the interview process, the questions being asked, and the free flowing articulate answers that you will give – the more confident, calm, cool and collected you’ll be during the interview.

 

Studies have shown that simply visualizing an activity and running through it in your mind can have the same effects as actually going through something physically. The subconscious mind doesn’t know how to tell the difference between something real and perceived – it’s the exact reason we hear about basketball players imaging that smooth “swoosh” of the net.

 

When practicing your interview questions and answers don’t worry about knowing what exact questions they will ask you. What you are looking to do is increase your confidence in your responses, answer slowly and precisely, and be able to think on your feet.  You don’t want your answers to sound scripted and perfected – you want to be real and genuine and practicing too much could make you sound like a professional interviewee.

 

Practice for the sake of practicing, not perfection.