What questions will they ask me?

Most job interviews today will involve a similar process and will include a standard set of questions for the candidate.  The questions will relate to four basic areas of concern for the company; they refer to your qualifications, career goals, work experience and education

If you want to get a head start on your interview prep, take a look at these questions that have been developed by the Michigan Civil Service Commission:

 

Your Qualifications

  • What qualifications do you have that relate to the position?
  • What skills or abilities have you developed recently?
  • What are some examples from a previous job where you’ve shown initiative?
  • What have been your greatest accomplishments?
  • What is important to you in a job?
  • What motivates you in your work?
  • What qualities do you find important in a manager or a coworker?

 

Your Career Goals

  • What would you like to be doing five years from now?
  • How will you judge yourself to be a success? How will you achieve success?
  • What type of position are you interested in?
  • How will this job fit in your career plans?
  • What do you expect from this job?
  • When can you start?

 

Your Work Experience

  • What have you learned from your past jobs?
  • What are/were your major responsibilities?
  • What specific skills used in previous jobs relate to this position?
  • How does your previous experience relate to this position?
  • What did you like most/least about your last job?

 

Your Education

  • How has your education prepared you for this position?
  • What were your favorite classes/activities at school?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Do you plan to continue your education?

 

While these questions are not all-inclusive, if you have an answer to each of these questions, you will be well prepared for your interview and will have covered much of what the interviewer will throw at you.

So………..start preparing now by covering the basics and you will be well ahead of the competition and ready to ace your next job interview.

 

photo: pixabay

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References Please

One of the most overlooked aspects of the job interview process relates to references.  These are the people that know you and will personally vouch for your character and skills.  Do not underestimate the importance of references in helping you achieve success in your next interview.

Establishing solid and beneficial references takes a bit of work, but it is well worth the effort.  Don’t wait until you are asked to come in for an interview to begin gathering your references.  You will need to contact your references ahead of time and ask them if they will serve as a reference for you.  You may never be asked for references during your interview process; but if you are, you will want to be ready with a list that you can hand over to the interviewer.  Print out a list of your references on a separate sheet from your resume and be sure you put your contact information at the top of the page.  A simple listing of names, phone numbers, email addresses and current positions for your references will suffice.  You will need to or verify their current contact information, which you can do when you are asking them to serve as a reference.

Don’t just go with a phone number or email address you have from several years ago.  Always validate the contact info.  The last thing you want is for someone at the company where you are interviewing to call your references and get a “number no longer in service” message.

References fall into two basic categories; those that relate to your personal life, and those that relate to your work life. For the purpose of your job interview, try to compile at least three references that can attest to your performance on the job as well as to your character.  These could be current and former co-workers, supervisors or customers.  Be sure you inform any current co-workers if your job search is confidential so they don’t inadvertently spill the beans at work!!

It’s also a good idea to inform your references of the position you are applying for so they can tailor their responses accordingly.  Also, don’t forget to ask them to feedback to you any conversation they have regarding the position for which you are applying.  You may be able to obtain some valuable insight this way.  

After your interview, remember to contact your references and thank them for their willingness to be a reference.  Let them know how the interview went and follow up with any additional information regarding the process.  This is also a good time for you to offer to be a reference for them in return.

So………seek out and organize you references now and you will be ready when you are asked, “references please”! 

 

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You had me at hello

Who could forget that memorable scene in the movie, Jerry Maguire, where Renée Zellweger utters these iconic words; “You had me at hello”?  There is probably not a more critical time during the job interview than your initial greeting.  Often, first impressions will make or break an interview, and you want to have every advantage you can muster going in.  

When preparing for your next interview, your initial contact with the interviewer is of utmost importance.  As the old saying goes, “you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression”.  We’ve all met people that, for various reasons, we were either put off by, or immediately drawn to.  Think back to the ones that you immediately felt a positive connection to and try to remember what gave you that feeling.  This is the essence of what you want to project going into your next interview. 

Some things to focus on are:

  • your outfit and grooming – Are you well dressed in a conservative outfit?  Are your shoes shined?  Freshly showered?  Nails and hair trimmed (nose too)? Little or no fragrance? 
  • your handshake – Is it firm but not bone-crushing?  
  • your smile – You may be nervous, but don’t let it show; smile like you are meeting a long lost friend.
  • your sense of confidence – This is hard to quantify, but do everything you can to show that you are sure of yourself and your capabilities, without being arrogant or abrasive.

