Candidate Tool Kit
Interviewing Do’s & Don’ts
- Arrive 15 minutes early. Tardiness is never excusable.
- Clarify questions. Answer the interviewer’s questions as specifically as possible. Relate your skills and background to the position requirements throughout the interview.
- Give your qualifications. Focus on accomplishments that are most pertinent to the job.
- Be professional. Smile, make eye contact, and maintain good posture.
- Anticipate tough questions. Prepare to turn perceived weaknesses into strengths.
- Dress appropriately. Make your first impression a professional one.
- Ask questions. An interview should be a mutual exchange of information, not a one-sided conversation.
- Listen. Concentrate not only on the interviewer’s words, but also on the tone of voice and body language. Once you understand how the interviewer thinks, pattern your answers accordingly and you will be able to establish a better rapport.
- Don’t answer vague questions. Ask the interviewer to clarify fuzzy questions.
- Don’t be disrespectful. Don’t smoke, chew gum or place anything on the interviewer’s desk.
- Don’t be overly familiar, even if the interviewer is.
- Don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne. The interviewer may not share your tastes.
- Don’t ramble. Overlong answers may make you sound apologetic or indecisive.
- Don’t lie. Answer questions truthfully.
- Don’t express bitterness. Avoid derogatory remarks about present or former employers.
Closing the Interview
Job candidates often second-guess themselves after interviews. By asking good questions and closing strongly, you can reduce post-interview doubts. If you feel that the interview went well and you want to take the next step, express your interest to the interviewer.
Try an approach like the following: “After learning more about your company, the position and responsibilities, I believe that I have the qualities you are looking for. Are there any issues or concerns that would lead you to believe otherwise?”
This is an effective closing question because it opens the door for the hiring authority to be honest with you about his or her feelings. If concerns do exist, you may be able to create an opportunity to overcome them, and have one final chance to dispel the concerns, sell your strengths and end the interview on a positive note.
A Few Things to Remember During the Closing Process
- Don’t be discouraged if an offer is not made or a specific salary is not discussed. The interviewer may want to communicate with colleagues or conduct other scheduled interviews before making a decision.
- Make sure that you have thoroughly answered these questions during the interview: “Why are you interested in our company?” and “What can you offer?” Express appreciation for the interviewer’s time and consideration.
- Ask for the interviewer’s business card so you can write a thank you letter as soon as possible.
After your interview, follow-up is critical. When you get in your car, immediately write down key issues uncovered in the interview. Think of the qualifications the employer is looking for and match your strengths to them. A “thank you” letter should be written no later than 24 hours after the interview. Be sure to call your recruiter to discuss your interview and your next steps, as well.
Prepare a complete reference sheet with updated contact information. Be sure to obtain permission from your references to use his / her name.
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Include phone, mail and email contact information. In addition, make sure your voicemail message is professional. A message that is too casual can create a negative impression.
You may choose to list or not list your career objective. If your objective doesn’t match the recruiter’s needs, you may miss out on a golden opportunity. However, a clearly stated career objective can help your recruiter find your ideal career match.
Your summary should be brief.
- Include your title and years of experience.
- List pertinent skills.
- Discuss your character traits or work style.
Example: “Financial Accountant with over 10 years’ experience with two Fortune 500 companies. Technical skills include P&L, budgeting, forecasting and variance reporting. Bilingual in Spanish and English. Self-starter who approaches every project in a detailed, analytical manner.”
List each position held in reverse chronological order, dating back at least ten years. If you held multiple positions within the same company, list them all to show advancement and growth. The body of each position description should describe your responsibilities and accomplishments.
Include education, professional training, affiliations / appointments, licenses, technical skills and languages.
Do not include personal information such as marital status.
12 Accomplishments Employers Want To See
- Increased revenues
- Saved money
- Increased efficiencies
- Cut overhead
- Increased sales
- Improved workplace safety
- Purchasing accomplishments
- New products / new lines
- Improved record keeping process
- Increased productivity
- Successful advertising campaign
- Effective budgeting
You have just accepted a wonderful new position and have called your friends and family to share the good news. Before letting your close friends know at your current company, however, it is best to formally resign. By professionally resigning, your supervisor won’t inadvertently hear about it “through the grapevine”.To make the process go smoothly, it is suggested to have a typed resignation letter to hand to your supervisor during your meeting. Informing your current employer of your resignation takes tact and discretion. Keep it simple and not personal.
If you are not ready to share who your new job is with, it is best to tell them that you cannot disclose that information until your new employer announces it within his/her own organization. Here are some sample resignation letters to guide you.
Some general suggestions for the resignation process are:
- Have a last date in mind. Offer the traditional two-week notice, recognizing there are circumstances where a longer notice is appropriate. It is not a good idea to offer your notice and then go on vacation for the duration of the notice as this would not provide for a smooth transition.
