You don't want just a nibble or an interview -- you want an actual job offer! Get your foot in the door and kick it wide open with these expert tips:
1. Be a great match on paper
"Getting the job offer is often a function of the quality of match between you and the job requirements. That's why your résumé needs to have key words and achievements that are relevant to the specific job," says Catherine Jewell, author of "New Résumé New Career: Get the Job You Want with the Skills and Experience You Already Have."
Scrutinize the job ad for tips on what might be most important to the employer. Ditch the generic résumé in favor of a document tailored to the position at hand, and consider cutting out details that don't contribute to your suitability.
2. Keep your references up to speed
Send a quick e-mail alerting references to the position for which you are applying. "Let them know the specific skills sought after for this job and the strengths you are stressing in your own positioning for this opening so they can support you," says Harvey Mackay, author of "Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You."
3. Do your homework
Candidates who are unable to hold a basic conversation about the company they would like to join appear unprepared and disinterested.
"Do your research on the employer," stresses Julie Rulis, a senior recruiter for Western Union's talent acquisition team. "This goes beyond just looking at the company's website. Review the company's financial statements. Google the company and look for recent news -- and bring it up during your interview. Use social networking to your advantage. Lots of companies these days have Facebook pages or a following on Twitter."
4. Be consistent in multiple interviews
"A foremost reason why companies conduct multiple interviews is to make sure that candidates present a credible and consistent picture of themselves to various members of the team," Mackay says. While the interviewers' questions may or may not differ greatly, be sure that you are accurate in presenting your history (which should match your résumé) and that you continue to play up your relevant strengths throughout the whole hiring process.
5. Ask positive, intelligent questions in the interview
"Candidates appropriately spend the bulk of their time preparing to answer questions they anticipate being asked," Mackay says. "Always be ready to ask two or three questions yourself that show you have studied the company and that you are thinking about the top-of-mind issues that the company is considering."
6. Translate your past into future success
Show your capabilities. Weave real examples from your past into your interview, and quantify production whenever possible ("Sales went up 10 percent after my team implemented ...").
"We find that those professionals who successfully secure employment fully understand the value of their previous contributions and can communicate this from the employer's perspective. They are also able to anticipate and communicate how their proven history of achievement can positively impact a prospective employer," says Jennifer Dunleavy, president of The Accuro Group, a professional services organization based in Cary, N.C.
7. Be specific about the contribution you can make now
You may be dying to know the salary scale or how fast new hires move up. Remember, though, that you need to prove your worth before worrying about these issues. Focus on the position at hand and why you are the candidate best-suited to fill it.
"Companies want a short-term boost from almost everyone they hire. Research and probe in your interview conversations for things the company needs now to ratchet up its performance. Show how you are part of the solution," Mackay says.
8. Be likable
Get the interview off to a good start by being on time. Smile at people you pass. "When it's all said and done, people hire people they like," Jewell says. "Try to relax in the interview and show that you are a likable, fun person. Don't be afraid to laugh."
9. Ask for the job
Leave no doubt in the interviewer's mind about your enthusiasm. Jewell recommends ending the meeting by saying, "I would really like to contribute to this company. I am hoping you select me."
10. Follow up
Finally, don't sit around thinking an employer will call if interested. Keep your name in the forefront by taking a few minutes to convey gratitude for the opportunity and excitement for the company.
"Don't underestimate the power of a thank-you note," Rulis says. "It can really set you apart from the competition."
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