Rising unemployment means more people will be applying for fewer jobs. You’re likely to be up against twice as many candidates for the same job opening.
So how can you take control of your career path?
A successful interview is more likely to result in a job offer. Here are ways before, during and after the interview to raise your visibility and boost your chances of landing a job.
Before the Interview
1. Add buzz words to your resume.
Using the right keywords are essential to setting your resume apart. Don’t waste time with adjectives and long descriptions. Instead use active, key verbs and nouns that will catch a resume scanner’s eyes, or in some cases, the computer’s eyes, as some companies utilize software to pick up on certain buzz words to match what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Hot tip: Key buzzwords are often mentioned in the job listing. If the ad seeks “a sales associate with five years online advertising experience” be sure to mention the phrases “sales associate,” “online advertising” and “five years” on your resume.
2. Follow up with a phone call.
Most companies accept resumes and applications online, don’t leave it at that. Follow up with a phone call to the hiring manager the next day, and ask what the next best step is to take. Suggest coming in for an informational interview. Mention you can swing by the next day or that week for a meeting. Reaching out and being proactive puts you in better control of the hiring process.
3. Milk your connections.
If you know anyone who works where you are applying, ask for their help. First find out as much as you can about the corporate culture, which may give you a better sense of how to position yourself on your resume and during the interview. This person may also be able to put in a good word for you to the human resources department and help your resume get to the top of the pile.
During the Interview
1. Dress the part.
The first impression begins with your appearance. “It doesn’t need to be expensive clothing, but it does need to be neat and clean,” says Sally J. Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings (stock quote: BWLD).
2. Be honest.
“I pay close attention to how much interviewees know. Those who confess they don’t know something and show the willingness to look it up are great candidates for my team,” says Diane Garnick, chief investment strategist at Invesco (Stock Quote: IVZ).
Hot tip: It’s okay to take a pause before answering your questions. It shows you care about your answers. “Employers are looking for who the candidate really is, not who they have prepared to be in order to get hired," says Kristi Wetherington, CEO of CAPIS. "What motivates them? Are they being honest and showing their personality and ambitions?”
3. Prepare for the unexpected.
Gone are the days you can just answer “perfectionism” to an interviewer’s question about your greatest weakness. “The typical 'canned' responses of the past do not work anymore,” says Wetherington. “I have ceased asking the typical interview questions. I ask my own questions which I tailor to the candidate depending on my impression in the interview.”
4. Make eye contact.
It sounds needless to say, but your body language and eye contact can be deal breakers. “I’ve conducted interviews before where the person never looked up at me," says Smith. "Needless to say, that person did not get the job.”
5. Crack a joke.
Tasteful and proper humor can really set you apart. It shows you’re relaxed, confident and willing to be a little bold. “I remember one specific interview where a candidate made me laugh. It made a lasting impression!” says Wetherington. “I would highly recommend humor if it is appropriate.”
6. Get feedback right away.
If you feel confident about the interview, don’t leave the interview without knowing where you stand, says Richard Nolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? Ask the interviewer, “Based on our discussion would you like to set up another meeting?”
After the Interview
1. Email promptly.
Within an hour or two of shaking hands and leaving the interview room, send an email thanking the interviewer for his or her time. Mention why you’re even more jazzed than ever about the job. Follow up with any additional information the interviewer wanted from you.
Hot tip: Sign off with a link to a news article that is relevant to the industry. If you are up for a position as a teacher in a public school, maybe you can find a relevant story about a new trend related to education. Include the link at the end of your email and say, “I wanted to share this interesting story with you. It might be a good sign for us!” It shows you’re actively curious and interested in your industry.
2. Send a thank you.
When you get home, write and send a personal thank you card to your interviewer. “Hand-written note cards are a treat for anyone to receive these days,” says Garnick.