You must be aware of all these attributes as you are entering the room for your interview.  The way in which you come across to the interviewer when you first meet will have a huge impact on how you will be perceived both during, and especially, after the interview.  

So………..start practicing now to make a great first impression at your next interview, and you will be well thought of when the hiring decision is made! 

 

 

photo: Movie Pilot

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Tell ’em a great story

Want to be remembered after your next interview and be put at the top of the hiring list? Be prepared to tell the interviewer a great story.

Everyone loves an adventure story and tales of overcoming adversity. The employee that took on insurmountable challenges and succeeded, or saved a company from disaster, will long be remembered, and will be sought after for positions of greater responsibility and reward!

While you may not have dispatched a dragon, or saved the planet from an alien invasion, you probably have some very compelling and impressive success stories in your past. Your mission is to recall these events and convey the specifics to the interviewer in a way that is both measurable and memorable.

When you are asked about past successes at your interview, don’t just say something like, “I saved the company money”.  Be prepared to articulate the details of exactly how you accomplished this feat, and how much money you actually saved the company.  Take your time and let your story unfold.  Cover the details and make the case for why you are the right candidate for the new position.

Try to have two or three stories ready and waiting for the right moment in the interview.  Don’t worry about when to tell the stories; the opportunity will present itself.  Your stories should involve events where you:

  • helped an organization make (or save) money
  • improved a process and increased efficiency
  • overcame a significant challenge
  • brought acclaim to the company  

These are all outcomes that are sought after by every organization and will make you a standout candidate.

So……….be prepared to tell a great story about your past successes and you will not only be remembered, but you will be hired!

 

photo: pixabay 

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So, what did you do to prepare for this interview?

Business writer and commentator, Suzy Welch, has a go-to question she always asks candidates; “What did you do to prepare for this interview?“.  While this question may seem a little unusual and not the typical question relating to candidate qualifications, it really zeros in on the candidate’s motivation and degree of dedication; not only for succeeding in the interview, but more importantly, for success in the job itself.

Anyone can show up at a designated time and place for a job interview.  What employers are looking for is a candidate that is willing to go the extra distance and put in the extra effort to get the job.  In a previous post, I addressed being prepared for the interview by doing “intel”, but that’s only half the solution.  Not only must you do your research before the interview, but you must be ready to tell the interviewer what you did and how you did it if you want to make the ultimate positive impression!

If I were interviewing a candidate and they could repeat back to me the qualifications for the position, I wouldn’t be too impressed.  If, on the other hand, they could articulate how their skill set would fit into the company’s upcoming new strategic direction and product line that they’d read about in an obscure trade journal – I’d definitely give them an up-check!

Employers are looking for candidates that are:

  • intellectually curious
  • willing to roll up their sleeves and do research
  • committed to seeking out a deep understanding of the job and the organization
  • able to recount their efforts during the interview, indicating their commitment to the job

So……..be ready to tell the interviewer how you got ready for the interview and you will move to the top of the hiring list!

 

photo: pixabay.com

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Be Positive

Several years ago, I transferred into a large government organization.  At my first staff meeting at that organization, the boss put me on the spot and asked me in front of the assembled group, “how did you like working for your last boss?”  Now my former boss was somewhat controversial and even disliked by some in the room, but I sensed that I was being set up.  As those around the room waited intently for me to dish the dirt, I paused, and calmly replied, “I learned a great deal from him.”  While this was not the response that was expected by my new boss, he smiled  and commended me and the meeting proceeded.

In a way, I was being interviewed by the new boss and the rest of the staff to see how I would handle this loaded question.  The lesson learned from this little interaction from years ago is that it’s always best to be positive in your comments whenever possible.  

So, how does this relate to you and your next interview?  You may be asked a similar question by the interviewer relating to your current or former boss, and you will want to be prepared with an honest, and positive, answer.  Unless your former boss was a criminal, it’s always best to give a positive response during the interview.  Even the most abrasive and demanding bosses will have some redeeming and positive qualities, so focus on those.  By doing so, you will be sending a clear message to the interviewer that if you are hired, you will not be speaking badly about them or their organization to others.  A positive response also reflects favorably upon you in that you will be viewed as a team player and not a complainer or back-stabber.

