Grooming and other tips for the job interview

Much has been said and written about what to do when interviewing for a job. From being on time to dressing one notch up to writing thank you notes, the advice is practical and important.

But what of the time before the interview? What should you do to be prepared? Here are 10 pieces of pre-interview advice:

Make sure your shoes are cleaned and shined. People, including interviewers, notice your footwear. If it’s messy or dirty or unkempt, is that how you’ll be in your job as well?

Check that clothes are neat and clean. That means they are stain-free, odor-free, and wrinkle-free. It’s not a bad idea to invest in an iron: Pressed impresses.

Clean and trim your fingernails. One of the first things you’ll do is shake hands. You want to be sure your hands are presentable.

See that hair is neat — combed, brushed, and away from your face. For men, a quick visit to a barber or hair salon to clean up areas like the back of the neck or the ears will improve your appearance and keep the focus on what you have to say, not how you look.

Leave extra jewelry at home. Keep it to a minimum — nothing flashy or jangly —so it doesn’t distract the interviewer.

Print your resume. Bring along a clean copy and have several extras in case you meet with several people.

Know the location. Have the address and phone number plugged into your phone or written on a slip of paper. Do a dry run the day before if possible, so you not only know how to get there, you also know how long it will take.

Practice the pronunciation of names. People simply aren’t named “Smith” or “Jones” anymore. Your best bet is to find out how to pronounce the names of the people you will meet before the interview. Call the company and ask the receptionist or a person in HR for the correct pronunciation. You’ll stand out, especially if your competition didn’t learn the correct pronunciation.

Have writing paper and instrument. Bring paper and pen to take notes during your interview. You don’t want to have to ask for it during the interview.

Be prepared. It may rain, sleet, or snow, so make sure your coat is in good condition. Pack an umbrella. Charge your electronics and then turn them off when you arrive. Have a couple of breath mints that you can enjoy before arriving “just in case.”


Using Keywords in Your Resume

Well-chosen keywords can turn your resume into a powerful marketing tool.

You have responded to many online job ads and uploaded your resume to a number of recruitment web sites, but no one is calling to invite you for an interview. One reason might be a lack of resume keywords.

Keywords are specific words or phrases used to describe an applicant’s skills or experience. They are often specific buzz words that are used in a particular industry. Most companies use applicant-tracking software, which scans resumes for keywords relating to experience, job titles, skills, training, and degrees. Resumes WILL NOT show up in a search unless they contain the exact words or phrases that the employer is searching for. Most Fortune 1000 companies and many smaller companies now use these technologies.

How to Use Resume Keywords

* Identify resume keywords. You can find buzz words that appear in job postings from newspapers, job boards, trade publications and employment ads with similar job description. Visit the web sites of professional associations in your field to look for current keywords. Talk to recruiters and human resources professionals. They are looking for resumes that match the key words contained in the job description and most likely the person who posted the job online is the one reviewing resumes for the position.

* Add your keywords to the resume. Use your keywords and phrases throughout your resume to stand out in a database search for someone with your experience, skills, background, certifications, location and accomplishments. Focus on such areas as: skills, responsibilities, achievements, degrees, certifications, job-specific phrases, products and services. List your key words near the top so they would be quickly reviewed when looking for a match. Recruiters need to see those key words in first few seconds or you’ll be eliminated from consideration.

* Use keywords in your cover letters too. Some employers include them in resume databases.

* Keep updating your resume on a regular basis with new keywords. Looking at employment ads will help you get new ideas on what keywords you can add to get your resume even more attention.

Resume Key Words To Avoid:

* The words like supported, contributed, and assisted are not very effective. They say that you helped, but do not say how. If you decided to use them follow these words with a more complete description of your role.

* Successfully is another key word you should avoid in your resume. It is better to give a specific example of your accomplishments that prove your success at your past jobs.

* Responsible for is another unnecessary phrase. It will look much better if you list your accomplishments rather than enumerate your responsibilities.

Here are a few popular keywords:

* Achievement keywords: achieved, completed, increased, improved, accomplished, performed, expanded;

* Problem solving keywords: reduced, corrected, evaluated, utilized, simplified, analyzed, investigated;

* Leadership keywords: developed, managed, inspired, organized, guided, directed, revitalized;

* Initiative keywords: designed, launched, created, established, initiated, started, formulated;

* Some popular phrases: oral and written communications, strategic planning, project management, performance and productivity improvement, business development, product positioning, team-building.

