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,

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.

Ten Tips for Effective Resumes That Get Read

Fast and volume.  Two words that describe how resumes are sent by applicants and received by potential employers.  It has never been easier to distribute a resume to potential employers or receive resumes from potential employees. Because of speed and volume, it is key that your resume get the attention of the recipient and communicate who you are — very quickly.

Someone said that you have about 30 seconds to create interest with the reader of a resume. Once that interest is sparked, the resume must communicate how your skills and experience match the requirements of the job you’re applying for.

Here are ten tips that will help in making sure that your resume is read. Yes, many of theses tips are common sense. But, you have focused so closely on this summary of your experience, that you lose the objectivity of a person reading it for the first time.

1.  Consider the resume recipient a targeted audience.

A resume is a communications vehicle — just like a brochure, Web site or any other way of reaching an audience.  Consider the reader a target audience. Determine the messages that you want them receive after reading your resume. How do you want to be perceived?

What action do you want them to take?  (I know, that’s obvious!)

2.  Make it easy to read…Format, typeface, bolding, spacing, etc.

This is the most important element of your resume. It has to be easy to read and the recipient will initially look at it very quickly and then determine if it is worth a more in-depth reading. Always remember, you send out a number of resumes and the audience receives hundreds or more, so they do not have the time and energy to read each one thoroughly.

Use a format that allows the reader to see what skills and experience that you have to offer. Typeface should either be Times Roman or Arial in 12 pt. or 14 pt. (headers). Remember, that newspapers use Times Roman, for readability. Use of bolding and

Italics can also make your resume easier to read and give the document some “energy.”

3.   Summarize your skills. What do you have to offer a potential employer?

What skills have you developed in your career thus far?  Develop 5 or more bullets that summarize what you bring to a potential employer. A portion of the list can be customized to meet the needs of a particular job.

If you’re just starting out in your career, be sure to list skills you developed from such things as an internship during college, a summer job, part-time employment, being a reporter or editor of a school newspaper — wherever you had to communicate in writing or verbally.

Following the list of skills, should be your work experience that support how you got your skills, where you worked, what you did and when you did it.

With the ease of being able to edit and revise your resume, take advantage of these tools and customize your resume — if needed. Take the qualifications listed for the job you’re applying for and match your skills and experience to them. For example, if you’re applying for a position in Public Relations, focus the listing of your skills on what is needed to be effective in that position.

4.   Structure your resume in a logical manner

Here’s the order of subjects that I would recommend that you follow on your resume:

1.  Masthead  – At the top, containing your name, address, phone number and e-mail


2.   A condensed list of your skills ( 5 or more bullets)

3.  Your experience – Company, location, title, dates you worked there  and  a

summary of what you did at each job

4.  Education

5.  Professional Organizations & Awards

Here’s the rationale for this order.  Your education is important, but not important enough to list first.  What you want to list first is the skills that you have to offer a potential employer, based upon your experience to date. If you’re just starting on your career, list relevant experience you gained at internships, during summer jobs or at  part-time jobs.

5.  Career Objective & References — forget both!

Your hobbies? — Maybe

Don’t bother with a bland, generalized  job or career objective. Normally these are written in such a general manner that they don’t provide much insight about you. This type of information could be covered in your cover letter or during an initial interview.

Also, don’t mention in your resumes that you’ll provide references.  Of course you will. References are a given when you get to the place in the interview process where the employer wants to offer you the job.

List your hobbies and interests?   Generally, no. If any of these relate well to the company or job for  which your applying, then list them.  Otherwise, you may list an activity the hiring manager responds to negatively. For example, saying that you play golf to someone who really dislikes golf, creates a negative feeling.  Use common sense.

6.   Functional approach?  No, no, no!  You try it…

There was a trend a few years ago where it was suggested that people summarize their work experience and accomplishments and then later in the resume list the companies where they did it, in what function and when. The person reading the resume has jump back and forth between sections of the resume, trying to figure out what you did, where and when!

As a recruiter, I can tell you it’s very time-consuming and a tiring process — not something you want to do to make it easier for the reader to evaluate your work experience. All you have to do is try this with someone else’s resume and you’ll see what I mean.

7.   Length of your resume?  1-3 pages.

For junior or entry level, one page is just fine. As you gain experience and become more senior, two to three pages in length is good. No more than that. Remember, the resume should create interest and you have to do that quickly.

Generally, I don’t think a senior professional should have a one-page resume or that a junior level communicator should take up three pages.

