April 23, 2009
JVS AT WORK: tips for the job seeker
This feature is a service of the Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest in cooperation with New Jersey Jewish News and MetroWest HELPS. Look for additional tips in the weeks to come.
It’s an indisputable fact that interviews are the critical factor in determining whether one lands a job, so it is surprising how many applicants approach the process without serious preparation. Walking into that situation cold rarely works.
Interviewing for a job is comparable to a salesperson’s routine. If you were pitching to a customer, you would do research so you could convince him or her that you have the best product on the market to fill their needs. If you apply this philosophy to the interview process, you are the product, and you need to convince the employer that you are the best one for the job.
So what do you have to offer to the customer (the employer) that will fill their needs? What can you bring that is unique or added value to the position/company to set you apart from the competition? Try this exercise:
Take a piece of paper and divide it in half. On one side write, “What they are looking for,” and on the other side, “What I have to offer.”
• What they are looking for: Study the job description and other similar positions to find key words and phrases. Read each sentence carefully, taking notes as you do. What words appear in almost every posting? Compare the job descriptions: what is common to this job title and what is unique to this company?
• What you have to offer: This takes considerable thought. First, identify the areas where you do very well. Think about previous performance appraisals: what was said or written about you? Think about what you accomplished during your working and volunteer life. It is essential that you not only identify your strengths, but offer concrete examples of when you demonstrated them. What examples show you to be a team player? When have you been asked to work in a stressful situation and how did you handle it? Choose your best experiences to support your claims. For instance, if organizational skills are called for, use examples to show how you made a significant difference in your performance or in helping your former company reach its goals. You cannot come up with “stories” or examples on the spot; prepare in advance.
• Compare “What you have to offer” to “What they are looking for.” This exercise will help you see how close a match you are and where you should focus. Instead of asking the interviewer to make the connections, supply them so that the interviewer walks away with the impression you can do the job and do it well because you have done so in the past.
• Let the employer know you can fit in and be a team player. The interviewer will be looking to see not only if you can do the job, but also if you will be a good addition to the team. “Google” the company and see what kind of PR material they are using. This might help you better understand the corporate culture and the types of employees they are looking for. Use social networking boards (such as LinkedIn.com) to see what other people are saying about the unique culture of this company in addition to the specific qualities that are needed to do the particular job. Don’t dismiss your personal traits in your sales pitch preparation. Identify skills that make you unique, such as “interpersonal skills,” “attitude,” and “willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
• Rehearse interview answers. Friends, family members, career advisers, networking buddies, and the mirror all can help. Practice your responses until you feel they clearly reflect your skills and personality. Don’t just make statements you think the interviewer wants to hear. Going in unprepared is a sure-fire way to sabotage an interview. When it comes down to the wire, and it is between you and another candidate with a similar background, interview performance will probably be the deciding factor on who gets hired.
Job offers are not won by accident; time spent preparing for an interview produces significant results. The more you practice your interviewing skills, the more confidence you will gain and the more polished your presentation will be.
By the time you are finished, the interviewer should have a strong sense of why you are the best person for the job. This preparation will leave the interviewer with a positive, memorable impression of you and hopefully land you the job.