Resume keywords can take an average resume and turn it into a power-packed marketing piece for you.
Source: Based on an article by Tatiana Varenik,

How to Network

You’ve probably heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In
today’s interconnected society, that rings true more than ever. Your talents,
abilities, and experience will never take you anywhere if nobody knows you exist.
In order to get what you want out of life, you need to be resourceful. Your fellow
human beings are a vast resource.

Break your stereotypes about networking. If you’re reading this article, you’re
probably familiar with the benefits of networking, but you’ve avoided doing it for a
variety of reasons.

Networking can seem insincere, pretentious, or even manipulative. And if that’s
what you’re thinking, you’re probably right… about some of it. There will always
be people who judge others based on image and titles, but there are also people
who want to build genuine, mutually beneficial relationships. When you’re
networking, you’re going to have to sift through the people you don’t want to
know to get to the people you do want to know. That’s just an essential part of
networking, but the good news is that with practice, you’ll get better at spotting
the people worth knowing.
You might think you’re too shy or self-conscious to schmooze. Networking does
require a degree of boldness, but with the advent of social networking sites, you
can get to find others with similar interests and goals without being in a room full
of people. Also, people who are shy and self-conscious tend to be a lot more
open and talkative when they’re doing or talking about something they’re deeply
interested in. If you find people who are just as obsessed with birding, origami, or
manga as you are, then you’ll have a much easier time establishing connections.
Networking takes time and effort. Unless you’re an extroverted person who
thoroughly enjoys schmoozing, it can be exhausting. Why bother? Well, one
way to think of it is to imagine how much time and frustration you would save if
anything you wanted or needed was just one or two phone calls away. Ultimately,
a network can be an investment, with benefits that outweigh the costs.

1. You need to stick with it and watch it grow.

2. Build your social network. If you hate small talk, this will be the hardest part,
but you’ll improve with practice. The key is to smile and take a genuine interest in
other people’s lives.

Strengthen your existing connections. Getting in touch with old friends, distant
relatives, and people you went to school with can be a good stepping stone
because you’re reaching out, but you’re not approaching complete strangers.
Give them a phone call or send them an e-mail to find out where they are and
what they’re doing. Tell them what you’re up to.

Pursue interests and activities that mean a lot to you. The Internet has made this
a whole lot easier. Check forums, listings, classifieds, and Internet mailing lists
(known as “listservs”) for local events or meetings that are likely to attract people
with similar interests or passions.

Go to work-related conferences. Print out business cards and give out as many
as you can. Ask the people you meet for their business cards, and write any
details about them on the back once you have a moment to spare.

3. Find out who knows whom. When you’re talking to people, find out what they do
for a living and for fun, as well as what their spouse or significant other, nearby
family members, and close friends do for work and recreation, too. It may be
helpful to make note of this in your address book so you don’t lose track of who
does what.

Find the extroverts. As you continue to network, you’ll find that some people are
much better at it than you are – they already know everyone! You’ll stand to
benefit from getting to know such people first because they can introduce you to
others who share your interests or goals. In other words, if you’re an introvert,
find an extrovert who can “set you up”.

4. Invite people out. Going out for lunch, beer, drinks, or coffee is usually good
for catching up casually. You can also invite people to do things related to your
interests. If you met someone at a caving club, why don’t you ask them to check
out a new cave with you? The objective here is to establish a connection beyond
your initial meeting. Preferably, this should be one-on-one.

5. Be generous. Since you’re looking to create mutually beneficial relationships,
a good way to kickstart this is by thinking of ways in which you can help others.
It’s not all about contacts, job offers, and loans; you can offer compliments, good
listening skills, and other less tangible (but valuable) gestures of kindness and
generosity. As long as you’re sincere, you’re establishing good relations with
people and opening channels for mutual benefit. The girl who was crying on your
shoulder last month might get you the job of your dreams next month. You never
know, so place your bets on good karma. “What goes around, comes around.”