So, when it comes to former bosses, positions, fellow employees, and pretty much everything else, be ready with a positive response and you will score major points in your next job interview.

 

photo: pixabay

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Let Your Moral Compass Point the Way

I just read a piece in the New York Times by Daniel Victor entitled “When the Boss Wants You to Do Something Unethical” and it occurred to me that this may be an issue that comes up during the job interview.  Ethics of the employer are often assumed to be above reproach but that may not be the case.  This could put you, the interviewee, in a very tenuous position.

It would be highly unlikely that an unscrupulous  employer would blatantly ask you if you were OK with lying, cheating or stealing, but you may be faced with a potential question that borders on the unethical.  Be aware of the potential pitfall and know how you will answer an uncomfortable question in advance.  If you are asked a question that you think may be testing your comfort with corruption, consider these options:

  • ask the interviewer to repeat the question to make sure you understand it
  • repeat the question back to the interviewer to verify that you heard it correctly
  • ask the interviewer to elaborate on the initial question

There is always the possibility that the interviewer asked a legitimate and honest question that got garbled in transmission; or you may not have fully understood the question.  In either case clarification is needed.  

Another possibility is that the interviewer could be testing you to see if you will bend your values or morals to get the job.  This scenario was clearly depicted in the 2011 movie “Courageous” in which an employee was asked to falsify a shipping document in order to get a promotion.  If you haven’t seen the movie, watch the clip dealing with integrity here.

If, on the other hand, the employer is specifically looking for an employee that will turn a blind eye to rules and regulations this is definitely not the place you want to be.  Once it becomes clear that the interviewer is testing your integrity (or should I say, lack of integrity), you have a couple of options; continue the interview knowing that you are not a fit for the job, or end the interview right there.  As disappointing as terminating the interview is, it is nothing compared to getting involved with a corrupt organization and the trouble it will bring to you down the road.

Integrity is always the best policy, and it’s a two way street.  You must have integrity regarding your personal behavior toward a perspective employer and the employer must show integrity to you.  If not, even the best sounding job will turn out to be a bitter disappointment and could lead to serious problems for you.

So……….go into your next interview with your moral compass set, and don’t deviate; no matter how tempting it my be. 

 

photo: pixabay

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New twist on an old “gotcha” question

By now, most of us are aware of the dreaded interview question “what is your greatest weakness?”  This question is often posed as a way to see how you will react under pressure and to admit a fault, or by dismissing it by saying something like “I have no weaknesses”.

Either of these responses could cost you the interview; and thereby, the job.  It’s much better to be honest and admit to a true weakness and then immediately follow up with how you have, or are, overcoming it.  For example, if meeting deadlines is a weakness, you may indicate that you always back up your deadline by a day to account for this weakness.

There is now a new twist on this interview question.  Luis Von Ahn, CEO of Duolingo has come up with an interesting variant that you need to be aware of.  He likes to ask candidates this question, “What would someone who doesn’t like you tell us about you?”

While this question is similar to the old weakness question, there is an additional element – what would someone who doesn’t like you say about you.  Once again, saying “everybody like me” won’t cut it.  You will want to give an honest answer that reflects what others would say and how you have overcome this issue.  If your answer is something like “I’m not very sociable in the office”, you could add that while you are very focused on accomplishing work in the office, you are making an effort to reach out and offer assistance to others.  

The same principle applies here – indicate a true weakness and how you are overcoming that weakness.

So……….understand your weaknesses and be ready to show how you are overcoming them, and you will score major points in your next interview!

 

photo: pixabay

 

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Look ’em in the eye

One of the most important, and often overlooked (pun intended) aspects of the job interview is eye contact. As texting, email and other forms of social media have become increasingly predominant forms of communication, the act of actually sitting down and talking face-to-face with someone is becoming a lost art!

When was the last time you had a significant discussion with someone sitting across the table from you?  If it’s been a while, you may want to brush up on your communication skills beginning with eye contact.  A recent poll of hiring managers by Office Team found that 30 percent of candidates displayed some sort of negative body language during the interview and that the most important aspect of a candidate’s presentation during the interview was eye contact.  Eye contact is important as it gives the impression that you are engaged, interested and trustworthy.  Constantly looking away can give the message that you are hiding something or are not being truthful with the interviewer.