- Give notice in person unless the logistics make it impossible to do so.
- Offer to train your replacement (if the timeframe makes sense) and to assist in any way possible during the transition. Include specific suggestions.
- If time allows, prepare a “reference document” of your daily procedures. It is helpful to include frequently called phone numbers and contact names for your replacement.
- Remember to thank your supervisor for your current opportunity. Mention any specific learning that you have appreciated.
- Ask if there are any suggestions your supervisor may have for you as you move on to your next position that you could learn from.
- Ask for a letter of reference.
While counter-offers may be tempting and even flattering, there can be pitfalls that you need to be aware of. Ask yourself these questions:
- Will your loyalty always be in question?
- If there are future cutbacks, will you be the first to go because of concerns about your loyalty?
- If you accept the counter-offer for more money, are you just giving your employer the time they need to locate and select your replacement?
- Will your career track remain blocked if you accept it?
- Will your responsibilities be expanded?
- Will you have to report to a person you don’t respect?
- Will you receive next year’s raise or bonus early?
- Is the counter-offer a ploy to avoid a short-term inconvenience by your employer?
- What are your realistic chances for promotions now that you have considered leaving?
Counter Offer Statistics
According to national surveys of employees that accept counter-offers, 50-80 percent voluntarily leave their employer within six months of accepting the counter-offer because of unkept promises. The majority of the balance of employees that accept counter-offers involuntarily leave their current employers within twelve months of accepting the counter-offer (terminated, fired, laid off, etc.).
As attractive as counter-offers may appear, they greatly decrease your chances of achieving your career potential.
Preparing For Your Job Search
Prepare Important Documents
Prepare your resume. Resume Tips. Keeping it concise, using bullet points while drawing attention to specific areas of accomplishment. Dates should be accurate and match any application you may be asked to complete.
Contact your references to obtain permission to use their name. Update any phone numbers or email addresses to include on your separate Reference Sheet. Ask your references for preferred communication and best times to reach them and indicate that on your Reference Sheet.
Develop a Resume Supplement for your personal use, outlining your professional history. This is a document you can use to write the answers to those questions or situations you may either want to highlight for accomplishments or clarify because they represent concerns.
Draft a basic Cover Letter. Be sure to update it for each position you apply for. Focus on what skills you bring to the company as opposed to what the company can do for you. Keep it simple and do not exceed one page. Be sure to include your contact information.
Need a little help to get started? Download a few of our examples to get the process underway…
Cover Letter Examples
- General Formatting Sample Resume
- GSC Sample Resume
- HIM Sample Resume
- Managed Care Sample Resume
- Accounting Sample Resume
Improve Your Skills:
If you are currently not working, this is a great opportunity to enroll in courses to upgrade your software knowledge, attend an industry conference or workshop or catch up on reading relevant books and publications.
Professional Voice Mail:
Keep your voice mail fresh and professional on both your home number and cell number.
Review Your Online Image
In today’s world, a company will often look to the internet to gather information about potential hires. Here are some tips to make sure your online image is positive and professional.
Your email address should be simple and professional. (firstname.lastname@example.org for example would not be a good choice)
You might be surprised to see how much is out there on the internet. It is important to “Google yourself” to see what may have been written about you. While you may not be able to change what appears, you should be aware that potential employers will likely see this information so that you can be prepared to address those concerns in an interview.
Update your LinkedIn profile to include all relevant information. Whenever possible, ask for professional recommendations that can attest to your accomplishments at several points in your career. Join relevant groups in your niche. Not only is it good networking, but joining groups provides the opportunity to expand your knowledge of what is taking place out there and provides for better discussions on your interviews.
It is a good idea to have a separate Facebook profile to use professionally. If you choose to have one profile, then it is a good idea to review your friends and block any that might have comments that do not represent you in a positive light.
Valuable Candidate Resources
Start Your Job Search
Find a Recruiter:
Seek out recruiters who have both industry expertise and connections in your specialty. Ask your associates which recruiters they are using and what results they have experienced. Search on line postings to notice the firms that align with your career interests. Recruiters are not typically geographically based, but rather industry based. Sometimes a recruiter may be hundreds of miles away and be a good resource for your search because of their network.
Purchase the Business Journal:
Business Journals have valuable insight into emerging local companies, and as a new subscriber, they will send you the “Book of Lists’, which allows you to review a broad range of local companies.
Study the different job boards for the most relevant resources for your niche.
Here are some general job boards to get you started:
The Interviews (Preparation)
Before the actual interview takes place, it is important to complete as much research as you can about the company, the people, the culture and the actual position. Be ready to answer the question, “Why do you want to work for this company?”