6. Follow up. Don’t get someone’s business card or e-mail address and forget
about it. Find a way to stay in touch. Maintain your network. Whenever you find
an article that might be of interest to them, for instance, send it on their way. If
you hear about a negative event (a tornado, a riot, an electrical blackout) that
happened in their vicinity, call them and make sure they’re fine. Keep track of
everyone’s birthday and mark them on a calendar; be sure to send birthday
cards to everyone you know, along with a nice note to let them know you haven’t
forgotten about them, and that you don’t want them to forget about you.

7. Tap into your network. The next time you need something (a job, a date, a
hiking partner) cast a wide net and see what happens. Make a few phone calls or
send out an e-mail describing your situation in a friendly tone: “Hey, I’m in a bit of
a pinch. I have these concert tickets for Saturday and I haven’t been able to find
someone to go with me. Since this is a band I love, I’d like to go with someone I
know I’ll have fun with. Do you know of anyone who might enjoy it with me?”

Don’t ever apologize when asking for a favor or help. It can signal a lack of
confidence and professionalism. There’s nothing to be sorry about–you’re just
seeing if anyone happens to be in a position to help you; you’re not making demands, or forcing people to do anything that they don’t want to do.


The Interview Follow-Up: Dos and Don’ts

Remember, that your work isn’t done once you finish the job interview. If you want the job, you can’t just sit back and wait for the job offer. Consider these key rules, guidelines, and strategies for following-up your job interviews.

* Ask at the end of the interview when the employer expects to make a decision.

* Be proactive and consider follow-up a strategic part of your job search process. Follow-up might just give you just the edge you need to get the job offer over others who interviewed for the position.

* Use these follow-up techniques to continue to show your enthusiasm and desire for the position, but don’t make it seem as though you are desperate.

* Obtain the correct titles and names of all the people who interviewed you. (Ideally, get each person’s business card.)

* Write individual thank you notes or letters to each person who interviewed you — within two business days. Each letter can be essentially the same, but try to vary each a bit in case recipients compare notes. Don’t ever fail to send a thank you, even if you are sure the job is not for you.

* Don’t worry about hand-written versus typed thank you letters, but don’t make a mistake by sending it through the wrong medium. Make sure you know the best method of reaching the employer, whether by postal mail, email, or fax.

* In your thank you letter, show appreciation for the employer’s interest in you and remind the employer about why you are the perfect person for the position.

* Don’t have any errors (misspellings or typos) in your thank you letters.

* Alert your references — if you haven’t done so — that they may be getting a phone call from the employer.

* Don’t stop your job search, even if you feel confident that you will get a job offer. Continue to interview and attempt to find other opportunities.

* Follow-up with a telephone call to the employer within a week to ten days (or sooner, if the employer had a shorter timetable) to ask about the position. Continue to build rapport and sell your strengths during the phone call.

* Be patient. The hiring process often takes longer than the employer expects.

* Continue following-up, especially if the employer asks you to. Just don’t go overboard and annoy or bother the employer.

* Don’t place too much importance on one job or one interview; there will be other opportunities for you.

* Use other job offers as leverage in your follow-up — to get the offer you really want.

* Don’t burn any bridges if you don’t get a job offer. And try and turn the situation into a positive by bringing the interviewer(s) into your network, possibly even asking them for referrals to other contacts.

Types of Interviews

The purpose of a job interview is for you and an employer to learn about one another. Employers want to evaluate your qualifications, and you also want to evaluate the employer.

There are several different types of interviews:

Telephone Screening Interview

A call from an employer to screen you and other candidates for essential criteria.

Tip: Have your job search records organized and handy.

Refer to your resume as needed.

In-person Screening Interview

An in-person screening for initial impressions of your attitude, interest, and professional style.  You may not be meeting with the final decision maker, but don’t slack off.

Tip:  Sell yourself as you would in a “regular” interview.

Selection Interview

In-depth questions on your qualifications used to evaluate your ability to fit in.

Tip: Establish rapport with everyone you meet (before and after the actual interview).  Sell yourself as a natural addition to the team.

Work Sample Interview

An opportunity to demonstrate your specific skills. May be a display of your portfolio or a demonstration of your skills.

Tip: Run through different ways to describe the projects in your portfolio.

Practice your presentation until it is smooth.

Peer Group Interview

A meeting with your prospective coworkers, who will evaluate how well you fit in.

