Back to Career Center Home!10 tips for turning an interview into a job offer photo

In today’s competitive job market, only the best candidates are invited to interview for a job. The average number of people who apply for any given job is 118. Statistically, twenty-percent of those applicants get an interview, but repeatable anecdotal evidence puts the number of interviews over applicants at a much smaller number, usually only 3-4 people, because organizations don’t have time availability to interview more.

Needless to say, then, making the most out of every interview opportunity is essential.  You should approach preparation for your interview just as if you would write a research paper for a class.  The more you prepare, the greater the likelihood of receiving a job offer.

1.  Do Your Homework – It is important that you research the organization, the job you are applying for and the industry standards including median salary for your area.  Looking up the website should be just the start of your sleuthing.  Google their name and see what comes up in the news and anywhere on the internet. Most students don’t read business magazines, newspapers or trade journals, so when you do, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

This includes finding positive or good news and also news highlighting concerns.  You want to know if the company’s stock has been downgraded, or if they are under investigation by the FCC.  It is also helpful, if you know about their successes.  The launch of a new product written up in an industrial or business magazine or online.  By working positive information into the interview conversation, it shows the interviewer(s) that you are interested in them and willing to go the extra mile.

2.  NetworkingExperts report that 70 to 80 percent of the jobs come through people you know.  Networking moves you into the major league of job searching.  Make sure you reach out to college and/or high school alumni, their parents and your parents’ network to find out if anyone they know works there or knows someone who knows someone.  Use your contact lists, and online resources such as LinkedIn to see if you have anyone in your network who might give insight into the company.

Through networking, you can also learn about a company’s culture.  This includes information about turnover, job satisfaction of the employees, favorite managers and if they promote from within. This type of information will not be published in a news or magazine article.

3.  Anticipation – There are countless sources that provide lists of typical interview questions.  After you have reviewed the list, you should find a pattern that shows the most asked questions for interviews.  Don’t assume that you can think quickly and wing it.  Prepare for even the simplest questions and practice your answer.

“Tell me about yourself.” “Tell me about your greatest accomplishments.” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “Share a time you failed and how you responded to the situation.” “Why do you want this job?” “Why this organization?”  Your answers and examples should be well rehearsed and feel natural when you deliver them.

4.  Stand Out Through Your Story - How do you stand out from the other candidates they may be interviewing?  The best way to stand out, is through your story.  You should have 5-7 adaptable stories from your job, school and volunteer experience that you can use to demonstrate your knowledge and transferable skills and how they relate to the job you’re seeking.

Each story should demonstrate how you added value to the job, activity and/or team.  Does the story show how you saved money or increased revenue?  Can you provide examples of where you implemented a new procedure or process?  Can you show increased clients or activity for the business? 

Start with the situation by describing the problem. Then explain what you did to improve the situation and describe the results in quantifiable terms. This demonstrates that you understand the importance and the impact of your personal contributions. These stories should be adaptable for various questions. 

Write down the key points on note cards and practice telling the story in a concise way that provides context, describes the problem and then transitions to how you added value in the situation. It is also helpful if you think of the possible questions that might trigger each story you have prepared. 

5.  Stand Out Through Your Transferable Skills – Be able to translate your skills from your academic, volunteer or extracurricular experiences, as well as any jobs you’ve had, to that job. Lydia Whitney the director of curriculum and instruction at Winning STEP recommends, "The first thing you should do before you look for a new job is assess yourself." Whitney said, "People need to say, 'This is what I did, but what else could I do?' "Show how these experiences have helped to prepare you for the role you’re interviewing for — using words in the job description. For example, if you’re a Psychology major, describe how you managed and promoted a group assignment using your project management, creativity and organizational skills.

Don Tennant, a writer for IT Business Edge explains that employers want to see how resourceful you are when presented with a problem.  If you have demonstrated skills that you have been successful working on a team, and if you can think outside the box.

6.  WIIFM (What’s In It For Me [them]) - Many students too often focus on why they want the job, what they will get out of it, and why it will be good for them. Turn the tables and explain how and why you can and will benefit the organization. Find ways to tactfully mention what they’d gain if they hired you (or how much they’d miss out on if they didn’t).

Ask yourself, “What is the employer looking for?”  You might enter an interview prepared to go through a list of skills and work experience, but interviewers aren’t looking for you to repeat work experience you have already outlined on your resume.  You wouldn’t be invited to interview, if your resume did not demonstrate your qualifications.