If you find that making eye contact with someone is uncomfortable, try practicing on friends and family and making a concerted effort to look them in the eye as you are speaking.  If this is too difficult, try focusing on their chin or forehead instead.  This will give the impression that you are looking them in the eye, only in a less direct manner.  By maintaining eye contact when the interviewer is speaking you will convey your interest and engagement in the conversation.  Leaning slightly forward during the discussion will also convey a sense of engagement and interest on your part.  This may take some practice, but it will be well worth the effort.

Try not to go overboard on the eye contact, however, as this could be viewed as aggressiveness or just plain creepy.  Don’t come across like the guy in the picture above.

Eye contact is also important when you are conducting video interviews.  This is a little more challenging as the camera may not be in direct alignment with the video screen – again, practice this to get it right.

So…………..practice looking ’em in the eye and you will come across as interested, intelligent and trustworthy in your next interview.  Also, check out this infographic from the Office Team.

 

photo: pixabay

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Who’s Who

The current practice in interviewing today often involves several people interviewing a single candidate.  This format, while providing a measure of efficiency for the employer can often be intimidating and somewhat confusing for the candidate.  

The typical makeup of these “team interviews” usually includes someone from human resources (HR), to make sure all legal and ethical guidelines are followed; someone from management, who may or may not have hiring authority; and someone from the specific work group from which the position is being filled.  Each of these people has a slightly different agenda and focus, but to be successful, you must convince them all that you are the right person for the job.

Before your interview, try to identify exactly who will be interviewing you and what their positions are within the organization.  This will give you an advantage and will allow you to do some pre-interview intel.  Often this information may be obtained from the person scheduling your interview, but you will have to ask!  Once you know who you will be sitting across the table from you can look for links you may have with these individuals and you may even be able to talk with others that have been interviewed by them.  Remember, the better prepared you are going into the interview the more confidence you will have.

Now, let’s look at what will be on the minds of the various interviewers as they interact with you.

The HR representative – 

  • Will you have questions involving benefits, salary, vacation, etc
  • Will the other interviewers comply with all legal guidelines; and if not, how will you react
  • Will you cause potential legal or procedural problems if hired

The work group representative – 

  • Will you be a team player
  • Will you be able to do the job
  • Will you be a quick learner
  • Will you cause problems in the work group
  • Will you be a threat to their job
  • Will you cause additional work for the supervisor or others in the work group

The manager – 

  • Will you be able to do the job
  • Will you fit in with the company culture
  • Will you bring good value to the company
  • Will you be easy to manage
  • Will you help them succeed and get promoted

 The simple fact is that you will need to sell yourself to all these people in order to be hired.  You will need to convince each of them that you will not be a burden on them and will actually help them each succeed in their own jobs.  

So…………knowing the concerns of the various people sitting around the interview table is essential, and that knowledge will allow you to address these concerns during the course of the discussion in order to convince the interviewers that you are the right person for the job!  

 

photo: pixabay

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Show and tell

When I was a kid, one of my favorite events in school was “show and tell.”  This was a time when a student brought something interesting to class and would tell the other students about it. Items ranged from small pets, to things found in the woods, to artifacts from WWII (most of our dads had fought in that one).  “Show and tell” was always something I looked forward to…………….and to this day I still do!

If you are looking for a way to liven up your interview and make yourself a memorable candidate, bring something interesting to the interview.  I’m not talking about your sister’s pet hamster, or your  first baby tooth, but we all have interesting and valuable treasures we can bring to the interview.

Have you

  • developed a money-saving business process?  
  • written an application for the computer or smartphone?  
  • invented something (think Shark Tank)?  
  • hosted a blog or created a website?  
  • been featured in an industry journal or presented your research at a conference?  
  • flipped a house?
  • found sunken treasure? 

 

These all provide great opportunities to “show and tell” what you’ve accomplished and what makes you special.

Some of the most memorable candidates I’ve interviewed in the past all had something to “show and tell.”  Their “item” not only broke up the tedious nature of the interview but made them memorable – because, at the end of the day, it’s often the most memorable candidate that gets the job!

So…….what do you have that you can take to your next interview to “show and tell?”