Tip:  Don’t forget to smile. It shows confidence.

Group or Panel Interview

Three or more people who will ask you questions on your qualifications and evaluate how you fit in.

Tip: Direct your answer to the person who asked the question, but try to maintain eye contact with all group members.

Luncheon Interview

Interview conducted in a restaurant to assess how well you handle yourself in social situations.

Tip: Pick easy things to eat so you can answer questions and pay attention to the conversation.

Stress Interview

Questions intended to make you uncomfortable. This is usually a test of how you will handle stress on the job.

Tip: Keep your cool and take your time in responding to the questions. Don’t take anything personally.

Skype or Virtual Interview

A “person-to-person” interview..

Tip:  Practice before a mirror.

Preparation is the key to a successful interview. Spend time getting ready for your interview. Review common interview questions and practice answering them with someone else or in front of a mirror. On the big day, remember to:

* Be on time or early

* Go by yourself

* Look professional

* Shake hands firmly

* Maintain eye contact

* Bring your sense of humor and SMILE!


Source:  Creative Job Search, a publication of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

14 Interview Questions

14 inquiries hiring managers have shared as being most beneficial. They range from basic to very straight forward–and even include a couple of curve balls. Consider these questions, the basis for asking them, the answers you’d provide, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What circumstances bring you here today?

This very open-ended question will surprise many candidates in getting things started. But it gives context for the candidate’s situation, such as whether or not they have any problems with their current employer, what motivates them and their goals. If they do not respond quickly, just sit quietly and wait for the response. “My parents said to get a job or get out” should throw up a very big red flag.

How would your best friend describe you?

This response typically indicates how the candidate wants you to feel they are perceived by friends. Take notes and then ask, “May I call your best friend and see how they describe you?” You may or may not be interested in doing so, but the response and body language that follows can indicate if you received a truthful response. Asking this question near the interview’s beginning helps get truthful responses for the remainder of your time with the candidate.

What would you say are your two greatest weaknesses and how do you work at overcoming them?

Most interviews contain the “What are your greatest strength and your greatest weakness” question. But this question focuses more on the candidate’s ability to identify the need for personal improvement. Ideal responses include honest recognition of issues and a plan they are already implementing to overcome them. Some candidates may even be able to turn their weaknesses into a positive, indicating strong alternative thinking and sales skills. Watch out for candidates who say they have no weaknesses.

How do you alleviate stress?

Every job has stress. If someone says they handle it fine without doing anything, it may signal that they’re either lying or don’t know how to control it. Look for positive activities or hobbies. If the response is “punching stuff” or “weekend benders,” it’s not a very good sign.

How do you typically deal with conflict?

As with stress, conflicts are something we deal with frequently. And uniquely. They can range from disagreeing with a supervisor to lunch preferences and cubicle decorations. Most employers look for someone who can manage these issues without getting frustrated. Ask for real-life examples or offer a hypothetical scenario and ask how they would handle it. “Punching stuff” or “weekend benders” are bad answers for this as well. As is this.

What are three goals you’ve achieved this past year?

Another twist in the usual “what are your short- and long-term goals” question, the response to this usually reveals if the candidate has personal or professional goals and their achievements. Lack of a quick response may indicate they don’t plan ahead. A negative answer shouldn’t be considered a bad thing if they qualify it with the fact that they are still working on achieving something. Responses which indicate drive, planning and good work/life balance for both short- and long-term initiatives are the best.

What was a major obstacle you overcame in the past year?

Problem solving is a key requirement of any candidate. This question reveals several things: What kind of thinker are they? Can they do projects on their own or does a manager need to hold their hand? It also confirms how determined they can be toward a project.

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others around you?

This gives the interviewer an idea of who is an above-average performer. It also demonstrates leadership potential and the willingness to be a team player.

Tell me about two memorable projects, one success and one failure. To what do you attribute the different outcomes?

The answer will reveal the candidate’s ability to learn from mistakes and achievements.

Where do you see yourself in five months?

Another twist on an interview fave. Typically, people ask the “five years” variety to gauge drive and long-term goals. But with today’s uncertainty, the answer could realistically be “living in Hooverville.” Brave ones could respond with “your position” or the exceptionally brazen “supervising you.” But the five-month angle reveals short-term goals and level of confidence for not only getting, but succeeding in, the new position.

