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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Executive viewpoint From: American Journal of Business, Volume 31, Issue 1.
The formula for success to win the job – preparation, interview and follow up
Looking to move up or get that great new or first job?
You own your career and the choices you make. Your dream job might be posted when you are least expecting it and generally the window of opportunity to apply is only a few days or a few hours. Most posted positions require an online application.
Preparation – build your resume
Communicate your message as succinctly as possible and use bullet points. State your experiences as achievements vs responsibilities and use action verbs such as authored, administered, advised, analyzed, defined, directed, designed, developed, etc. Numbers and statistics are also a great way to illustrate your achievements. Sell yourself, but do not exaggerate. However be conscious not to do the opposite of exaggeration and undersell yourself. Proofread your resume for spelling errors, acronyms (spell these out). Have a peer review, save in .pdf format and submit as an attachment in response to posted positions. Academics typically have long vitas including all research, publications and presentations. Academics should have two versions – one concise and one with detail. Do your research prior to the interview. Search the news (online, in print, in the news and remember to contact your network – friends, family and alumni).
Interview – the small stuff counts
When invited for an interview (either in person or virtual) be on time. The five minute rule does not apply for candidates. Bring copies of your resume and presentation for the interview panel (or have them ready to e-mail if the interview is virtual). Remember the non-verbal – firm handshake, eye contact and in the moment presence. Dress for success. And finally, relax –interviewing is a dialogue between the interviewers and the interviewee.
Many companies follow a behavioral-based interview process where past behavior predicts future performance. The questions posed are based on competencies deemed appropriate for the position (such as team work, leadership, innovation, presentation skills, etc.). Answering questions based on this technique require you to describe a past experience. A good mnemonic to remember is STAR. Describe a situation, task, action taken, and finally result. When you answer the questions, do so with confidence. It is your opportunity to describe the situation where you applied your technical and functional capabilities, intellectual curiosity, and passion for making an impact. Provide examples that are positive or perhaps a situation where things didn’t go as planned. Use your time wisely – make sure to get all of your points across and as succinctly as possible.
When the interview team asks if you have questions – the answer should always be yes. Prepare your questions prior to the interview and use your research. Sample questions might include: "What is your leadership style?" "How would you describe the department team’s culture?" "What keeps you up at night?" "How do you deal with funding challenges?"
There are a few questions you may not want to ask during the first interview. Your only question should not be "What is your timing to fill this position?" During closing remarks, the interview team generally covers the next steps of the process. Also, do not ask about job grade, salary range, whether you can work from home, the promotion process and how often increases are granted. While these items are all important to candidates, these details will be shared as the candidate progresses in the process.
The thank you note has not died! Hand written or e-mail is acceptable. This is your last opportunity to close the deal and sell yourself. Do not be shy to ask for feedback from the interview team, but do so within two weeks of the interview.
speaking negatively about a current or previous employer;
appearing disinterested or having low energy;
not providing specific answers to the questions; and
not asking thoughtful questions.
Whether it is a first interview out of college or that step up to the managerial level these keys never go out of style. New graduates may not have as many examples of work place success but drawing on your background from volunteer work, club positions and internships should provide you with many examples to emphasize your qualities, skills and potential leadership value.
Catherine L. Chevalier
Department of Human Resources, Pfizer, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA