The Interview is not Over until You Follow Up

Oftentimes I am asked by job seekers what they should do immediately after an interview.  They are not sure why the follow up is so important, when and how to follow up,  and the age old question….”Should I send an e-mail, mail a thank you card or leave it with the receptionist on the way out the door?” 

Let’s tackle the first area….why the follow up is so important.  Say for instance, you are having an intimate gathering at your house and you post a notice on Facebook and 100 people respond saying they want to attend.  You know you can only accommodate a few people so you choose very carefully.  You finally narrow it down to the 3 guests you will extend a personal invitation to.  Those 3 people accept and come to the intimate gathering at different times.  You speak with each of them in great detail for an hour, give them a tour of your home and feel like you have gotten to know each of them a little better.   Over the next day or 2 you begin to wonder if your guests enjoyed themselves and had a good time in your home.  You check your mailbox and to your surprise you have received a nice thank you card from 1 of the guests saying they had a great time and were really appreciative of your invite.  You didn’t hear anything from the other 2 so you are now really wondering if they had a good time or if you should have even invited them in the first place.

It is the same way with the job interview.  The employer posts a job and 100+ people submit their resume.  The employer narrows it down to the top 3 candidates to bring to his office (his “home”).  During the interview he spends time going into detail about the company and job opening and perhaps gives candidates a tour of the facilities.  Afterwards, he is trying to decide who would be the best fit for his already established team.  He comes in the next morning and finds an e-mail from you thanking him for taking the time to interview you. You also attach other information to help him understand your background and experience a little better.  He heard nothing from the other 2 candidates.  Who do you think will stand out in his mind when he goes to make the hiring decision? Exactly! That’s why it is so important…..plus it’s just  nice to be nice.  Employers say that they appreciate thank you letters and it can make the difference as to whether they hire a candidate or not.  If there are 2 candidates that are neck and neck and the hiring manager needs to make a decision between the 2, he is more likely to lean towards the one that sent a thank you.

The second area…..when and how to follow up.  You should definitely follow up with an employer right away.  You want to do it while they still remember you and you have an opportunity to make a final impression on them.   Now, whether you e-mail or use snail mail or give a thank card to the receptionist on your way out the door, I don’t think it really matters.   All of these are acceptable methods and serve the same purpose.  The ultimate objective is to thank them BEFORE they make their hiring decision.  Obviously, giving a thank you card to the receptionist or sending an e-mail later that evening when you get home guarantees an immediate effect.  But having them receive a card in the mail from you is also a nice touch because we all like to receive something in the mail.  If you do decide to go with a thank you card, make sure it is professional and standard (nothing pink with flowers and polka dots).  It should be bare on the inside or have minimal words.  (Tip:  If you don’t have good penmanship, get someone else to write inside the card for you!)

Here is an example of a thank you sent as an e-mail:

Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):

It was a pleasure meeting you today.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit (company name) and interview for the _________________ position.  I was especially interested to learn that your company (mention something specific discussed in the interview).

I have included my LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website/blog* so you can get a more in-depth look at my skills and background.  I am excited about the possibility of becoming a member of your team.  If you need any further information, you may contact me at (214) 555-5555.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

* Pick just one to include in the thank you letter.

 

How Should I Prepare for a Phone / Skype Interview?

Employers receive 100+ resumes for every 1 job they post. The whole process of posting a job, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, extending a job offer, and training a new hire is very long and tiring.  So, employers use phone/Skype interviews to assist them with the process.  By using these tools, employers are able to narrow down the potential candidates to the top 3 they want to bring on site.  That being said, there are certain things to consider with each one so that you make the most of the interviews.

1)      TREAT THEM AS REGULAR INTERVIEWS

They are still interviews and should be taken just as seriously as a regular interview.  Remember, you have to pass this stage to get to the next stage which is the on site interview.

2)      NO NOISE  OR DISTRACTIONS IN THE BACKGROUND

For phone interviews, you should not have any noise in the background i.e. music, dog barking, roommate talking, phone ringing, etc.  For Skype interviews, there shouldn’t be any distractions in the view of the camera i.e. messy desk, tv on in the background, etc.

3)      PRACTICE IN ADVANCE

Have a friend call you on the phone and ask you some questions so you get used to answering questions over the phone without seeing the person you are speaking to. For Skype, practice speaking so you will know how to adjust the volume.   See what colors show up best on the computer to help you decide what to wear.