The resume gets you the meetingThe interview gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart from other qualified candidates by demonstrating resourcefulness, initiative, creativity, adaptability, drive and integrity. Employers measure your interest in their organization and the job and assess how you will adapt to the corporate culture.

The corporate workplace is more and more a team-driven environment. Culture fit is the foundation of any organization. That’s why it’s a priority when recruiting. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), poor culture fit results in turnover that can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary.  Because of this, organizations are eager to hire people that will fit within a team.

7.  Be Curious – Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  You want to ask questions that help you get a better idea about the company culture.  How do they invest in their employees?  What are the company’s expectations regarding work/life balance?

You can learn a great deal when it is your opportunity to ask questions.  So don’t skip this important time.  It shows the interviewer that you are a serious candidate and that you are trying to see if you would fit in well with the organization.  Strategic questions demonstrate that you have prepared and thought about the position and the company.

There’s a difference between “Tell me about our company’s culture” and “Can you give me an example of a recent decision the company/department had to work through and explain the process used to come to a conclusion? Or, “I read that the organization is changing its strategic direction. How will that affect this business unit?” Avoid questions where answers are on the website or in a press release recently distributed.

8.  Passion- Always close with a statement that makes it clear that you are excited and interested in the job. It is ok to say that you think you would be a great fit for the job/organization.  Allow your voice tone, words and body language to communicate your excitement about the job. Your interest and excitement will significantly impact the decision of the interviewer.   If you don’t, your interviewer will question if you really want the job or if you’re going to be committed to the organization.

Companies want to make the right employee selection the first time.  They don’t want to repeat the hiring process; because it is time consuming and expensive.   If an employer gets the impression that you really have your eye on something else, you will most likely not receive a job offer.

9.  Practice Makes Perfect - Most recent graduates have not had the opportunity to participate in a professional job interview in their field of study.  The expectations of the interviewer and organization is higher than most jobs students have held while attending school.

The biggest mistake you can make is to under prepare or think you are going to wing it.  Remember that you only get one chance – you want to do your best.

Phil Blair, the Executive Officer of Manpower West was recently interviewed by KUSI News.  In his interview, Phil encourages students to take advantage of the coaches on campus in the career center.  Practicing your stories out loud in a mirror or with a mentor or another professional helps to calm the jitters but also helps you get your story down so that it feels natural when telling it.  You don’t want to look like you have memorized your answers.

It’s important to hear the words you intend to speak, including the tone, emphasis, inflections and facial impressions, so that you don’t blow it when it really counts.  Do not hesitate to ask someone to do a mock interview prior to the meeting. 

10.  Gratitude - It is surprising how many interviewers do not know that a thank you note is an essential part of the interview process.  It is important that each member of the interview team receive a thank you note less than 24 hours after the interview. If you can, remind the recipient of a specific conversation you had in the interview. Every interviewer expects a thank you note from each candidate, so no note is a sign of lack of interest and lack of professionalism. In some instances, e-mails are acceptable.  However, if you really want to make an impression, send a neatly hand-written thank you note after the interview.

DO NOT hand out your thank you notes at the end of your interview.  If you were not able to collect the names of each person on the panel, ask the receptionist for their names and titles if appropriate.  If you can, write your thank you note right after the interview and then return and hand deliver them to the receptionist.

Preparation and practice will place you in a position so you are able to comfortably and confidently speak about how you will fit into the interviewer’s organization.  Use specific stories to demonstrate your skills and experience.  Be honest and forthright about your workstyle and what drives you.  Making sure the job opportunity is the right fit.  Think of the interview as the first step to integrating into the organization and the job. 

About the Author: Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching.  In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.

Do You Know Your Networking Style?

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When students first begin college, they may think that obtaining their degree will be enough to have the kind of career they want.

While earning a degree is a huge accomplishment, other factors play a huge role into getting not only the first job, but all jobs after.  Who you know can be a big part of it. How you utilize who you know is an even bigger part of it.

In a National Public Radio interview for, All Things Considered, Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons stated, "At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published.  He further said, "And yet most people — they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances."  Despite these overwhelming odds, it’s amazing how many students spend countless hours sending out blind resumes to online job announcements.

tipping point quote.jpgSuccessful networking is one of those soft skills that pays off exponentially.  Research shows that networking is a great way to land a new job.  It also is vital to staying employed, salary growth, and job satisfaction. 

