By Janice Burch, Co-founder, Pro Resume Center, LLC
Interviewing for a new job can be nerve-wracking. Similar to a first date where you are trying soooo very hard to make a first impression or suffer the consequences of not getting asked out or being able to ask her out a second time – a job interview is like a high-stakes courtship.
But the more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll exude confidence and be able to sit in the driver’s seat during that interview and it’s more likely you’ll get called back in a second time.
The interview requires energy beyond showing up on time, in proper business attire and answering questions. In fact, despite the hours you’ve already invested in researching companies, preparing your resume and applying for jobs, you still have more work to do.
You must be proactive and invest time organizing your presentation for this big meeting. Just as if you were preparing for a big presentation for a client to sell them on a product or service – you are preparing to sell the interviewer on YOU.
Want to make a great first impression? Don’t forget the following items for your first interview/meeting with a hiring executive:
1. Your resume. Yep, you already sent one. But they may not have it in front of them when you meet or may want another copy to share with someone else in the interview. You also may have made updates to it so can hand it to the interviewer telling them this is the most current, please use this during our discussion. Make sure you use high-quality resume paper and that your ink cartridge is full before printing this important document. Make sure you do additional research on the company, the department, the hiring manager, and/or the general state of the industry before the interview. As a result, it may prompt you to adjust your resume to better fit the position and company. Remember who your audience is and customize your resume to fit.
2. A cover letter. Yes, you already sent this too BUT it will add value if you have another copy with you. And if possible, find out the name and title of the person or persons with whom you will be interviewing and customize your inside address and salutation. Then, create a fresh, brief introductory message that emphasizes your enthusiasm and interest, plus the value you’d bring to the position.
3. Your references. Having references on hand is good, even if you choose not to hand them off during the first job interview (gauge where you are in the process at the end of the meeting and determine whether the timing is right to distribute the references). Ensure you include the necessary reference information to make it easy for the reader: name, company, title, direct phone line (their preferred telephone number), and email address. Also, connect the relationship dots between you and the reference. Explain in writing that they were your boss, customer, direct report, etc.
4. A strategic plan. Consider bringing along a strategic plan that will impress the employer with your preparedness and initiative. A few ideas: If you’re applying for a sales manager role, you may be privy to the fact that the team you’ll be leading is stuck in a low morale state, or has high turnover, or is plagued with declining performance. Bring along a 3-month plan that shows these three things: 1. A quick assessment of the current situation. 2. The steps you’d take to begin turning the ship around. And 3. Measurable objectives you will meet by the end of that time period. Putting this much forethought into your interview to sell your skills will take you a long way with the interviewer.
5. Your portfolio. Portfolios add value, especially for graphic artists, other creative folks, and sales professionals. Yes sales, marketing and techie personnel can also have a bragbook. Content can include testimonial letters and emails from bosses, clients, colleagues, and vendors along with colorful sales charts or graphs showing your success, previous presentations, cost efficiencies realized as a manager, etc.
You won’t get a second chance at this first impression, so doing all you can to show off your preparedness and experience at the interview is important. Doing these five things may not guarantee you get the job, but they will show you are doing all you can to put your best interview foot forward.
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