 4)      EXPECT MORE THAN 1 PERSON TO CONDUCT THE INTERVIEW

Because they don’t have the luxury of interviewing you face to face they will more than likely have someone else sit in on the interview to help them get a feel for you.  So, don’t be surprised if you are interviewed by more than 1 person.

5)      SMILE AND BE ENTHUSIASTIC

 Use your personality and enthusiasm to make up for the fact you are not there in person.  Your excitement should be “felt” through the phone and the computer screen.

Don’t Let the Job Description Scare You – It’s Just a Suggestion

How many times have you seen a job description and thought “there’s no way I’ll get that job?”  Did you think “I don’t have the skills or education?”  You were probably saying to yourself “I won’t get an interview or get hired.”  I know the feeling. I have been there many times myself.

When employers post jobs and the qualifications of their ideal candidate, it is just a suggestion.  They are telling you what they would like to have in an “ideal” candidate.  For every job that I have ever gotten, I probably only had about 50% of the requirements.  A lot of times you are your own worst enemy and talk yourself out of a perfectly obtainable job.  The worst thing that could happen is you apply for it and don’t get it. Well that’s the way it is right now….you don’t have the job.  So you have absolutely NOTHING to lose.  You only have something to gain.

Now of course, if the job is requiring 5 – 7 years experience and you only have 1 -2 then maybe you shouldn’t apply but if you have at least 4 years, I would definitely apply.  You are in close proximity to what they are looking for and if you can convince them that you have a good foundation, can be trained and they like you then you have a good chance of getting the job.

Don’t let the job description intimidate you.  Go ahead and apply….it’s just a suggestion.

Several years ago I applied for a job in which I only had about 45 – 50% of what they were looking for.  Of course, I was nervous about the interview and what they might ask me but I made a special point to ask lots of questions and take lots of notes.  Many of the questions they asked me in the interview were about my experience.  I honestly told them that my knowledge was limited but I assured them I could learn it very quickly. I didn’t feel like the interview went very well but I did the best I could and got through it.  Eventually I got the job and needless to say, I was very shocked!!  During my first week I asked my supervisor what made them hire me. She said,  “Well, you really didn’t have all of the qualifications that we were looking for, but you asked good questions in your interview.  So we thought that if we hired you, you would continue to ask good questions  and learn to do your job very well.”  Wow!  So they were willing to overlook my lack of qualifications because I showed interest in the job.

At another job, I was a manager for a number of years and used to look for certain qualities and experience in my “ideal” candidates.  When I didn’t find 100% what I was looking for, I went to the next best thing and that was the person who was the MOST qualified.  I offered the job to the person who had a good foundation to come in a learn what I needed them to know.  No one I interviewed during those 4 years ever had  EVERYTHING I was looking for.

So again, don’t be intimidated by the job description and your ‘lack’ of qualifications.  Go ahead and apply for the job….the requirements are just a suggestion.

 

Why Do I Need to Do an Informational Interview?

Well, the simple answer to that question is to get information.  But let’s dig a little deeper…

One of the best sources for gathering information about what is happening in an industry is to talk to people currently working in that field.  An informational interview is an interview that you initiate.  You ask the questions with the purpose being to obtain information – not to get a job.  If you want to find out how to get to where you want to go, talk to someone who’s already there.

An informational interview is one sure way to find out if your skills and qualifications match your targeted job.  You can find out about the requirements and daily tasks of the position you are interested in, plus many tips for success and insight into the future of your desired field.  It can also eliminate “surprises” in the actual job interview.  Moreover, informational interviews can help you develop employment leads and gain experience with interviewing.  It is not unusual for an informational interview to lead to a job offer.

Now, how you go about getting an informational interview and what questions you ask are completely up to you.  There is no set way to do it but here are some tips to make your informational interviews effective:

1) Identify what you want to achieve

You must first decide what you want and where you want to go.  It is impossible for someone else to figure that out for you.  It is something you have to do on your own.  Do you want to figure out if your current career is where you really should be?  Do you want someone to look at your resume and tell you what you’re “lacking?”  Do you want to know how to get a promotion?  Do you want to know how to break into a new industry?

2) Pick 10 people in your desired industry who can help you

Once you’ve identified your goal, pick 10 people in your desired industry who can help you achieve it.  This may be someone in the exact position you want to be in or someone in management.  This will take some research.  You will have to look at different companies to see who they have in certain positions.  LinkedIn is an excellent place to start.  You can look at people in a certain industry in your geographical area.

