- It’s Still a Buyer’s Market.
Fifteen years ago, business was booming all across the world and job hunters had it made. Demand far exceeded supply, so well qualified employees found themselves with a bevy of offers from HR managers desperate to fill positions. The 21st century though has been dominated by recession and miniscule growth. While statistics show that unemployment is falling and businesses are once again expanding, a recession mentality still hangs in the air. After more than a decade of over overqualified applicants applying for menial positions, it is still very much a buyer’s market. Companies know this, which means your top priority in an interview is to demonstrate your value. This is not an easy task to accomplish in a sixty minute interview, but your first step is to recognize and embrace this truth.
2. “Just be Yourself” is Terrible Advice.
While nobody is suggesting you should engage in an elaborate deception, recognize that this oft-given pearl of wisdom is wishful thinking at its worst. First, we all have different selves and different sides to our personality. We are who we need to be depending on the situation. You behave one way with your spouse and another way with your old college roommate and still another way with your parents. So which one of these “selves” should you be during your interview? The answer is: none of them. A job interview, not unlike a first date, is a time to shine, to put nothing short of your best foot forward. It is a time to remember the importance of polite manners, proper grammar and good posture. These things may seem superficial, but they are just some of the ways you can demonstrate your value to a potential employer.
Humans, it seems, have excellent instincts. Though we may try to ignore our baser instincts, we cannot help but make snap judgments about people. This served us well in the caveman days, when we had but a few seconds to determine if a threat was real before it ate us alive. This biological imperative still remains, nestled into the genes of every HR manager you’ll meet. How you present yourself in that first interview may very well be more important than all of the achievements packed into your resume. Remember – the people with whom you are interviewing, in most cases, have no idea who you are. They may have glanced at your credentials, but unless you are going to work for a friend, you present as a blank slate. What they choose to write about you has very little to do with your resume and very much to do with your presentation.
3. Research, Research, Research.
If the Internet has made one thing easier for job interviewers, it is the sheer volume of free information available on almost any subject known to man. These days, even small companies maintain a presence on the web. As a job hunter, the information on these sites could very well be the difference between a job offer and a form email. However, along with the prevalence of information is the expectation that you, the applicant, can conduct a basic search on Google.
The vast majority of companies maintain a presence on various social media outlets for two reasons. First, social media is extremely popular. Facebook, for example, boasts some 1.4 million members. That is roughly the population of China. If social media is not your thing, it needs to be, because a fount of information is available on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn, not to mention the main company website, which undoubtedly links to the social media platforms they use. These are all free services, so there is no reason why you can’t like the company page, follow their tweets, join their circle or link into their company’s discussion board on LinkedIn.
You can learn a lot about a company from their social media sites. Their mission statement and news releases are good examples, as are objective pieces of information like the name of their Human Resources Director or other key people you may meet during your first interview. You can also learn a great deal of subjective information as well – the culture of the company, what they strive to accomplish, why they started their company in the first place. Follow a company with an active Twitter account. Ask them questions. You’d be surprised how generous many companies are with information on Twitter. Some companies have an entire department devoted to social media management. You are not bothering them with your questions. If anything, your questions increase engagement which is the ultimate objective of any social media platform.
The people with whom you interview tend to post their own stories as well. Start on the company website and look for names of key people. Head over to LinkedIn and visit their profile. As a general rule, people love to talk about themselves. Nowhere is this more true than on social media sites. LinkedIn profiles, for example, tend to list a person’s work history, education, community affiliations and interests. What if you and the Human Resources Director attended the same small college? Imagine how useful that could be in an interview. Imagine how dumb you would look if you didn’t bother to check.
4. Every job has one (usually) unwritten requirement.
If you look at any job posting, you will see a long list of job requirements, duties, and responsibilities. Every job is different and so every requirement is different too. All jobs, though, share a common requirement, even though it may not be written or even expressed. Make no mistake, though, it is just as critical as education or experience or training. Ignore it at your peril.
The requirement is this: “You’re job is to make your boss look good.”
Think about that for a moment. Unless you work for yourself, you will have a boss. That boss probably has a boss as well. A boss can come in many forms, be it a manager or a client or a board of directors. Regardless, we all have them, and it’s our job to make them look good. Rest assured, your boss’s job is to make his boss look good as well. Regardless of any other job description, this is the one that matters.
This is a truth that bridges the divide between literally every industry that exists, be it business or health care or education or engineering. If you work for somebody, your primary job is to make them look good. Your actual job description is just a road map to help you move towards that particular destination. This is not to suggest that sycophantic behavior is the proverbial bottom line. Rather, it is to place things in their proper perspective. If a boss is doing his or her job correctly, the company is able to grow. If you are doing your job correctly, you are helping your boss achieve his or her objective, which in turn helps the company and all of the other employees with whom you are working. Your job is to make your boss look good. Your job in the interview is to demonstrate that you know how.
Job hunting is hard enough. You’ve spent countless hours searching for the job that is perfect for you. Prepare for your first interview with as much tenacity and zeal as you did in securing it and you stand a much better chance of being asked back for a second and a third. To summarize, remember these four points:
- Companies have their choice of applicants. Be ready to demonstrate why you are the best choice. What value will you add to the company?
- Don’t just “be yourself.” Be your BEST self. This is your time to shine. You can relax after they have extended an offer of employment. Until then, remember that your resume is not the only thing they are judging.
- Take the time to research the company and key personnel. It is easy and free and can give you the competitive edge you need to make a lasting and positive impression.
- Finally, remember that your job has many requirements, but that your top priority is to make your boss look good. This goes back to the first point – how can you add value to the company? How can you be invaluable to your future employer?