What are the first five things you would do if you got this position?

Reserve this one for the mid- and senior-level candidates. The most competent ones will already have several things in mind, revealing how they go about problem solving and navigating interaction with co-workers.

What could your current employer do differently to be more successful?

This reveals the situation they are leaving behind, and whether they are a bitter, insubordinate or constructive criticizer. Press for details, such as if they ever communicated or initiated actions to improve upon the situations. This will reveal if they are a catalyst, a malcontent or just full of complacency.

What risks did you take in your last position?

Generally, risk takers are more successful than more passive individuals. While you don’t want someone who always throws caution to the wind, this question gives insight into the wisdom (or lack thereof) of risky decisions they made and the results that followed.

How did you prepare for this interview?

The answer is relevant to whether you prefer those who wing it or people who gather as much information as possible. Most will assume someone who willingly offers they are winging it are either incredibly bold or downright clueless. But if they answered well on all your previous questions, it’s a good sign they can improvise on the job.

What kinds of responses have you received to questions such as these? How would you respond to them? What are some questions you always ask your candidates?

How to Thrive in a Phone Interview

Phone interviews are frequently used by companies to save time by pre-qualifying your interest and expertise. The following are some recommendations to ensure your next phone interview is successful for you.

Isolate Yourself

Phone interviews place you at a disadvantage because you only have one tool of communication, your voice. The interviewer’s impression of you is shaped by all the sounds coming through the phone. Insulate yourself from distractions and background noises. Do not have your phone interview when you are surrounded by a lot of noise like an outdoor café at a busy intersection. If the call is on your cell phone make sure the caller can hear you clearly.

When the phone interviewer first contacts you, make sure it is comfortable for you to talk on the phone for at least 20 minutes. If it’s not convenient, recommend scheduling another time for the call.

Schedule the Phone Interview

If you can not speak comfortably when the first call arrives, ask the interviewer if you could schedule a specific time for the phone interview. Be sure to define who will call who. It is recommended that you offer to call the company. This ensures you are fully prepared and in a situation where you can speak without interruptions. Schedule the phone interview just like you would any face-to-face interview.

Stand Up

During the call standup, walk around and smile. All these things make a big difference in the projection and quality of your voice.

What’s Next

At the conclusion, ask the interviewer about next steps and timing of their hiring process.

Get Face-to-Face

If you are interested, ask for a face-to-face interview. Remember that your objective (during the phone interview) is to secure a face-to-face interview. You will be most effective discussing your background and assessing the company in a face-to-face meeting.

Prepare Your Responses

Phone interviews follow a similar pattern of questioning with the purpose of screening you out of consideration. Below is a list of questions most phone interviewers ask. Write down and practice your responses.

– Tell Me About Yourself.

– What do you know about our company?

– How did you learn about this position?

– What is our current salary?

– What are your compensation requirements?

– Why are you looking for a new position?

– What are your strengths?

– What are your weaknesses?

– Do you have any questions?

Questions You Ask

Questions are your primary tool of influence with an interviewer. Questions help you direct the conversation and assess if the company is right for you. Here are some questions to ask during a phone interview.

Opening Questions:

Questions you ask at the beginning of the phone interview.

– What is your position with this company?

– How much time would you like to speak on the phone?

– What position are you considering me for?

– What are the key things you’d like to learn about my background?

More Questions:

Questions you could ask in the middle of the interview.

– What business imperatives are driving the need for this position?

– Describe the three top challenges that I’ll face in this job?

– What are the characteristics of people who are most successful in your company?

– What are the key deliverables and outcomes that this position must achieve?

Closing Questions:

Questions you ask at the end of the phone interview.

– What additional information would you like me to provide?

– What concerns do you have at this point?

– When is the best time to follow up with you?

Best of luck on your next interview. It is the most important moment in your search for a better position.

The Interview: Dos and Donts

Well, now you’ve reached the point in your job search where you finally have an interview!

When you sit down with the hiring manager,  that’s where you confirm if this opportunity is really what you want  and — they see if you are what they want.  Even after the best of preparation, there are a number of things that you have to do and don’t do.


* Make eye contact and give a firm handshake.

