In today's barren economy —with 10% unemployment—everyone looking for a job needs every possible edge. We are in what economists call “an employers’ market,” in which employers can choose from a large pool of candidates. The edge often is within you: you must come across as a likeable individual, as someone who will “fit in;” someone who will add to the company rather than subtract: an asset rather than a potential liability. In short: You want to be liked!
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Don’t be overconfident that the expensive resume that highlights you incredible skills and talents will do a killer job: it might just kill your chances if you don’t pay attention to the little things that screeners and interviewers look for. Assuming that you have been careful with your appearance, make-up, grooming, and personal attire, what will give you the edge are these “little things.” If we often hear the expression, “The first 10 seconds will make you of break you,” it is because there’s some truth to that.
1. The handshake and eye contact While in many cultures touching and looking at people straight into their eyes might be offensive. In this country, a good handshake and establishing eye-to-eye contact is really the ice breaker. Your handshake must be brief and vigorous; practicing this act with friends will give you confidence. Be up-front with your friends and ask them to critique your handshake. How many times have been introduced to people who just lay their hand on yours and leave there lifeless like a dead fish? Practice until you get it just right.
2. Speak with full sentences In today’s environment —the age of communication— employers want people who can speak and write well; they want workers con can participate in meetings, who can express their opinions, who can be players rather than observers from the sidelines. So, in your interview, when possible speak in full sentences:
“I see you your minor is in Accounting. Nice. And that you can prepare trial balances… what is a trial balance or balances?”
“Accountants prepare several types of trial balances, but let me tell you about the main one: ‘A trial balance is a list of the accounts and their balances prepared in order to prove the equality of the debits and the credits.”
Of course not always should you sound like an encyclopedia. During the interview, and taking your clues from the interviewer you can do a bit of small talk. And maybe allow yourself a few hot expressions. “Cool” is acceptable but only once. Stay away from telling jokes, punning, or even colorful language. Pepper your language with accepted business expressions such as: “I’m a team player,” “I’m a work horse, but I can also lead the way—when needed.”
Toward the end of the interview, pick up signals and clues that the interviewer is winding down. Use this pre-closing period to say, “I’m careful with wasting anyone’s time. And I know you are a busy person with a full schedule… thank you for talking to me today.”
3. Take advantage of the expected standard questions Because many interviewers in the Human Resources department are college grads with degrees in psychology, they are trained to use what they learned in textbooks. One model they often use is SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis. Knowing this you should prepare answers ahead of the interview:
• Tell me about your strengths
• Our company is doing well, what do you think are our strengths?
• What do you think we do poorly? • What are your weaknesses?
Opportunities • If you were skipped over for promotion, would you see it as a weakness or an opportunity?
• If you get this job, will you see it as a job or a career opportunity?
Threats • Since you’re not familiar with Excel, would that be a threat or an opportunity? • What threats make you uneasy in a work environment?
Companies are seeking candidates eager to take on challenging projects, who aren’t afraid to learn by their mistakes in doing something new. The candidate must project this eagerness. Practice the above mentioned points. Practice the handshake. This little practice will tell a lot about your personality. Just remember learning this concept is easy, but it is the good execution of it that will distinguish you from many others. Be honest and sincere with your answers; lying, embellishment, or exaggeration shouldn’t take space in your mind and heart—or your resume.
The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual: