5 Moves That Can Sink Even the Most Promising Job Interview


This blog post comes to us from our own Karen Friesen, senior copywriter and customer service extraordinaire.

You got the call. You got the call!! That company you’re itching to work for loved your resume and cover letter (or so it seems). Now you’ve got 48 hours to get ready for a big interview and you are SO PSYCHED!!

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Head between the knees…annnd go! You’ve got work to do.

While all signs are strong that you’re coming in hot on this job opportunity, there are a few classic bad moves job seekers make that can sink even the most promising candidates. Here are five, and what to do instead:

1. Guessing on the Dressing

Ever notice how one company's business casual is another's Sunday's best? Do you know how people roll at the company you're walking into? You need to. You want to make it very clear right out of the gates that you're polished and put together, and someone who's going to fit in around the joint.

Rather than just guessing (and risking either under-dressing or over-dressing), try asking the person coordinating your interview for some tips on dress code. Or, worst case, do a little investigating online (social media is your best friend for this). What do their people wear at work? Observe then bump up your game a notch or two (not 15) from there. 

2. Assuming You Can Wing It

Your competition is not winging it. I'm going to put that out there right now. On these grounds alone, you shouldn't plan to simply free-wheel it. Surely, you want to go in and have a genuine, engaging and not over-rehearsed conversation, but you've got to do your homework. 

What is their history or mission? What's their core focus? Who are their competitors? What have they achieved recently? What do you know about their corporate culture? 

Also, what might you say if they bust out the, "So, tell me about yourself" or "What's your greatest weakness?" (Which, invariably, they will.)

You spent the time and energy to capture their attention. Spend the time and energy to take this baby the distance.

(And, check this out if you need help answering 5 Super Common Job Interview Questions.) 

3. Making it All About You

One thing’s for sure: at this stage in the game, the people doing the interviewing care almost exclusively about what you can walk through their doors and deliver. In other words, they care about what's in it for them. Certainly, they will care a lot about what you want (and work like hell to convince you to join them) if you're the best fit. And they'll fall over themselves to keep you happy once you've proven your value. 

But at the early interview stages, they need to know what you can deliver. What problems can you solve? How will you make their lives easier? How will you help make the boss look good? How will you help them be successful?

Walk in ready to showcase these things instead. Sit tight (for now) on the laundry list of questions related to benefits, vacation time, cell phone allowance and access to the corporate jet. 

4. Being Disconnected or Disrespectful 

The dreaded D's can surely sink you. What are some of the most common ones? Showing up late is high on this list, but also ... showing up too early. No one wants to feel the pressure of knowing you're sitting in the lobby 40 minutes before your agreed upon start time. Sure, you want to get to the building in plenty of time, but don't walk in more than 10 minutes early.

Also, don't have your cell phone on (or visible) during the meeting. Nothing says, "I'm only halfway listening" more than someone who can't bear to cut the iPhone umbilical cord for an hour. 

Another thing that'll come across as disconnected is if you're so busy waiting to blurt out answers to the questions you've practiced for hours, that you flat-out miss the opportunity to have a genuine, engaged conversation with the person across the desk.

Be aware that you're being evaluated for more than just hard evidence that you're the right fit. They're also looking for someone who has emotional intelligence, social decorum and an ability to connect with others.

5. Forgetting the (Timely) Thank You

Let's talk about the (true) tale of two candidates. They were neck and neck right up to the final interviews and the hiring team was having a heck of a time deciding who to choose.  At the end of the last interview, Candidate 1 sent each person on the interview panel a customized, immediate thank you note. Candidate 2 figured, "Eh, I've said thank you three times already. It's not necessary at this point."

Guess who got the job offer? Yep. And guess what it came down to? Yep. The thank you note.

Thank you always matters. In this case, it mattered a whole lot.

Don't be Candidate 2. The moment you leave that interview and get back to your computer, thank the interviewer for her time and express your continued interest in the opportunity. This is also a great way to fill in any gaps, provide information you may have left out when you met in person and reiterate why you are a fantastic fit for the job.

(Need help writing it? Check out How to Nail the Thank You Note After the Interview.)

And last, but certainly not least ... once you've laid out your best effort in a job interview, don't freak out if there's radio silence for a few days. (Ask before you leave the interview what their timeline is, though.) It's common.

Companies often have the best intentions when it comes to wrapping up their decision on new hires, but all sorts of stuff can slow down the process -- vacations, further thought on the job description, making sure budget is there, demanding workloads, etc. 

Keep on their radar, keep your wits about you, and know that the right one is out there.

Control what you can control (which is plenty), and don't get all coiled up over what you can't. 

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Live Zakynthos)


How to Figure Out Which Keywords to Use on Your Resume

Everyone talks a fair game about the importance of keywords (as they should -- they're important). But, how do you know which ones you're supposed to use on your resume? 

Here's a quick trick that our team uses when working on resumes for our clients.

And, if you're interested in the word cloud software I reference in the video, you can get to it right HERE

Should I Put an Objective Statement on My Resume?

Happy Friday! A very quick answer to a very common question: Should I put an Objective on my resume?

Also, in case you missed the $100 off Weekend Resume Makeover promo that I reference in the video, fear not.

You are still welcome to grab a seat in the course for $100 off using promo code: FAST100.

Need more help with that #motherloving resume? We got you covered. 

Join us over at the Weekend Resume Makeover course -- Save $100 with promo code FAST100.

Why Having Too Many Options Open Can Hurt Your Job Search

Have you sat down, maybe recently, to create or update your resume -- only to find yourself paralyzed because you're afraid to hard-angle it toward one particular type of role?

