Unemployment Is Up: OU Expert Counsels on Job Interview Skills

03 Jun 2011


By Michael Srulie Rosner
International Director — OU Job Board | Employment and Resumé Opportunities

Unemployment numbers released today (Friday, June 3) show that the job market in the United States continues to be weak. The intense competition for jobs means that candidates must be at their very best in their interviews to have a strong chance of success. Under the direction of Michael Srulie Rosner, the OU Job Board has presented a continuing series of programs, many of them online, on developing skills for the job search; OU job fairs have resulted in dozens of placements; and thousands more jobs have been filled from the Job Board’s website, www.oujobs.org.

Here, Mr. Rosner calls on his years of experience to counsel candidates on how to perform in a job interview. As he advises: “Show confidence! Don’t look like you are standing on a railroad track at night as the train approaches or like a deer frozen in headlights in the middle of the road or… you get the idea. Exude confidence and in turn the employer will feel confident that you are ready and able to handle a job.” Here are his suggestions.

I know what you’re thinking! Another boring advice article on the “How-To’s” of today’s job market. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Get to the point already! Cut out the excess verbiage. I need help and I need it now.” You just want the facts! So, here are a few points in regards to the employment process:

• Respond only to jobs you are qualified for. Trust me when I tell you this, an employer will not hire you if you are an accountant responding to a warehouse manager job. Not only are they not impressed, they may get downright nasty. So please don’t waste your time or theirs by responding to jobs you are not qualified for.

• When responding to a job via e-mail or fax, always put the job you are responding to in the subject line. Some employers give you reference or job numbers; put that in your subject line. Chances are if you do not follow this simple rule your resumé will be filed under G (garbage) or S (shredder).

• Always send a brief cover letter accentuating points that are NOT in your resume. A brief cover letter consists of no more than a paragraph or two and no more than three sentences to a paragraph (do not try run-on sentences to stretch the paragraph out; they will notice). Things not mentioned in your resume that may be of interest to the employer such as, “As a conscientious worker, I…” or “I strive to finish a project before its deadline,” should be the main focus. I always like ending a cover letter by saying, “Although my resume gives you the facts of my professional experience it never can substitute for a live interview where my personality can shine through.” You get the idea. Make it your own words.

• To get a job you must become a top-notch salesperson. The product you’re selling? You. If you get a face-to-face interview or a pre-phone call interview, practice what you will say. On a face-to- face dress professionally, make sure you look clean and well-kempt, and more importantly, smile. OK, if you can’t smile — grin, or at the least don’t look sad or about to have a nervous breakdown (even if you feel that way!). It may be hard, but try to be calm and cool. Remember, if you are being called to an interview, they are interested in you. In essence you should train your mind to say, “They need me as much as I need them.” If you repeat that mantra over and over a million or more times (sic), you will come to believe it and it will shine through. Brush off your suit, hat and shoes; don’t wear a dress that is anything but business-like, and easy on the aftershave or perfume. Some of us have allergies!

• Show confidence! Don’t look like you are standing on a railroad track at night as the train approaches or like a deer frozen in headlights in the middle of the road or… you get the idea. Exude confidence and in turn the employer will feel confident that you are ready and able to handle a job.

• When on an interview don’t make small talk or over-explain your capabilities. As a rule of thumb, try to keep all your answers to less than 30 seconds. Don’t be abrupt either, as certain questions require more explanations, but don’t tell the employer your whole life story. Answer to the point. For instance, if an employer asks, “Do you know how to use QuickBooks?” the answer should be “yes” or “no.” Do not say “I am a quick learner or I know how to open the program and look at the computer screen” — that won’t cut it! If you do not know how to actually use the program, you don’t know the program. If you have some training, you can answer, “I know basic Quickbooks and I am in the process of enhancing my knowledge by taking Quickbooks classes.”

• Never, ever lie. Employers check. They check references; they Google; they check credit sources. If you lie, you will be caught and will never get a job at that company. Don’t forget that the person interviewing you knows other colleagues that they have a connection to, and that word spreads.

• Never answer in a combative tone. If your interviewer says they think that Microsoft Outlook is the best thing since sliced bread, and you cringe when you hear that because you may know better, just take a deep breath (quietly to yourself) and smile. Never say, “Are you nuts? There are much better programs out there!”

• Always make eye contact with the person interviewing you. Some people are very uncomfortable with that. However, eye contact does not have to mean staring at the person and never blinking. It has to mean in a given moment you have more eye contact with the person than not. You can look down, but look right back up. If you think that’s a big step for you, practice in front of a mirror. I always say, if looking at you is not scary, then looking at others should be the same. Looking away, glancing at the interviewer’s forehead or having your eyes glaze over is noticed. Really.

• Always enter the room or speak on the phone with exuberance and confidence. Make believe you’re at a party and you meet your good friend to give him the latest updates in your life. That feeling should be generated when you walk into a room or take a phone interview.

• Make sure your resumé is up to date, neat, clean (no coffee stains in the middle of the paper), preferably in a nice folder (spending a few cents on a nice presentation folder will pay back in the long run), and always bring more than one resumé to an interview. You never know.

• Please, before presenting your resumé, review it, spell check it, but be aware that spell check is not necessarily the last word or good enough. “There” and “their” will never show up as an error but means two different things. If you can have your resumé reviewed by a resumé writer, editor or teacher that would be best. Keep all your tenses the same — if you write in the past tense make your resumé uniform.

If we start with these simple and logical rules I am sure you will be in a better place come interview day and beyond. Have a great day and wishing you much success.

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