Before you can successfully network, you have to have a good understanding of your networking and the communication style you are most comfortable with.

Malcom Gladwell, in his book the Tipping Point” identifies three classes of personalities and explains how each network or interact with others.

Connectors are the people who have widespread personal and professional networks.  Their work often involves spreading ideas.   With their wide reaching group of friends and acquaintances, connectors can spread a message rapidly to a receptive audience. Gladwell uses the story of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to demonstrate the role of connectors.

Maven (originally a Yiddish word) is a connoisseur or expert in a subject.  Mavens have a deep understanding in a specific subject area.  Mavens enjoy sharing their knowledge, but more importantly, feel a need to take a deep dive into a subject area. What makes mavens so effective is not their persuasiveness (that falls under the realm of the salesmen), but their extensive understanding of a subject. The information mavens gather is often what connectors spread.

Salesmen specialize in the art of persuasion. These are the people who strive to convince others of "needs" that may or may not exist. They know how to Make It Stick!”  Salesmen are masters at making ideas, products and information simpler and more attractive and memorable. 

How do you tell the difference between a Connector, Maven and a Salesmen? 

People have a bit of each characteristic as part of their personality.  However, there is a place where you feel most comfortable and that often is in the role of Maven.  This role seems to have the least risk because the Maven is speaking from their knowledge base as they make recommendations, suggestions or offer their insight.  This voluntary contribution usually isn’t tied to any required outcome such as a job or career.  Mavens get to choose when, where, and how they engage. 

In contrast, a connector usually has a similar knowledge base as a Maven, but they regularly use this in a business or professional capacity for which they are paid.  It is difficult to become a connector, because it requires the unique ability to understand a person's needs moments after meeting them.  In general, connectors know everyone and everyone knows them. These people build relationships very quickly and with a lot of people. Connectors are highly valuable to any organization. They match people with opportunities and, in doing so, they leave their connections with a positive opinion of them and their abilities.

Since, Gladwell’s book was first published, many social scientists have tried to expand on this concept by developing personality assessments

There’s an interesting article in Harvard Business Review called “How to Build Your Network” by Brian Uzzi and Sharon Dunlap.  The authors analyze leaders’ communication and networking styles, their networking circles and do a comparison contrast that shows how an effective networker can effect change.  Uzzi and Dunlap focus on two characters in the American Revolution.

“On the night of April 18, 1775, two Sons of Liberty raced on horseback from Boston to warn residents that British soldiers were marching toward Lexington and Concord. While Paul Revere rode into history, his fellow rider, William Dawes, galloped into undeserved oblivion.”

Though both men had perilous journeys and made a significant contribution to a poignant time in history, we only remember the actions of Paul Revere.  Little to nothing is mentioned about William Dawes’ journey and his ability to avoid capture by the British during his attempt to warn the masses.  Why then, is Revere remembered for his feat and immortalized in history?  Is it because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere?”  Or, could it be something else in relations to their different networking techniques?  

Uzzi and Dunlap suggest that one of the reasons Paul Revere was so successful in his fateful ride was because he was a “connector.”  Revere had a large social network that bridged different circles. In contrast, Dawes’ social network was less diverse and more inbred.  He knew people who were similar to him and everyone in his network knew each other.

Are you a Paul Revere, or possibly a William Dawes or somewhere in the middle?  Knowing your networking style is the first step to developing a strategy to expand and strengthen your network.  Remember, 80 percent of the people find jobs through networking!  

About the Author: Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching.  In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.

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Great tool for managing nervousness before, during and after interviews too!

Harvard Professor, Psychologist and Author, Amy Cuddy advocates that “Striking a Pose” is a way to shape your emotions rather than your emotions shaping you.  Her recently released book Presenceexpands on the concepts she introduced in her popular 2012 TED Talk, “Your Body Shapes Who You Are”.

She begins by telling her TED Talk audience to “Fake it until you make it.” 

What does that mean?

Cuddy gives us the following example: “When we smile it makes us feel happy, but also when we are forced to smile by holding pen in our teeth - it makes us feel happy.  So it goes both ways.  When it comes to power it also goes both ways.” 

