Stand out from the rest at your next interview

You’ve submitted an application and been called for an interview… great! This is your chance to shine!  But you’ve got to be ready.  Here are tips to make that happen.

First, conduct research on the organization.  Is it on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list? Go to Glassdoor.com to see what employees say about the organization.  Then visit the organization’s website.  Last, but not least, Google the name of the organization to read any related news articles. This due diligence will not only provide you with the confidence that considering this organization will be worth it, but it also will impress those who interview you by showing you’ve done your homework.

Once you are familiar with the organization, prepare for the interview itself.  This will boost your chances of doing well.  Here are a few guidelines to follow.

BEFORE the Interview, get prepared:

  •      Study the job description closely. 
  •      Be prepared to explain how you meet every one of the required qualifications.
  •      Think of ways to communicate the results you achieved on the job or doing volunteer work.
  •      How will you sell the hiring manager on why you would be a great fit for the organization? 
  •      Rehearse answers to the really tough questions that are likely to come up.
  •      Write down questions of your own to ask. Here are a few suggestions.

DURING the interview, make sure you put your best foot forward:

  •      Dress appropriately, arrive a few minutes early, and turn off your cellphone.
  •      Be friendly, use the interviewer’s name, smile and give a firm handshake.
  •      Convey enthusiasm,  make good eye contact, and be aware of your tone of voice and posture.
  •      If appropriate, present a neatly displayed sample of your work.
  •      Speak clearly and concisely, and use appropriate grammar.
  •      Avoid mentioning personal issues.
  •      Don’t criticize former employers, teachers or co-workers.
  •      Explain why you would be a strong fit for the position and for the organization.
  •      Expect the unexpected, such as oddball interview questions.
  •      Toward the end, ask the questions you prepared ahead of time that haven’t yet been answered, and ask these two other final questions.
  •      Close by assuring the manager of your strong interest in the position and thanking him or her for their time; then ask what the next steps are.  (When will the manager decide whom to hire and how will  you be notified, one way or the other?)
  •      Do NOT close by saying you think you are the perfect fit for the job.  Without knowing who your competition is, you can’t be sure of that and saying so indicates you reach conclusions without knowing all of the facts.

If you follow these steps, you will have given yourself the best shot possible of getting a job offer.

It’s a Brand You World!

What strategies do successful companies use that you could borrow to elevate your career prospects? They use clever ways to let their customers know how they add great value to their lives. This is called “branding.”

Here are a few excellent examples:

• Geico’s cute little gecko saying, ““15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.”
• Apple offering products that not only have innovative technology but also the “cool” factor.
• Publix’s heart-warming TV spots that show how our products are incorporated into the most special family moments in our customers’ lives.

So how can you “Brand You?” How can you fashion a clear message about the great value you offer to employers?
Personal branding has been around for more than a decade, but when so much is publicly visible on social media channels, it is more crucial than ever to be mindful of the image you project. Your brand is your reputation, so delivering it clearly and conveying what is unique and authentic about you, will leave a memorable impression and can open doors that might otherwise have remained closed. So protect and nurture your personal brand carefully, since it may someday mean the difference between getting and losing the job you want or missing out on a great business or personal opportunity.

The first step in personal branding is to ask yourself some probing questions: What is important to you? What are your strengths? What skills set you apart from the pack? What are you most passionate about? A great resource to help you address these and other great questions is a handy online workbook from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Dig deep and you’ll find what holds most meaning for you and what you have to offer. That’s “Brand You” in a nutshell.

Personal branding guru Dan Schwabel, suggests you’ve discovered your personal brand once this equation is true:

Your self-impression = How people perceive you

Once you’ve identified your brand, reflect it consistently. Be patient and deliver the same message over time. You can switch up words to remain fresh and relevant to the conversation, but the main message needs to remain the same. There are many channels for sharing your branding message, such as:

• On your LinkedIn Profile page
• In networking events, conferences, lectures and at other in-person events through use of your personal “elevator speech”
• In resumes and cover letters
• In your other Social Media profiles
• On your personal blog or website

You get the idea. The key is to use consistent messaging to reflect your brand. With authenticity.

When you embrace “Brand You,” the world has no choice but to embrace it as well. It may not fit the needs of that hiring manager or buyer or coach at that particular time and place. But chances are, they will remember and will respect what “Brand You” has to offer.

LinkedIn is a Powerful Career Tool

Do you want to be visible to recruiters?  If so, LinkedIn can be a powerful talent agent as long as you use it effectively.  The good news, in this time-pressured world, is that it won’t take a great deal of your time to accomplish this.

LinkedIn is the leading website for professional networking with more than 260 million users.  That’s why recruiters for most companies use LinkedIn to find their next hire.  So your LinkedIn profile is a strategic place for you to brand yourself.

Here are tips on how to accomplish that.

Your Profile

  • Make the Summary in your profile as engaging and unique as possible.  Everyone is “results-oriented” and “hard-working,” so skip those banalities.
  • Include a list of keywords at the bottom of the Summary entitled “Skill set,” “Specialties” or something similar.  These are words that may not be in your resume.  I have more than a dozen on my Summary, including “strategic planning, employment branding and search engine optimization.”
  • Include a complete resume of your education and work experience.  For instance, list the achievements you’ve made in each stop along your career path.
  • Ask for colleagues, clients and supervisors to write Recommendations on your profile.
  • Attach a professional portrait to your profile, one with a warm smile.

Make Connections

  • Send invitations to connect to people you already know who illustrate the talented company you keep.
  • Do the same for others in your profession, even if you don’t know them.  In the invitation to connect, tell them you like to connect with people who share the same job/industry/professional interests.
  • Connect with recruiters at companies that interest you or who specialize in recruiting for your industry.
  • Connect with people at companies that interest you to ask what it’s like to work there.
  • Connect with the company page of organizations that interest you.  They often will post their latest job openings there.

Join Groups

  • Join LinkedIn Groups that focus on the industry, skill set or location where you want to work.
  • Watch the conversation to learn about potential openings or about tips to finding jobs in that area.
  • Join the conversation to show your expertise.  A recruiter may be watching.

There are many more tools on LinkedIn worth exploring, but this is a good place to start.  For additional advice, go to LinkedIn’s Education section or Google the web for tips on using this valuable social networking site.