Maybe you're thinking, "I just want to keep all of my options open right now."

And that's understandable. Options are great. In fact, I'm on a plane as I write this and the flight attendant just asked me if I wanted regular vodka or grapefruit vodka. (YES, turns out grapefruit vodka is a thing. And, be assured, I went with it.)

My point -- You don't want to be so stringent in your mindset that you miss out on something unexpectedly great, just because you were locked in on that ONE thing. 

However (You knew a "but" was coming) ... 

If you try to keep piles of possibilities open for yourself ("I think I want to work in digital marketing, but I might want to go back into operations. And I really love teaching, so maybe I should be a trainer ..."), it's going to be incredibly hard to create a resume that makes it instantly clear to the people on the receiving end how and why you make sense.

And, if you don't make sense to the decision makers (very quickly), guess where your resume goes?

Into the big, fat NO pile.

And that's one option you for sure aren't aiming for.

(BTW, the grapefruit vodka? Oh, heck yes.)

The bummer reality is that, even though we all really wish that those reviewing our resumes would magically connect the dots for us -- and make the correlations between what we've done and what we could do? They're not going to.

They won't, because they don't have to. For every role you apply for, there's going to be one, five or 25 other people in the mix who have resumes that make it very easy for the reviewer to see an obvious skills and experience match.

These are the people who will land the interview first.

These are the people who speak directly to the target audience. They've studied what the jobs they're applying for require, and what potential employers value, and they're introducing themselves as a "smack-in-the-forehead" obvious match.

They aren't trying to cover all of their bases.

They aren't trying to keep all options open. 

They understand that, when you try to speak to multiple, disparate audience at once, you dilute the power of your message across every single channel. 

These are the people you're competing with, for every job. 

So you've got to bring your A-game.

That said, if you've been trying to keep multiple options open (for fear of missing out on something), here's what you might do instead:

Choose an Avenue A.

What's the most likely or most desired next move for you? Consider making this your main focus for the next 30 days (or whatever time increment works for you). 

When you do this, it becomes so much easier to craft a resume that speaks directly to your target audience, and illustrates how you line up with the most common deliverables for that type of job.

It will also simplify how you go about your search, because you won't feel completely overwhelmed as you look at marketing jobs, operations jobs, trainer jobs, etc.

But won't I miss out on something?

Probably not. Setting an Avenue A certainly doesn't mean you can't entertain other options should they present themselves (ahem, grapefruit vodka). Heavens, no.

Instead, it eases the process of creating or updating your resume, and will help keep you focused on a day-to-day basis.

You can always modify that core resume if an opportunity comes along that's a bit outside of your primary focus area. But, by having a target message, you'll make it a whole lot easier for people to "get" what you're all about.

And when people "get" you? 

You get the interview.


Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Banalities

A Simple Trick for Figuring Out the Right Keywords for Your Resume

Keywords matter.

This should not be a news flash if you're out there applying for roles via online application, or attempting to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that you turn up in the right kinds of recruiter searches.

If it is a news flash, here's a quick rundown of why they matter:

Keywords on Your Resume:

If you're applying for roles via an online portal, there's a reasonable chance (especially if it's with a mid- to large-sized organization) that humans will not be looking at your resume first. Instead, it's going to first pass through an applicant tracking system, or ATS. 

The ATS will be looking for certain keywords, experience and credentials and assigning your resume a "match score". Only those resumes that rank as "strong matches" will move forward in the process. That said, if you're relying on this method for job applications, you need to pass through the robots or you won't receive human consideration.

(Looking for more ATS info? 4 Ways to Make Sure Your Resume Makes it Through the Black Hole)

Keywords on Your LinkedIn Profile: 

More than 90% of recruiters are using LinkedIn as a sourcing tool, to find viable candidates for open positions. Read that sentence again.

Given this, it's not only crazy important that you show up to the party over on LinkedIn, but you need to do so in a way that points you towards the types of roles you're most interested in. How to you best achieve this? In part, by making sure the keywords on your profile are the same keywords that recruiters will likely use to find you in the first place.

Given this, we of course need to discuss the big question:

How Do I Figure Out the Most Important Keywords?

Here's one incredibly simple technique that our team uses:

Make a word cloud.

It's fast, it's free and it will give you a quick visualization of the words that come up over and over again in the job descriptions that align with the roles you're targeting.

There are plenty of free online word cloud providers. We use TagCrowd and WordItOut.

Here's What to Do: 

Assuming you're targeting similar types of roles, gather up 2-4 job descriptions that exemplify the type of position -- or the exact ones -- you're most interested in. I typically drop all of the descriptions into one Word or Text file and then copy the entire block of text.

Paste it into the text box within whichever word cloud generator you desire, and ... Voila. 

Here's one we ran through both TagCrowd and WordItOut. This client was targeting senior sales leadership roles within the athletic apparel industry:



Now, you will of course get some weird, ignorable terms batched in with the golden nuggets, but what you see here are some important words that you should consider weaving into your narrative, on both your resume and over on LinkedIn.

You'll also note that there are some differences between the two word clouds, so you may wish to run your job descriptions through more than one tool so that you can compare and contrast.

It's a simple, "can do it today" exercise that will help you narrow in on the keywords that are right for your job search.

And while you never want to rely 100% on the keywords (or online applications in general) to do all the heaving lifting for you (Get out there and talk to people, for crying out loud), you will be very very wise to make sure yours are lining up with the roles you're looking to land.

Got questions? Lay 'em on us. Have a word cloud success story or other job search, resume or LinkedIn tips that work for you? Leave them in the comments below (please!)