Equally important is to have several well written and well thought out questions to ask at the conclusion of the interview.
Questions related to your weaknesses can be the most difficult to answer. Review our strategies for the most Difficult Interview Questions so that you can practice how to address them effectively.
You may also find our list of Sample Questions helpful as you create a list of your own in preparation for your interview. To learn more about how questions are formulated and what the company is trying to discover with certain types of questions, please refer to The Psychology Behind Interview Questions.
Use the Resume Supplement and STAR Worksheet as a place to capture some of your best answers & examples for easy reference during the interview. Ask your friends or colleagues for honest feedback. The more familiar you are with your own background and accomplishments and your ability to articulate them, the better your interview.
Prepare a List of Questions for the Hiring Manager:
Hiring Managers generally place importance on the type and relevance of candidates’ questions. The best questions are those that are not only thoughtful but speak more to goals, objectives and general information about the company. Questions wrapped around salary, benefits, vacation, or sick time has more of the message of “what the company can do for you” rather than your own contributions.
A good way to begin building rapport is to find out about the Hiring Manager’s background and reasons he or she enjoys working for the company. See Sample Questions for Hiring Managers for additional suggestions.
Practice Answering the Salary Question:
If asked what you are looking for in terms of a package, carefully go over your current package. If there is some flexibility in those numbers, you should let the employer know that. If you are not currently working, then describe your most recent compensation.
If you are seeking an increase from your current compensation, let the employer know that you would entertain their best offer. Follow up with a statement of value you could bring to the new company.
Prepare for Employment Applications:
Your Resume Supplement should include an accurate list of employment dates, beginning and ending salary, supervisors, and their contact information so that it will be readily available when you are asked to complete the employment application.
Ask for the Job:
If you don’t ask for the job, someone else will. There’s a difference between healthy enthusiasm and aggressively jumping over the desk and asking for the job. If you have demonstrated interest and energy throughout the process, it will be natural at the end of the interview to indicate that you would be very interested in an offer, should you be the candidate of choice. If there is a close decision between you and another candidate, it is possible that the candidate that shows more enthusiasm in the position will be the winner.
Suggestion for Closing the Interview:
“After learning more about this position, your goals and direction for your company, I am extremely interested. What else would you like me to elaborate on in terms of my background and fit because I would very much like this position and I can see myself working here? How do I compare to others you may be considering?”
Thank You Notes:
It is important to follow up interviews with Thank You notes to everyone you met with. Email is a very good option because of speed, but don’t rule out the uniqueness of a hand written personal note, delivered, rather than mailed. Differentiating yourself from everyone else will give you the edge. Click here for sample Thank You Notes.
The Interviews (Face to Face)
Almost always a key part of the interview process, your face to face can make or break a job offer. Use these useful tips to make sure you put your best foot forward.
Putting your Best Foot Forward
- Dress for the part with a new interview suit and fresh crisp shirts or blouses. Shoes should be polished and fresh.
- Keep cologne and jewelry to a minimum. Less is better than more in this case.
- A portfolio pad is a good place to keep three copies of your resume, Resume Supplement and Reference Sheet along with any material you may want to have readily available for your interview.
- Arrive 15-20 minutes early. Not only does it give you an opportunity to observe the company’s surrounding and their employees, but it builds in extra time for any unforeseen events, such as getting lost or parking issues.
- Turn off your cell phone when you arrive at the company so that you are not tempted to use it while waiting for your interview.
- Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet. Many employers check with their front office person to see how they were treated by the candidate waiting to be interviewed. Treat each person like they are the president of the company.
When asked to complete applications, don’t write, “see resume”. Many times a company will be looking for how neat and complete the applications are filled out as well as one’s attitude for this exercise.
Building rapport from the onset of the interview is critical. Employers typically form 90% of their decisions in the first 30 seconds and spend the rest of the time justifying that decision. You can build rapport through good eye contact, a warm handshake and display of energetic interest. A smile goes a long way.
The Offer Stage
Evaluating the Opportunity
When you arrive home, take a few minutes to write down your most immediate thoughts after the interview. Often those thoughts are the ones that have the greatest impact on your decision.
Rank the interview on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being your highest level of excitement. Document the positives and just as important, the negatives or hesitations. If you rank the opportunity a “4”, then explore what it is that is missing. Sometimes it is a matter of getting more information or weighing in with family members. If you rank the opportunity a “3”, then it probably is not the right one for you.
If you are evaluating more than one opportunity, take the time to prepare a grid for comparison. This method will allow you to assess the opportunities more objectively. Writing your thoughts down will remove the emotion from making a decision as important as a new opportunity.
This may also be a good time to contact people in your network that you trust for additional input, but at the end of the day, the decision is still yours to make.