 

photo: pixabay

 

 

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The Watch

When my kids were young, they often asked me, “what time is it?”  To which I would reply, “it’s time for you to get a watch!”  This little verbal exchange, while frustrating for my kids, served to make a point.  That is, it’s time to take responsibility for one’s tracking of time and not imposing on someone else for something that they were perfectly capable of doing for themselves.

So, what does this have to do with the job interview?  The humble watch conveys a powerful message to the interviewer (whether they know it or not).  It tells the interviewer that you are not only cognizant of time, but care enough about time, that you wear a watch to keep track of it.

We’ve all heard the saying “time is money” and it is more that just an old-fashioned idiom attributed to Ben Franklin.  In today’s fast-paced business world, time, and one’s use if it, is more critical than ever.  An employer is looking for employees who value time and understand this concept.  This is another reason why it is absolutely essential to be on time for your interview.  A watch can help you there as well. 

By wearing a watch to the interview, you are sending a strong non-verbal message to the interviewer that says, “I am very aware of the importance of time, and I will not waste either your time, or that of the company.”

One thing to remember, however, is to never look at your watch during the interview.  This could be an interview killer.  You don’t want to send the message that you are bored or have somewhere else you need to be.

So………wear a watch to your next interview to show that you understand the value time. 

 

photo: pixabay

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Acronym Soup

One of the most pervasive problems we Veterans have with communicating during the job interview is our use of acronyms.  Over the course of our time in the military we learn and use countless acronyms to communicate efficiently and expeditiously in our particular field of expertise.  Acronyms are very useful in conveying names, titles, concepts and systems descriptions to others.  One of my all-time favorite acronyms from my Navy days was DICNAVAB, which stands for Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations! 

The critical element, when using acronyms, is that the other person you are communicating with  must also know the meaning of the acronym or confusion will ensue.

So, what is an acronym?  Here’s a definition from yourdictionary.com :

An acronym is a pronounceable word formed from the first letter or first few letters of each word in a phrase or title. Sometimes the newly-combined letters create a new word that takes the place in everyday language. Using this shortened form of a word or phrase can speed up communication. Here is a list of common acronyms, listed by category.

These acronyms are very widely used, making them some of the most popular to appear in the English language.

  • RADAR – Radio detecting and ranging
  • LASER – Light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.
  • NATO – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
  • UNICEF – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
  • SCUBA – Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. “

Since communicating clearly during the interview is critical to our success, it’s very important to minimize the use of acronyms; or at least restrict them to very well known and common terms.  It’s a good idea to practice your interviewing responses on someone who is outside your current profession to see how many acronyms you may be unconsciously using, so you can purge them from your interview vocabulary.

Conversely, it’s always a good idea to learn and incorporate acronyms associated with the profession of the company at which you are interviewing.  This will immediately show the interviewer that you are current in your understanding of the terms of business for their organization.  Be sure you know the meaning of any acronyms used in the job announcement, as well as in the company’s mission statement and product offerings.  If any of the acronyms are unfamiliar to you LOOK THEM UP HERE.  This will help you sound like an “insider” and give you a definite edge over your fellow interviewees!

So……purge the old acronyms and learn the new ones, or you may be DOA at the interview!

 

photo: pixabay

 

 

 

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Don’t be a “Stone Soldier”



OK Veterans, this one’s specifically for you. Today, I’d like to address an issue that can affect many of us who have spent a considerable amount of time serving our country in the military.

I happened to be in Nuremberg, Germany a couple of years ago on a work-related trip. While there, I took the opportunity to see the sights of this interesting and beautiful old city. On one of the old churches (St. Lorenz) there was a stone figure of a medieval soldier peering down from the wall to the street below. That soldier brings us to today’s post.

Having spent nearly 30 years wearing a uniform, I know how easy it is to let that uniform tell others everything about you. What you have on your sleeve or shoulder tells of your seniority and level of responsibility. The colorful ribbons on your chest tell of your exploits and where you’ve been. Your metal badges will attest to special skills or qualifications. Your uniform becomes your resume. Others in the military will know a great deal about you simply by looking at your uniform. This is a very efficient means where by someone can “get to know” you very quickly. Basically, your uniform speaks for you!