* Read everything you can about the company in advance and know as much as you can about the position you are interviewing for.

* Provide a BRIEF introduction. Be prepared for the question: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” – tell interviewer who you are, your role, what you like about your job and/or the company, what you want to cover in the interview.

* Find something about the interviewer that interests you and ask them about it.

* Give specific examples of your work.

* Ask follow up questions.

* Take good notes.  And do it right after the interview when it’s fresh.

* Make every interviewer feel engaged and important.  The job might not be the perfect fit, but good interviews lead to good things. A compliment wouldn’t hurt.

* Prepare a great final question.

* Ask about next steps – how the process works.


* Do all the talking.

* Get interested in a job just because you like the interviewer personally.  Conversely, don’t dismiss the opportunity if you don’t get a good vibe.

* Ask questions that can be answered with a “yes or no” – unless you just want to verify something or if you don’t want a long story.

* Say bad things about any company, position or colleague.

* Expect perfection.  Think about where would you make trade offs?

* Make promises or set false sense of expectations.

* Bring up religion or politics.

* Tell a joke.

* Be pessimistic or negative in any way such as whine about the economy.

Interviewing? Here’s a Common Sense Checklist

You’ve reached the point in your job search where you have an interview.

When you sit down with the hiring manager, that’s the point where you see if this is really what you want and they see if you are what they want. If you prepare yourself ahead of time, you’ll do well.

The two most important things to remember (Yes, this is common sense) are:

1.  Show an interest in the job and the company

2.  Be enthusiastic

The following is a checklist of items to consider in preparing yourself, during the interview and follow up after the interview.


___ Get onto the organization’s Web site — the easiest way to get the information you need. Here’s some of the things you’ll want to check:

  • A description of the company, its products and services

  • Historical background

  • Board of Directors and Senior Management Team

  • Their clients, client references

  • Check press releases for new clients, earnings, new technology, etc.

  • Industry analyst reports

  • Under “Careers,” what type of people they’re looking for and current openings

___ If possible, research background information about the hiring manager

___ What’s the hiring process?  How many interviews and by whom?

___ What’s the timing for their interviews?

___ Do you know the kind of interview to expect?

___ Get to know their industry, either through the Internet or through informational interviews

___ Be able to tell the interviewer why you want the job

___ Show how your skills and experience are a good fit for the requirements of the job. (Follow the requirements of the job as listed in their job description.)

___ Prepare a list of questions you want to ask so that you get what you need from the interview

___ Make sure that you have a list of your 3 to 5 strongest and most positive references.

Remember — you’re trying to make a good impression, so be sincere and enthusiastic and show that you are knowledgeable about the organization and have something to offer them.


___ Determine the dress code for the company

___ Dress on the conservative side.

___ Make sure that you arrive early (preferred), but at least on time

___ Bring extra resumes, notepad, pen.

___ Be as relaxed as you can.

___ Know how to pronounce your interviewer’s name correctly.

___ Be personable as well as professional.

___ Before you respond to a question, take time to formulate your answers and respond in the best, most positive light

___ Don’t say anything negative about your prior employer(s).

___ Before you leave, ask the interviewer when you will hear from the company



  • As soon as possible, write down notes from the interview — answers to the questions you asked and any other pertinent information.

  • Follow up with a thank-you letter or e-mail message to each person with whom you’ve talked.

  • If you are working with a recruiter, call and give him or her a summary of the interview, your impressions and the next steps. If you are not interested in the opportunity after the interview, be sure to thank the recruiter for getting you the interview.

  • If you haven’t heard from your contact with the company when they said that they would, follow up with a phone call. Also, if they are not interested in you, ask for any input that you might use in the next steps of your job search.

Networking: A Simple, Step-By-Step Process

1.    List the name and contact information (address, phone #, e-mail address, etc.) of everyone you can think of; don’t leave anyone out.

2.    Contact each person on your list  and explain what you’re looking for.

3.    Give each person a copy of your resume or qualifications and ask for advice and help.

4.   Express your interest and appreciation, but remember to be a good listener.

5.   Follow up on any suggestions the person makes.

6.   Contact each person in your network regularly to let them know  your progress.

7.  Let everyone know when you get a job, and remember to show your gratitude for their willingness to help.