Convincing a hiring manager that you are the best candidate for a job is the most pivotal step in any job hunt. An effective resume and solid employment history generate interest, but the job interview typically is the deal breaker. Approach that face-to-face meeting with a sales mentality by letting the hiring manager know exactly why you stand out from the other applicants.
Job seekers often overlook one of the most fundamental rules of a job interview, which is being professional. "Today's office is different than it was 10 to 15 years ago because of the business casual look," says Dan Schilling, human resources director at Notre Dame Educational Center in Chardon, Ohio, outside Cleveland. Showing up on time and wearing appropriate clothing may seem like minor details, but any missteps will sink your chances of selling yourself, Schilling says. Some employers still expect job candidates to wear formal business attire, so ask the recruiter to clarify if the organization's preference is traditional suits or business casual. Also make sure your cellphone is off and leave your water bottle inside your purse, says Barbara Mason in LiveCareer.com. These simple blunders can leave the mistaken impression that you lack basic savvy in the business world.
Working moms sometimes find that standard work hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. don't meet their family needs, but they're reluctant to discuss special accommodations during the job interview. "We like someone to talk about their needs for flexibility early in the interview process," Schilling says. "Are you available full time or only part time? We don't like to be surprised when someone later needs to leave early or keeps calling [and needs to be] off, which can jeopardize your employment." Today, many organizations recognize employees' needs for work-life balance, so upfront honesty should be viewed as a selling point in an employment interview, says Schilling. At the same time, the job interviewer needs assurance that you have adequate child care arrangements for your kids so you won't struggle with attendance issues when you're hired.
A job interview must be a two-way conversation, so come prepared to raise your own questions during your meeting. Selling yourself requires you to structure your answers around the interviewer's needs, says career counselor Deborah Walker in the website Quintessential Careers. Two effective questions are what are the greatest challenges and the most important qualities for the position, Walker says. Listen carefully to the interviewer's response, which tells you what he's looking for in a new hire. He's going to extend a job offer to the person who offers the best pitch on how she's going to solve his daily business issues.
An interviewer is looking for someone who not only can perform the work but who also will fit in with the rest of the team. Think of how often you buy products and services from sales representatives because they're friendly and easy to connect with, says Amy Levin-Epstein in CBSNews.com. Apply those same principles to your job interview, because a hiring manager typically will use the same emotions in her decision-making process. Exude warmth by making eye contact and greeting the interviewer with a strong handshake, says Levin-Epstein. Research your interviewer online before you arrive for your appointment to see if you share any commonalities that you can mention, such as living in nearby communities or having kids who participate in the same sports. That rapport could be the deciding factor that clinches the job offer.