So you are all ready to land your dream job. You have put together a fine resume detailing your talents and skills (see our previous post about resume building), and you have found a position in your area that you would like to apply for (and then see this post about finding a job). Now all that is left is applying for the job and going through the interview process.

First find out the proper place and way to submit your resume.

If you found the job posting online chances are they will have you send in an electronic copy (read Word document or PDF type of file) of your resume. Or they may say to drop it off at their office. Make sure you follow any and all instructions given. It may seem like a silly thing, or you may not realize they want something different, but following directions here will show whether as an employee you will be able to meet the demands of the company. If I am looking for someone who can complete the tasks I need done efficiently and effectively, I am not even going to look at the person who does not follow directions in turning in their resume for the job. Read everything. Follow instructions.

Then you wait. Depending on when the application deadline is and any text in the job information section, you might want to follow up with a call or email shortly after that deadline. Who knows, it could help make sure your resume was received and handed over to the right person. Sometimes a phone call has been known to help people get in touch with the person in charge of hiring for that position so they can put a voice to the name and get some more details.

Now, let’s say you have waited and received a call to come in for an interview. This does not mean the job is yours… yet. But it is your opportunity to shine and let the company know why they should hire you. Before you go to the interview, there are a couple of things you need to prepare:

One is your appearance. Then work on personality and being ready to answer questions.

Your Appearance

I am not saying you need to be a supermodel to land your next job. But a company is much more likely to hire the person with a non-wrinkled shirt that is tucked in and devoid of stains than they are to hire Ted from down the street who overslept and wore his t-shirt from last night to the interview. First impressions are huge.

When you sit down for that interview, show the company that they are looking at someone responsible and professional. Give them the impression that you want them to have. Tie your shoes, brush your hair, and wear something nice. And while you should have nice breath when you go in, pop a mint in the car and skip the chewing gum.

Your Personality

Now, chances are you will not be interviewing with Simon Cowell. But you will need to be able to show your personality and make a good impression.

  • Be social in your interview. But not overly social.
  • You want to be prepared to answer questions but also to ask questions so that the conversation flows back and forth.
  • Be ready to give thoughtful answers to questions, not “yes” or “no” replies.
  • Smile. You can practice in the mirror. Work on your “Hello, it’s great to meet you!” and “Thank you for meeting with me today. I am looking forward to sharing a little about myself and learning more about your company.” It is important to be both friendly and professional.
  • Avoid slang and foul language.
  • Be pleasant. Be a person that this company would like to hire and have as part of their environment.
  • That said, be sure to be yourself. Nothing is worse than giving a false pretense. Because if you do get the job when you are being someone else, then when you start work you may face upset coworkers and bosses and much resentment. You could even lose the job you worked so hard to get. So be yourself, but be sure to work on being presentable and friendly before you head to the interview.
  • Finally, be prepared for questions (did I mention that already?).

Some interviews are more relaxed and laid back while others can feel like sitting in front of a firing squad. You could even face both of those extremes from two or more different people when going in to interview with a company. The best answer for that is to be prepared. Find out as much as you can about the company and then relate it to your own beliefs, ideals, skills, and past job experience.

Be ready to talk about your past failures and successes and relate them to how you think you will do even better in this position. Some of the most common interview questions involve talking about past experiences and how they have shaped you. So think of some good and bad times you have had in previous jobs. As a side note, when talking about bad experiences in the past, be sure you do not just throw old employers or co-workers under the bus or bad-mouth them. The idea is to just talk about the experience, not to give your potential employer a bad taste in their mouth about how you talk about others. They may get the impression that you are not so nice to work with. It is a little bit like talking about an ex- when you are on a blind date or first date. If you spend the whole dinner talking about your past relationship and everything that went wrong, you are not likely to have a second date.

If you have a friend who works in Human Resources or who has hired people before, it is a good idea to see if you can do a practice interview. When you go in for the real thing you don’t want your answers to be scripted, and you certainly don’t want to be reading off of notecards, but you can be prepared. Be confident in your answers, avoid saying “um,” and give honest responses. Remember that this company has you there to see if you would be a good fit. So give them a sales pitch on why you are the one they should hire over anyone else.

Good luck on your interview! If you don’t get the job, count the experience as practice and get back out there to try again. It may not have anything to do with you but could be the company’s preferences. Don’t lose heart or confidence. You can do it!