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Landing interviews, but no offers

Q: I have been job hunting for over one year, looking for a senior executive assistant or administrative assistant position. I have more than 10+ years of great experience, and have no trouble landing interviews. But no job offers. I've read up on interview skills and feel I do all the right things. I have never doubted my ability to come across well in such situations. I don't know what the problem could be. Any advice or suggestions? Thank you.

A: Congratulations on your persistence. This is an extremely competitive employment market. With Massachusetts unemployment hovering at just over 9%, there are many qualified candidates for each open position. Employers are very selective right now. However, I have heard from more than one employer the same sentiment: “Any one of these candidates could do this job and do it well.”

The fact that you have landed interviews is encouraging. The fact that you had landed interviews means that your resume is probably very impressive. It is likely crisp, easy to read and error-free. This is important. I still receive resumes that are choppy, too dense, are filled with too many confusing fonts. Boston.com has professional advice and tools that help candidates build a strong resume. Visit http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/ for more information.

One additional comment about your resume - you may want to consider using two versions. I would suggest tailoring one more specifically for the administrative assistant role and then using a second version designed to target the executive assistant role. Since they are two distinct jobs, this may help you secure more interviews. Some hiring managers are reluctant to consider candidates that have executive assistant titles in their backgrounds for administrative roles. We don’t want that experience to work against you.

I am also pleased to hear that you have researched interviewing skills. You sound like a serious job hunter. The interview is really designed to get more information about you, the candidate. A talented interviewer will try to learn more about your skills, talents, potential value to the company as well as how you will fit into the culture. Try to conduct a little research on about the opportunity -- about the job, the manager and the company before you ever enter the company. The interview does NOT start when the interviewer says “Hi Sam. Welcome to First Beacon Group. How are you today?” It starts before that point. You should research the company, the culture, their product or service, their competitors and even their strategy. There is so much information available online now; it is much easier to access this information than it was even 10 years ago. If you have a contact or colleague at this company, give this person a call. Don’t know anyone at the company? Check out Linkedin and search for those with current or former connections to the company. Additional knowledge and insight shared by an employee or former employee is valuable.

A couple of interview pointers:

- Be prepared. Arrive a few minutes early. Map out a route beforehand if you have the slightest concern about how to get to your interview destination. Build in extra time if you are concerned about travel time or traffic.
- Bring an extra hard copy of your resume.
- Dress the part. If they are a suit type of place, wear your best suit. It is always better to be a bit overdressed than a bit underdressed. Minimize distractions. This is not the time to wear your flashiest earrings or loudest necklace. You want the focus to be on your skills and experience.
- Be ready to answer the most common interview questions. Provide examples that demonstrate your points. Be succinct, clear and confident. Avoid rambling, long-winded stories.
- Maintain good eye contact and appropriate body language. Be an active listener.
- Avoid bad mouthing former colleagues or employers. This is a turnoff.
- Be gracious throughout the interview but especially at the end of the interview. Thank those that met with you. Offer a firm handshake.
- Remember to make sure that you have demonstrated your value. An employer is like you or me (a consumer) at a department store. Like a consumer, the employer wants to purchase an item (an employee) that can provide value. You need to demonstrate what you bring to the company in terms of value. Is it increased revenue? It is improved efficiency? Is it reduced expenses?
- Send thank you notes or emails to all who met with you. Follow up in a persistent but professional way.

Lastly, interviewing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be improved. Practicing interviewing can enhance your interviewing performance. It will only work to your advantage.

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