Many clients tell me that they follow up with employers by email after job interviews. They also seldom get a reply. Here’s a better strategy: Use the phone. While it is possible to dodge a message as easily as it is to delete an email, a phone call carries more weight. The interviewer hears your voice and remembers that you’re a person. Better still, if the interviewer picks up the phone, you get the chance to ask questions and engage the interviewer.
An email message is passive, and it gives you no chance to ask questions or answer them. Some clients think they are being polite by using email. Think about it this way: You took the time to interview with a company. Don’t they owe you the respect to reply to a phone call?
Know what you want to say when you talk to the interviewer. The key question is: “Are you still considering me as a candidate?” If the answer is yes, ask when the company expects to make a decision. Don’t leave it there. Follow up with this question: “I am very interested in this position. What else can I tell you that would help you make your decision?” If the interviewer tells you that she is not considering you as a candidate, ask: “Thank you for considering me. Do you have any advice for me as I continue my job search?”
In either of these cases, the interviewer could give you an answer that isn’t helpful. On the other hand, if you don’t ask the question, they won’t be helpful because you’re not asking for it. Use the phone. Ask questions.
I was helping a client prepare for an interview. He kept talking about what he has done over the last three years at his current job. While his experience is good, he has more to offer. More importantly, he missed several opportunities to show how his experience, education, and qualities meet the employer’s need. In the end, the interview is not about you. It’s about the employer and how you can solve her problem.
Too often job seekers get tongue tied because they want to phrase the perfect answer. A better way to interview is to listen carefully and speak to the employer’s concerns. If you do that, you will be focused on what the employer needs and, in most cases, feel a lot less nervous. Stay focused on what the employer needs, and you’ll know what to say about yourself.
When I first meet clients, they often present themselves in terms of what they lack: “I don’t have a college degree.” “I just graduated, so I don’t really have experience.” “I don’t know how to use Excel.”
My answer is simple: Sell what you have. Market your strengths. When we think in positive terms, we are able to present ourselves with confidence. The language we use is stronger and more convincing. Most importantly, we are giving employers good reasons to make a job offer. I’m not saying that we should ignore gaps in our resumes and careers. If an employer needs something we don’t have, we need to be able to offer some alternative selling point. Be ready when an employer brings up what you don’t have. Show why what you have is more important than what you lack.
I don’t know how to use Access. (But I am an expert with Excel and PowerPoint.)
I’ve never managed people. (But I have managed contractors who supervise large teams.)
I did not complete my undergraduate degree. (But I have been my company’s leading sales manager for the last eight years.)
Over the 10 years I’ve been interviewing clients and writing their resumes, one constant I’ve noticed is that most people focus on the wrong thing. They talk about what they haven’t done or what they don’t know. Instead, the key to success is knowing your selling points and then finding an employer who needs them.
While this information is important for resume writing, it’s equally important during interviews. Your goal should always be to make the employer confident in your ability to do the job. Negative thinking doesn’t help that effort. Whenever you find yourself talking about what you don’t have, stop and turn it around. What do you have that an employer wants? What qualities will make you an excellent employee?