3) Decide the best method to reach out to them

If it’s someone you’re already acquainted with, you can simply call them and request some of their time.  If you want to reach out to someone perhaps you’ve only met once at a networking event or you were introduced briefly through a friend,  you may want to e-mail them.

If it is a complete stranger, you may want to start with a non-traditional method like snail mail.  Everyone loves to receive something in the mail and since not that many people actually put a stamp on things and mail them anymore, your letter will stand out.  Then you can follow up within 1 week with a phone call. (I’ve actually tried this method before and got 6 out of 10 people to do an informational interview with me.)

You can also use LinkedIn to connect with them initially.   Be sure to personalize your invitation to say something like “Hello, I am really impressed with your profile and I would like to have you in my network.”  Wait a week or so after they have accepted your invitation to follow up and ask for the informational interview.

4) Explain who you are and what you want from them

This is where the 60 second commercial comes in.  Be prepared to sell yourself and let them know who you are.  Also let them know what your goal is and how you believe insight from them could help you in your career.  What you want is 15 – 20 minutes of their time FACE-TO-FACE.  15 – 20 minutes is all it really takes if you are fully prepared.  If you’re calling them on the phone, I would suggest you use a phone script because you may be nervous and this will help you stay on task.  You can jot down the key points you want to be sure to convey.   Make sure you know your schedule over the next few days so you can easily schedule an appointment with them.

5)  Arrive/Leave on time and be prepared with your 10 questions

Treat it like a regular interview and arrive 15 minutes early and dress professionally. Also, leave on time unless the person being interviewed wants to extend it.  You will have to pay attention to their body language to see if they are ready to end the meeting.  They will most likely let you lead the conversation so have your 10 questions written down.  Of course, it is up to you what you want to ask but here are some suggestions:

a.  What’s a typical day like in this position?  What are your duties?

b.  What personal qualities or abilities are important to be successful in this job/industry?

c.  What part of the job do you find most satisfying?  Most challenging?

d.  What training or education is required for this type of work?

e.  How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?

f.  What special advice would you give a person entering this field?

g.  Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this industry?

6) Show you’ve done your research and FLATTER THEM!! 

Be sure to let them know what research you have done on them and the company.  Go to the company website and find some key facts about the company.  You can also google the company name and see what comes up.  LinkedIn is a great place to get information on the person you’re interviewing.

Flatter!!  Flatter!  Flatter!! Trust me….flattery still works!!  Most people are humbled when someone actually takes a genuine interest in them and what they do.  This makes them more willing to share information.

7) Have them give you feedback on your resume

Perhaps, the most important thing you should do while you’re in the interview is ask them to look at your resume.  Ask what they think of your experience so far and if there are some areas where you need to enhance your qualifications.   Having them look at your resume serves dual purposes:  a) it lets you know what you need to do to improve it and b) it gets your resume in front of an industry professional and perhaps they will realize you might be a good fit for an opening at their company.   Be prepared in case it turns into an actual job interview! (This happened to me for one of my informational interviews.  The employer looked at my resume and saw all of my qualifications and had me go to HR on the spot and fill out a job application for one of their current openings.  I was called for an interview weeks later.)

8) Get referrals

Before you leave, you MUST get referrals.  Everyone knows someone else at their company or in their industry that has just as much knowledge as they do.  When you ask for referrals you can say, “Is there anyone else that you know who you think I should talk to to get some insight?  When I contact him/her, may I use your name?”

As you leave, give them your business card and get theirs as well.   (Don’t have business cards?  Check out my blog – “You Don’t Have to Have a Business to Have Business Cards”)

9) Follow up within 24 hours

It is imperative that you send a thank you letter showing appreciation for their time and insight.  Mention something specific from the conversation to show what you learned.  If they had some suggestions for your resume, make the changes and send the updated version with your thank you letter.  Also, end it by saying something like, “Because our meeting was so brief, I was not able to completely share my background with you.  I have included my LinkedIn profile/ blog / online portfolio to give you additional information about me.”

10) Do it all over again with the next contact

What Does Your Resume Say About You?

Have you ever wondered what an employer thinks when he/she looks at your resume?

POORLY WRITTEN RESUME

John Doe

1234 W. Campbell Road        Dallas, TX 75240          214-890-7654         studforlife@gmail.com

Employer:  Email address means he is immature.

Summary of Qualifications:  Excellent verbal and written communication skills, team player, detail-oriented, people person, great attitude, hard worker, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access.