Cuddy’s research on testosterone and cortisol responses show that not only does our minds change our bodies, but it is also possible for our bodies to change our minds.

The study demonstrated that when you pretend to be powerful by using powerful poses you are more likely to feel powerful.  And when you feel more powerful your body chemistry actually changes and you release hormones that reinforce that empowerment.  Thus, our body language is more likely to demonstrate that confidence/power.

How can we develop a practice that creates and reinforces a sense of empowerment, even when we don’t feel it?

Amy Cuddy talks about feeling like an imposter when she first began speaking to large groups.  A mentor told her, “fake it until you make it”.  Cuddy says she did that and eventually the discomfort faded away.  She advocates that we change this mantra to be, “Fake it until we become it.”

How do we “fake it” and then “become it”? Maybe we should go back to our childhood when we didn’t have all the apprehensions and limits placed on us as adults. As children, many of us played dress up, played house or even played school.  We dressed up and pretended to be super hero, police men, cowboys, nurses, princesses and much more. We played as if we were all grown up and dealing with grown up issues.  We created a persona in these roles.

Think it is too far-out for you? Can you think of anyone who has changed their “presence” when having to interact in public venues? 

The first person that comes to mind is Beyoncé.  She has spoken publically about the stage persona, Sasha Fierce in interviews on talk shows, magazine articles and even on her music videos. 

Beyoncé is known for being sexy, seductive and provocative when she performs on stage, but she says that's not really her; that's her alter ego Sasha.

"I wouldn't like Sasha if I met her offstage." Beyoncé told Parade Magazine.  She said Sasha is "too aggressive, too strong, too sassy, too sexy!”

"I'm not like her in real life at all," she said. "I'm not flirtatious and super-confident and fearless like her. What I feel onstage I don't feel anywhere else. It's an out-of-body experience. I created my stage persona to protect myself so that when I go home I don't have to think about what it is I do. Sasha isn't me. The people around me know who I really am."

Beyoncé says that in real life, she is shy and vulnerable. 

Beyoncé isn’t the only artist to have a public or stage persona. Have you ever met any of these of these artists? Kathy Beth Terry, Shawty Mane, Slim Shady, Jo Calderon, The Fireman, Borat, Bruno or Chris Gaines?

Maybe you would know them better by these names: Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, or Eminem (Marshal Mathers).  Or maybe, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Garth Brooks.

Creating a “presence” at times can be beneficial, provided it does not go overboard.

Some of history's most important and distinctive figures have created personas for a vast array of purposes. A good persona/presence can help you visualize and conquer fears of speaking, interacting in and performing in public settings.  Whether you're an amateur superhero inside the body of a mild-mannered self or an artist hoping to protect your vision, a good persona/presence can be vital to helping you achieve your goals.

Visualizing a persona/presence can be a powerful tool for overcoming fears or nervousness about speaking or performing in public. 

The persona/presence allows the artist to step out of the box that is their persona and create a new persona that doesn’t have the limitations placed on them as their first self.  This can be incredibly empowering.  People who use this tool, have been able to accomplish things that are uncomfortable or unnatural to their first self. 

Artists, executives and even everyday people have discovered a simple way to liberate themselves from that feeling so that they can move through their fear to accomplish the goal that is in front of them at that moment.

If you were a super hero who would you be?  What would your super power be?  What “power pose” would you use to trigger the physical response that Cuddy described?  Would you be willing to use this tool to train your body to change your mind?

You can actually make yourself feel more powerful before an important job interview or presentation if you use this technique. Power posing can inspire you to be more authentic, more passionate and more present, Cuddy asserts, thereby enabling you to demonstrate your worth with ease and conviction.

Once you have your power pose down and you have established your “Presence” in a public speaking role, consider how you might use this tool in other areas of your life?

Remember what Amy Cuddy said, “Our bodies change our minds . . . and our minds change our behaviors . . . and our behaviors change our outcomes.”


About the Author: Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching.  In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.

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We have to recognize that social media plays an important role in building our workforce.  That includes both the employer and the job seeker. 

Today, Millennials account for 36 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they will account for 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.  Millennials have grown up texting, tweeting, pinning, posting, following and friending and Gen X and even the Boomers are getting on board.

Given that this group of employees has grown-up actively communicating via myriad social media sites and devices, the use of social media is a workplace trend with staying power for the foreseeable future.

