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Getting Hired: How to Improve Your Chances for Interview Success

We’ve all heard about The Great Resignation. People are switching jobs in record numbers, and even those who are still employed are keeping their eyes open for new opportunities. The job market is hot. Whether you’re just entering the job market or considering a change, there are several steps you can take to increase your chances of getting hired. Here are seven ways to set yourself apart from the competition.

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Tell Your Story Well

The vast majority of large companies now rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes. If your resume isn’t ATS-friendly, there is a good chance it will be filtered out of the applicant pool altogether. So your resume must be informative and ATS-friendly. It should start with a summary statement that paints a picture of your skills and strengths in a few sentences. To make it ATS-friendly, use keywords. A good start is to note what words you consistently see in job descriptions you are interested in. If you have the skills to back it up, use those keywords in your resume.

Manage Your Brand

Just as you will research potential employers, they also are researching applicants. The importance of your personal online brand cannot be discounted. Many recruiters report that they have reconsidered a candidate based on their social profile. So it’s critical to regularly monitor your personal brand. Google your name. Take stock of all your social profiles. Tighten security on social platforms you use for fun with friends and family, and clean up any potentially embarrassing content. Make sure you’re telling a consistent story about yourself.

Use Your Network

If you don’t consider yourself a good networker, now is the time to sharpen those skills. LinkedIn is a good place to start. Identify contacts in your network that work for companies on your radar. Connect with others who work for those companies, and let them know you are interested in working there. Many companies give priority to applicants with an employee referral or recommendation.

Research the Employer

The best employment opportunities are those in which you and the employer share common values. If your passion is community service, make sure the businesses prioritizes people over profits. If you want to work for a company where diversity, equity and inclusion amounts to more than words, look for employers who embody those values. Read the company’s website, blogs, press releases, and annual reports. Review the leadership team’s bios. Search the internet for relevant company insights. You may uncover repeated reorganizations, poor customer or employee reviews, or financial issues—these are potential red flags. Go into the interview fully equipped with an understanding of the company’s culture and values, products history, and recent announcements.

Prepare to Impress

Make sure you know where the interview is. Map the route and plan for traffic, parking, and other transportation logistics. For virtual interviews, test your internet connection. Make sure your camera and microphone are working. Also have a filter background set up if you are in a place where there might be distractions in the background. Chose a background that conveys a professional image.

Plan for what you’ll say in the interview. Make a list of potential questions and then practice, practice, practice. Practice your answers and your elevator pitch. This should be a short, memorized, professional bio that tells the interviewer about your career progression, motivation, and goals. Keep it to 25-30 seconds and relevant to your potential employer.

Slay The Interview

Arrive on time. For in-person interviews, that means 10 minutes before the interview. If you arrive more than 15 minutes early, spend that time reviewing the employer website while in your car. During the interview, remember that you are your own brand ambassador, so sell yourself well:

  • Be confident—It’s normal to be nervous, but remember that the interviewer wants this to work out as much as you do! The company wants to hire a great employee and you want to be gainfully employed.
  • Follow the interviewer’s lead—They will likely start with small talk or administrative details. Keep it light, tight, and positive. Remember that this part of the interview is intended to build an interpersonal connection between you and the interviewer.
  • Answer the questions—This may seem obvious, but take care to answer the questions that are asked of you. Most interviewers will have a prepared set of hypothetical, behavioral, or self-assessment questions.
    • Hypothetical questions ask what you would do in a particular situation and are intended to assess your judgment and reasoning skills.
    • Behavioral questions reflect back on how you reacted to a specific scenario or event to help predict your future behavior. This format often uses the STAR method in which you’ll be asked about a situation, the task you had, the action you took, and the results you achieved.
    • Self-assessment questions help the interviewer determine whether you know your own strengths and weaknesses. The most common example of this type of question is “what is your greatest weakness?” Avoid clichés and be intentional when answering this question. Make sure your answer does not come across as self-serving (for example, “I work too hard”).
  • Always ask questions—Doing so will give you a better understanding of whether the position is right for you, and it shows the interviewer that you have a genuine interest in the position.

Follow Up

Once the interview is complete, your work is not yet done. Write a thank you note to each person on the interview team. Customize it — no canned template, please — and reiterate why you are an ideal candidate for the job.