How long to make sure resume has always been a matter of opinion. Two pages work well, but don’t think you have to force everything into one page.  Just don’t make the mistake of stretching it out to make it look like you did more than you actually did.. That’s a place where you might get tripped up. Another application of common sense should be used here.

8.  Age a factor because you went back to college?

You may be a professional who has gone to college later in life. In the real business world, I’d recommend that you  delete the date of your graduation from college.  Of course, Recruiters and Human Resource people can figure out your age.   Age discrimination is what I call a “silent discriminator.”  No one can legally talk about it.  It’s an unfortunate game.

9.  Errors on your resume? Shame on you!

Have a someone who knows you review your resume for errors and for content.  Some people will toss your resume aside and not consider you if they come upon an error. This may seem obvious, but you are working with a document that you as the author have seen many times. You may have overlooked an error that you made many times.

10.  Sending your resume…

Create your resume using a format that can be sent and received electronically. Generally, Microsoft  “Word” is the best because most people use it. Never send your resume as part of an e-mail message. Employers and recruiters keep large files of resumes and sending it as an attachment makes sure that your resume arrived the way that you sent it.

The Job Search

When I was writing this article, I immediately focused on the first step in your job search. Then, it occurred to me that before you begin your search, it would be logical to know where you want to go! Where do you want your job search to take you?

Unless you have worked prior to school, you may not know exactly what you “want to do when you grow up.” That’s normal because college is supposed to open up your mind to many possibilities. The reality is that you may start off in one area and move around as you develop in your career.  But, you’re here…now.

What are your skills and personality type?

So, before you start your job search, do your best to determine where you want to go, what you’d like to do and be realistic about your current skills. One aspect of setting goals can be helpful is identifying your personality type. has a simple 10-minute self-assessment, based on Meyers-Briggs

Your “type” reveals important things about you, such as whether you’re naturally more outgoing or reserved, realistic or imaginative, logical or sensitive, and organized or spontaneous. And the more closely your type matches the job’s requirements, the happier and more successful you’ll be.

Check it out at:

Before the arrival of the Internet, getting information about the activities that make up a job search was truly hard to find. Many job seekers would hire a firm to find them a job that would include everything from writing a resume, finding potential employers, interviewing and how to close the deal and negotiate for a salary.

Now, it’s all at your fingertips. With little effort, you can find all of the information that you need to do an effective job search on the Internet. Even by logging onto, you can get a wealth of information that they offer free to everyone.

O.K., your resume is content rich, done in a professional format and easy to read.  Where do you start on your search?

Networking…the foundation of your job search!

Your current network can provide a starting place. But, let’s assume you don’t have one.  As you start your search — and throughout your career — develop a list (yes, write it down) of contacts.  Being new to the full-time job market, your network should contain contacts at all of some of the following:

Ÿ  Professionals you met or worked with during an internship

Ÿ  Professionals you’ve met at meetings or events

Ÿ  Part-time jobs and summer jobs

Ÿ  Contacts through friends and family

Ÿ  Presenters in your class(es) from the business world

Ÿ  Suggestions from your professors

Ÿ  Alumni from your college

Learn from the “Queen of Networking”

In her book, “Nonstop Networking,” Andrea Nierenberg suggests that you should identify the people with whom you want to build relationships, such as:

  1. Customer or clients
  2. Suppliers
  3. Neighbors
  4. Like-minded people
  5. People you meet by chance
  6. Friends
  7. Family

Many people feel uncomfortable networking outside of their own circle of friends and acquaintances. If that’s the case for you, consider strengthening your skills in what Ms. Nierenberg calls “The Seven Traits of Great Networkers”:

Ÿ  Appear confident and are not afraid to ask questions.

Ÿ  Appreciate those who help them

Ÿ  Consistently nurture their relationships

Ÿ  Are tenacious in going around obstacles

Ÿ  Are excellent listeners

Ÿ  Rebound quickly and completely from rejection

Ÿ  Are friendly and approachable

Six Steps to conduct an effective job search

JOBTRAK has an excellent Six Step Process that is designed to help college students and alumni conduct successful job searches.

“Successful job seekers must have both good information and well-developed job hunting skills. Three important factors for a successful job search are an awareness of your goals and skills, an understanding of the labor market, and a well planned job search campaign.

Experts recommend that you begin an active job search six to nine months in advance of your target employment date. You can begin the process by visiting the Career Center early (for students, nine months to a year before graduation).”

You can get the Six Step Process at the following URL:

Three key ingredients to a successful job search…

…Be enthusiastic                                  …

…Keep yourself motivated

…Network, network, network!