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Health Mentoring Moments: Episode 8: You Are What You Speak

Job Interviews: Can They Get to Know Me in One Hour or Less?

Job Interviews:  Can They Get to Know Me in One Hour or Less?

A little over a year ago I decided that it was time for me to move on to the next phase of my professional career.  I was finishing up my doctoral degree and had been with my current employer for seven years.  It was just time for a change.  Being a university professor, I was in the middle of an annual contract.  Therefore, I  would need to complete the academic year before making any serious changes.  In the past, I seemed to fall into job easily.  The right door always seemed to open right up.  But I didn’t realize how much times had changed.  I also didn’t’ know about the mountain of applications and interviews that was ahead of me.

interviewsTim Gouw/ Unsplash.com

Resumes and Applications

Your resume and application give potential employers a first impression of what you’ll be like as an employee.  There are numerous books and resources available that will help guide you through the resume process.  There are also plenty of tips available on how best to complete your application.  But since the focus of today’s blog is on the interviewing process, I’m just going to pass along a few 3 key tips on resumes.

  1. Highlight Your Applicable Strengths.
    It’s important to give a good first impression and highlight the best things about yourself, as well as the things the employer most needs to hear.  For example, if you’re applying for sales position, it would be helpful to point out your sales record in the past.  It wouldn’t be nearly as important to point out that you speak 7 languages, unless you’re working in a multicultural area where that would be an asset.
  2. Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar  Matter.
    No one wants an employee who is going to be sloppy and careless with their work.  Not to mention, there is no excuse for not using word processing programs or getting someone to proofread your work.  Put your best foot forward with your presentation.
  3.  Personalize for Each Employer.
    Yes, this is painful and time consuming; nevertheless, it is essential when it comes to giving a good first impression.  Using the same example of looking for a sales position, the product makes a big difference.  Some types of sales require internet support, while others require phone or face-to-face communication.  Public speaking ability would be a great thing for live communication.  On the other hand, internet support would require computer proficiency and tech skills.  Adjusting your resume to fit the job will go a long way and is definitely worthwhile.

Phone Interviews

The main thing to know about phone interviews is that they are real interviews.  I made the mistake of thinking my first phone interview would be short, sweet, and to the point.  That was not the case, it was very in-depth and my responses were being recorded by the recruiter.

You don’t necessarily need to dress your best for phone interviews, but I recommend wearing something that makes you feel your best and finding a private place to take the call.  I always felt more confidant when I was dressed for the day, hair and make-up were on and I had all my notes in front of me.

However, I do caution you about being ready at a moment’s notice with whatever you are wearing too.  I had been expecting an interview call at noon one Monday.  I thought I would spent a few hours preparing that morning.  Instead the interviewer decided to call at 8am.  The phone rang while I was in the restroom and I ended up being interviewed in my pajamas with disheveled hair and morning breath.  Oh well, made the best of it and did get a live interview scheduled for the following week.

Group and Back-to-Back Interviews

I have found that companies take different approaches to the interviewing process.  Some employers will bring your back multiple times for interviews with different people or groups.  Other employers will attempt to arrange back-to-back interviews in the same day to get it done in one shot.  I have had up to 3 interviews in a row, each one with different people.  At times I have even interviewed with multiple groups in the same day.

If you’re like me, you may not really enjoy talking about yourself for 2-3 hours at a shot.  However, you have one hour or less, in most cases, to give all the people in the room an opportunity to get to know you.  If you don’t say positive things about yourself, no one else is going to.  So, you’re going to have to learn this skill if you want to have successful interviews.

On the flip side, people don’t want to hear you brag for 2 hours either.  Share truthful information, and highlight your best features, but never make others in the room feel inferior.  Why would anyone hire you if they feel intimidated by you?  I have been told that I have an impressive resume.  But I’m also under 5 feet tall.  Honestly, I think the two balance each other nicely.  If someone starts to think I’m too well-educated or have too-much experience, they quickly notice that have a height advantage which usually helps.

Serious Changes

I mentioned previously that I was not prepared for the changes I experienced in the job search market.  To help you, I’m going to share a few lessons that I learned that may help you or a friend navigate the process a little better.

No One Is In a Hurry

I have worked much of my career as a critical care nurse, that means I’m into immediate action.  The sooner a decision is made, the sooner we can move on to the next thing.  The job market doesn’t operate that way though.  One company drug out my 3 interviews over 6 months and another company still has a position open that I interviewed for about 7 months ago.

Don’t Expect to Hear Updates

Some companies do an excellent job of updating the job portal on their websites. You can easily check the status of your application and see if a decision has been made.  But don’t count on it.  Twice I was told I was clearly in the running for high level positions and had to reach out to see if a decision had been made.  One person emailed me back, saying, “Oh yeah, I was going to let you know, we selected someone else.”  Another called in response to my email and complimented me but also said I wasn’t selected.  People are busy and people they chose not to hire are not their priority.

Great But Not the Best Fit

The harsh reality is that a company can only hire one person for each position.  Once I received an email saying there were over 100 qualified candidates for an online teaching position.  I would have been a good choice for that company, but I was not the best choice.  What makes someone the best choice?  It could be a number of things.  It could be that the transition will happen smoothly and you won’t cost much to get up and running.  If may be that you have experience with a certain population that will be an advantage.  We may never know what made someone else the better choice, but always remember that they can only choose one person to hire.

Lack of Human Interaction

For convenience and efficiency sake, much of the hiring process is automated today.  That’s great if you’re the one using automation, but not so great if you’re on the receiving end.  I had 4 interviews at one company, and they led me to believe an offer was pending.  However, they needed to finish the hiring of one of my would-be supervisors before hiring me.  Three weeks later I received an automated email that said that I was not selected.  What?  After some digging, I discovered that a new boss had decided to eliminate the position and no one was hired.  But the automation left me thinking that once again I was not the best fit.  Turns out no one was going to be the best fit in that situation.

Yesterday Matters Most

Earlier in my career, it seemed that employers were mostly interested in your potential.  They didn’t only focus on what you could do for them today, but also what you could do for them in the future.  The tides have turned and the focus is now on what you did yesterday.  Did you save a large company from bankruptcy?  Have you saved millions of dollars by using a new technique?  Did sales skyrocket under your leadership?  What types of success have you had in doing your job?  Recent experience seems to hold the most weight and the more successful you were the better.  So be sure to point out the awesome things you’ve done in the last year or so to shine yourself in the best light.

Reflection Questions

  1.  Do you know someone who is currently looking for a new job with whom you could share this information?
  2.  Do you interview and/or hire people for a living?  If so, please share some of your insight with us in the comment section.
  3. Have you been struggling with finding the perfect job for yourself?  If so, consider picking up a copy of one of the references below and learn what you could be doing better.

References for Further Reading (Do Your Homework & Be Ready)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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