Many of us have had at least a few jobs in our time. If your last employment change was in the past few years, you may have noticed some rules of the game have drastically altered. On the one hand, technology such as the Internet has made our choice of position, location and employer more varied. On the other hand, the process of capturing that perfect position seems to have become more difficult due to a more competitive and technically savvy pool of applicants.
Once you’ve decided to contact a prospective employer, it seems you need to have not only an answering machine, but your own fax machine, cell phone with voicemail, e-mail address and even a website. After all, most companies don’t want to receive phone calls anymore—they just list a fax number or e-mail address in their ad, or provide a website where you can apply online. If a company does contact you by phone, you have to accept the call, regardless if you’re dripping wet from a shower or eating lunch. Let’s hope the phone companies don’t introduce camera phones anytime soon!
The Formal Interview
You’ve been contacted by the prospective employer. The company liked what it has heard or seen and has invited you to come in for an interview. This could take place at the location of the position or, if the person you are replacing is naive about his pending release, a neutral location.
The meeting is crucial. It is where you are not only going to be judged, but can be the judge yourself. Where does the interviewer meet you? How much time does he spend with you? What types of questions does he ask? What does he tell you about current or previous employees? Finally, what is his attitude like? Does he handle the situation tactfully and, more important, professionally?
Make sure you have the essentials, and you will do fine. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve interviewed someone who came to the meeting unprepared. When an employer is taking time out of his busy schedule, you need to be ready to “wow” him. For starters, have a clean, fresh copy of your resume. This not only shows you understand the importance of such a document, but you have thought enough about the impression it makes to bring it personally instead of faxing it, which can render it illegible.
I recommend wearing clean, comfortable dress clothes. You do not want to dress in a way that is out of the ordinary or uncomfortable, but do not wear sneakers—unless you’re interviewing to be a coach or gym teacher. Do not wear your “Grateful Dead” t-shirt, even if it is Jerry’s birthday. If it’s raining, take your umbrella. It doesn’t impress anyone that you can do the 50-yard dash from your car. In other words, look prepared for anything.
Now you’re in the room with your interviewer and he asks all the traditional questions. But what happens though when he throws you a curve ball? I’ve read and heard such questions as:
- What would you like to see yourself accomplish in our company?
- What would you like to contribute to make us more successful?
- Do you have any questions for us?
This last question is your cue to pull out your prepared list of two or three questions specifically designed for that company, position or location. You can contact the chamber of commerce in your area for information on the business. Go online or to the local library to find industry-specific information. Have something to show you are interested in the company, not just the paycheck. I have asked interviewers questions like: What is your rapport with the competition? Do you have any plans for selling the business or expansion in the near future? How long have you worked here? Have you had a positive experience with this company?
The most important thing is to relax, explore your options and keep a sense of humor. I recently went on an interview of my own. The interviewer asked, “Is there anything we should know before we run the background check/criminal history?” I just smiled and said, “No. I’ve never been caught!” Think I’ll get the job?
Feel free to write to us with your most memorable interview stories. As part of the next column, we will print the best ones. Until then, good luck on the search.
David and Tina Fleming are the founders of Fleming Management Services, which specializes in facility operations, profit maximization and liability management. Mr. Fleming has more than 10 years of practical experience in managing self-storage properties. He is a columnist for Inside Self-Storage, a contributing author to the Self-Storage Telegram and a regular speaker at industry tradeshows. For more information, call 610.724.1002; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.