Unfortunately, when you are no longer wearing your uniform, you will look just like everyone else who is waiting to be interviewed for a job. Now, you must be able to clearly tell your story and clearly articulate you experience, qualifications and knowledge as it relates to the position you are seeking.

In other words “you can’t be a stone soldier”. You can’t let your uniform speak for you. You must learn to sell yourself to a perspective employer in terms that they can understand, and in a manner that will let them know that you are ready to join a new organization (theirs). Potential employers can be put off by a stiff and rigid Veteran and never get the chance to see the real person beneath the stone exterior.

So, how does one go about this? Having maintained a stone facade over the years may be tough to break through, but it’s time to now let the “real you” shine through! Start engaging people you meet in casual conversation and learn to be friendly. Remember, you are no longer ordering others to carry out tasks. Let down your rigid facade. Practice on your friends and family and learn to tell “your story” in a friendly and engaging way. It’s OK to smile! It’s OK to promote yourself – this can be especially hard for some of us; but you must learn to do it, and do it in a friendly and professional manner.

Remember, the interview is a place where you can begin the next phase of your journey through life. It is an exciting time, and a time in which you can let others know who you are, and what valuable qualities and experience you will bring to their organization.

So, don’t be a “stone soldier”!

photo: Scott

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Questions Not to ask the Interviewer



One of the essential parts of the interview is where you get the chance to ask the interviewer some questions.  This will normally take place near the end of the interview, but on occasion, questions may come up at various times during the interview.

It’s always good to have some strategic and well-thought-out questions for the interviewer, reflecting your high level of interest and genuine curiosity about the position and the organization.  Questions such  as:

  • Where do you see the company going in the next 5 years?
  • What would a typical day look like for this position?
  • How can I specifically help you (the interviewer) achieve your goals?
  • What are the measures of success for this position?

You get the idea.  What you don’t want to do is waste the interviewer’s time by asking questions regarding information that is readily available in the company literature or on the internet.  This includes questions that are explained in the job announcement itself.  If the job announcement states that 20% travel is required, don’t ask if you will be expected to travel.  Your first trip may be right out the door!  On the other hand, asking about the nature of the travel (local/regional/international) would be appropriate.

If you’ve done your pre-interview intel collection you will have already uncovered the publicly-available information relating to the company and the position for which you are interviewing.  Use that information as a basis for your deeper level questions that really get to the nuts and bolts of the position and how it relates to the overall organization.

 

photo: pixabay

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The Business Card

One of the traditional networking tools that we all used in times past has somewhat faded from the scene. In these days of social media and instant messaging, the value and importance of the humble business card is often overlooked.   It’s so last century – or is it?

When you meet someone on the street or during an impromptu meeting, it isn’t always easy or convenient to share your contact information electronically.  This is where the business card really works to your advantage.

When I was between jobs a few years ago, I was busy interviewing and networking and needed a simple business card to help others remember me and to give them the means by which to contact me when job opportunities came along.  The card was also an essential component of my interview action plan (more on that later).

So, what if you are just out of school, transitioning out of the military, or reentering the workforce after a period absence and don’t have a business card?  I recommend putting together a simple contact card stating:

  • your name
  • what it is you do (or hope to do)
  • phone number
  • email address

That’s it!   Here’s what it looks like

If you are in the arts, or some other creative industry, you may want to add some color or a graphic, but for most of us, the basic card is all that’s needed to convey our essential contact information.

Getting back to the interview………..this is how I recommend using your card.  As you are being introduced to the interviewer(s), hand each one a card.  This serves two purposes; it ensures that each person can get back to you, or refer you on to someone else they know, and it prompts them to give you one of their cards.  This will help you when you write your thank you notes after the interview, and give you a means by which to follow up on your interview. I also like to give a card to the receptionist and anyone else I meet during the course of the interview.

There is also a psychological aspect to handing someone your card.  Everyone likes to receive something for free and it will immediately put you in a favorable light for the interview.  It will also show that you are a serious candidate and someone who is organized and efficient!

Cards are not very expensive and if you go to an online provider you can make up your card and have it shipped to your door within a couple of weeks.  I currently use vistaprint for my business cards, as they are very affordable and offer a number of design options.

So, get your cards made and start using them as a powerful tool in your networking and interviewing arsenal!

 

 

 

 

 

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