How and why to sweat the small stuff
Here are 10 small steps you shouldn't overlook:
1. Cross your t's. You wouldn't think it's a huge deal to misplace an apostrophe or confuse "effect" with "affect." After all, everyone makes these types of mistakes. The truth is that a single résumé typo can knock you out of contention. Regardless of the job you want, demonstrating attention to detail is critical. Proofread diligently, run spell-check and ask the biggest grammar geek you know to review your work.
2. Stick to the facts. Most people wouldn't dream of putting a boldfaced lie in their application materials, but a pinch of résumé padding can't hurt, right? Wrong. The tiniest of half-truths can prove costly if it's discovered during a background and reference check, which more employers are doing. Don't give a hiring manager any reason to question your integrity.
3. Avoid ambiguity. Review your résumé and cover letter to make sure you're presenting the clearest picture possible. Fuzzy phrases such as "participated in" are red flags. That's because plenty of job hunters use vague wording to obscure a lack of in-depth knowledge or experience in a particular area. When describing your work history and expertise, be as specific as possible.
4. Recognize when the job interview really starts. The evaluation process begins the second you set foot on company grounds. Be friendly and courteous to everyone you encounter; you never know who has the boss's ear. For example, six out of 10 executives we polled said they consider their assistant's opinion important when evaluating potential new hires. Help your cause by displaying excellent etiquette and making small talk, as appropriate.
5. Keep it real. While you should prepare for a job interview, you don't want to come across as an overly rehearsed robot. Employers are looking for insights into the real you, not a series of canned answers brimming with clichéd buzzwords. What does "I optimize value-added solutions" mean anyway?
Highlight your technical abilities and contributions to the bottom line, but also share anecdotes emphasizing your ability to work well with others. Cultural fit is a key consideration for employers.
6. Go with the flow. Take your conversational cues from the interviewer. Some hiring managers are all business, while others enjoy a little chitchat. Be adaptable and follow his lead.
7. Watch more than your words. It's not just what you say in an interview but also how you say it. Showcase your confidence and engagement by smiling, maintaining eye contact, projecting your voice and having good posture. Nervously tapping your foot, rocking in your seat, slouching, talking too fast and checking your watch can signal discomfort, disinterest or both.
8. Name names. If a hiring manager takes you on a tour of the office and introduces you to would-be colleagues, greet each individual with enthusiasm. It's a great way to quickly establish rapport. Saying, "It's so nice to meet you, Martin!" makes a far better impression than, "Hey there." Plus, stating the person's name helps you commit it to memory.
9. Put pen to paper. Manners still matter. Send a thank-you note to the hiring manager within a day or two of your interview. An email will suffice, but there's nothing quite as classy as a handwritten card. Express your appreciation for the opportunity, reassert your interest in the job and recap your top selling points. Write a thank-you note to each person you met with at length.
10. Help your references help you. Lining up the right professional references is only half the battle. Touch base periodically to keep your allies apprised of the jobs for which you're applying. If you know a particular employer is likely to make contact, give your references a heads up so they can prepare. Offer an updated copy of your résumé and mention the skills and attributes the job requires. The more notice and information you give your references, the more help they'll be.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/dont-let-this-happen-to-you or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.
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