Employer:  Candidate does not know that I am busy and only have 10 seconds to look at this resume.  Does not know how to sell/brand himself – did not summarize who he is.  Has not researched the job/company because he did not tailor his resume – no keywords or industry terms.  Probably sending out same resume to all jobs he is applying for. Can just say Microsoft Office instead of listing them individually.  Candidate is lazy.  I really should stop reading this resume at this point.

Education:  UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS      Bachelor of Hospitality Management        GPA: 2.75

Employer:  Candidate is putting more emphasis on school name than degree received because it is in ALL CAPS.  Does not know the actual degree he is getting.  Does not know how to sell his education and what he learned. I have no idea when I can hire this person because they did not put a graduation date.  Does not know that you don’t list GPA less than 3.0 but since he listed it, it shows he is not focused.  I don’t know where this school is because he did not list city and state.

Work History:   OLIVE GARDEN               Host                       1/2012 – 5/2012

  • Cleaned tables and swept the floor
  • Flexible, worked every position and a variety of shifts
  • Answered the phone
  • Straightened lobby area
  • Always on time
  • Worked while going to school full-time

EMPLOYER:  Placed more emphasis on company name than job title.  Only worked here 4 months – may be a job hopper.  Doesn’t know how to list accomplishments. Took up too much space on his resume with this job because he listed 6 bullets for a job he was only at for 4 months.  Poor written communication skills which contradicts “Excellent verbal and written communication skills” in Summary of Qualifications.  I don’t know where this job is because he did not list city and state. 

Student Organizations/Professional Affiliations:      None

EMPLOYER:  Not well-rounded.  Not active in the community.  Not a leader in his industry.  Doesn’t have networking skills.  Probably lacks training in professional development.   

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WELL WRITTEN RESUME

John Doe

1234 W. Campbell Road                Dallas, TX 75240                214-890-7654           johndoe@unt.edu

Employer:  No red flags yet!

Summary of Qualifications:

  • Speaks English and Spanish fluently and can communicate with a variety of customers
  • 4 years’ experience in customer service and 2 years’ experience in the hotel industry
  • Experience balancing cash drawer at end of shift totaling $2K or more
  • Strong passion for helping others and serving as first point of contact
  • Adept to working at a fast pace and handling a high volume of phone calls daily (50+)
  • Demonstrated history in upselling to meet customers’ individual needs and exceeding sales goals
  • Ability to serve as a liaison between different departments and interact with individuals on all levels
  • Proven track record in resolving customer issues to ensure complete guest satisfaction
  • Computer Skills:  Frontdesk Anywhere, RoomKey PMS, Social Media, Microsoft Office

Employer:  Candidate has tailored this section to match my job description and has given me tangible information to sell his skills and abilities.  I want to keep reading to find out more.

Education:

Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management           University of North Texas, Denton, TX             Expected Graduation:  May 2013

Major GPA:  3.4                                                                 Dean’s List  (2011-2012)

Relevant Coursework:  Introduction to Hospitality, Restaurant Operations I & II, Food Sanitation, Business Ethics, Business Communications and Contemporary  Issues in Business.

Employer:  Candidate placed emphasis on his degree because it is listed first.  I can hire this candidate soon because he graduates in May.  I have an idea of courses he has taken and what he has been exposed to.  His GPA shows he is focused on his studies. 

Work History:

Host (temporary)                  Olive Garden                        Dallas, TX                1/2012 – 5/2012

  • Greeted 200+ guests daily upon entering the restaurant and determined their needs i.e. dine in, take out, preferred seating, etc.
  • Answered customers’ questions and addressed their concerns via phone, face-to-face, and interactive website
  • Assisted 5 – 7 team members per shift with delivering orders in a timely manner and maintaining a visually appealing environment

Employer:  Candidate placed emphasis on the job tile.  He was hired in as a temp so that explains why he only worked there 4 months.  Can handle high volume of customers in person and from remote locations.  Will do what it takes to make sure the team is successful.  Probably good at speaking with others and making them feel comfortable.  Listed most important tasks to show accomplishments.  I would feel comfortable having him interact with  my clients.  This person is trainable.

Student Organizations/Professional Affiliations:

National Society of Minorities in Hospitality        2011 – Present

  • Treasurer    2012

Professional Leadership Program                       2012

UNT Green Jackets                                               2011

Employer:  Candidate is active on campus.  Has leadership experience and is concerned about his community.  I definitely want to find out more about him.  I am going to call him for an interview!

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If you need assistance with restructuring your resume, please contact Dena Bilbrew at resumelady101@gmail.com.