While getting your foot in the door may be the hardest part of the application process, many candidates lose their nerve in person. Whether you're a new grad looking for your first job out of college, or an experienced professional taking the next step in your career, here are five ways to put yourself ahead of the competition in a face to face or digital interview.
1. Be enthusiastic about your former employers. The hiring manager doesn’t identify with the candidate; he identifies with the old boss or old management. Be enthusiastic about where you were and what you were doing, and be as positive as possible about the position and the company.
2. Paint yourself in a positive light. Don't tell grim stories about yourself in interviews-- instead, focus on your successes and achievements, and play down your weaknesses.
3. Demonstrate curiosity about what the hiring manager needs. If you talk too much at the beginning, you may find yourself backtracking further in. Likewise, don't talk about how hard it is to find a job and how long you've been looking-- figure out a way to spin your unemployment positively, such as a sabbatical.
4. Don't be too honest about your weaknesses. Keep your personality flaws to yourself and instead talk about about an accomplishment that was difficult for you (but rewarding) from your previous job.
5. Don't bring up salary too early-- it’s best left for the final stage of negotiations. Early in, don't answer questions about how much money you want to make. If you are asked, try saying, “money is very important to me but at this point in my career, the fit is the primary issue. Toward that end, could we talk about this a bit later on, when we’ve established there’s a good fit?”
6. Be patient. Pestering recruiters and hiring managers too frequently, especially by phone, is a great way to alienate your potential employer. Following up is great. Harassing hiring managers is not.
If you're struggling to get an interview, make sure you're networking-- this is one of the single most important things you can do. More than 50% of jobs are never posted, while eighty percent of jobs are found through networking or direct contact. Once you've got that interview, make sure you're prepared-- it'll be that much easier to knock the ball out of the park and land your next job.