The use of social media, once was a luxury or entertainment.  Today, it is a part of our everyday lives.  Businesses use social media to increase exposure to their brand, sell goods and services and to increase their presence by providing information and expertise in their industry sector.

Additionally, social media is not just for socializing, is being used for a number of humanitarian causes working towards the greater good. 

2016 04 26 09 20 44 Why is social media a must for your job search

Did I say billions?  Yes, Billions!

Edison Research is reporting that in 2008, only 24 percent of people in the United States had social network profiles.  In just eight years, that number has exploded.  2016, statistics show that over 78 percent of Americans have a social network profile.  That is an estimated 185 million Americans using social media – and that number is expected to exceed 200 million by 2020.

According to estimates, the number of worldwide social media users reached 1.96 billion in the beginning of 2016, and is expected to grow to some 2.5 billion by 2018.  Facebook is now the largest platform worldwide and has over 1.5 billion users.   

Today, employers use social media in two ways when hiring.  First to recruit candidates by publicizing job openings. Secondly, to conduct background checks to confirm a candidate’s qualifications for a position.

A 2013 study by the Society for Human Resource Managers, reports that 77 percent of organizations surveyed, reported using social networking sites to recruit potential job candidates, an increase from 56 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2008.

Why do organizations use social networking websites to recruit potential job candidates?

The majority, 80 percent, say the primary reason is the ability to recruit candidates who might not otherwise apply or be contacted by the organization.  Of those organizations, 69 percent use social networking websites to target candidates with a specific set of skills, 67 percent say it helps increase the organization’s brand and 57 percent say that it allow potential candidates to easily contact their organization about employment.

What social networking sites should you use if you are looking for a job?

LinkedInis the most commonly used site for employee recruitment. Of those organizations that use social networking sites for recruitment, the vast majority, 94 percent use LinkedIn. This is followed by Facebook at 54 percent, Twitter at 39 percent, professional or association social networking sites 29 percent.  Less than 10 percent of organizations use sites like Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Foursquare.

Additionally, LinkedIn is the most commonly used social networking site for screening job candidates. Of those organizations that use social networking sites for screening, a large majority, 92 percent use LinkedIn. This is followed by Facebook at 58 percent, Twitter at 31 percent, Google+ is 25 percent, and 14 percent use professional or association social networking sites. Less than 10 percent of organizations use other sites like YouTube, Pinterest, MySpace, and Foursquare.

If you already have a LinkedIn profile, have you taken advantage of all the opportunities available to enhance your brand; or are you making LinkedIn mistakes that could hurt you?  If you aren’t sure, take the LinkedIn Quiz and see how you measure up. 

Need more help?  Consider scheduling an appointment with a career coach or visit the online Career Cove for YouTube tutorials and additional information.

How much does your social media activity play into you getting or not getting a job?

Turns out, a lot! The number of human resource managers that say they have rejected candidates because of information found on social media varies but is high.  One report finds that 70 percent of human resource managers report that they have rejected candidates because of the information they found.

Many job-seekers are finally aware that they should be locking down their privacy settings on Facebook, and even the college seniors have been taught to delete the keg stand photos. However, what if there’s a photo or article floating around that is not flattering? While it’s not always easy to remove something bad, it’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to create your own web presence and boost your rankings.  

Do you know how you stand out online?Online Personal Branding

Consider taking a moment to see what Google is saying about you. 

 Have you ever Googled yourself?

If not, you should, because hiring managers will.  After you are clear about how you show up on the web, you can create a plan to enhance your online brand.

If you still aren’t convinced that social media is a “must” for your job search, then go back and review the statistics.

  • 77 percent of employers use social media to recruit potential job candidates
    • Of those, 94 percent use LinkedIn for recruiting candidates
    • Of those, 92 percent use LinkedIn to screen candidates
  • 70 percent of HR managers’ report that they rejected candidates because of info on the candidates’ social media sites.

Social media should be an important part of your job search plan.  Remember that it provides an opportunity for you to develop your “personal brand” and showcase your accomplishments in an electronic format that potential hiring managers, recruiters and other decision makers can see.  Take advantage of the ability to make contacts and connect with opportunities that might not be listed on job boards.  Finally, utilize the wealth of information available and use it to research industries, companies, and positions of interest.


About the Author: Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching.  In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.