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Interviewing - What Gives?

Q. After a totally unproductive job search over the last 4 months with no interviews, I took all the job search advice I had read about. I got a new suit, polished my resume, am trying to network, and even have a LinkedIn profile. I have gone from no interviews to having had three this month, but no offers. I got stopped at one phone screen, and 2 first interviews. I can do these jobs – my skills are there. What gives?

A. You have discovered that a casual approach to the job search doesn’t work, and that in this ultra-competitive market you need to impress at every stage. Every aspect of your search needs to differentiate you from every other candidate. The steps you have taken are great to move you ahead in the process. Your network and perhaps LinkedIn profile are finding you the opportunities. Your new resume must be improved if it is getting attention. But the rest of the job search comes to a screeching halt, and many job seekers experience the same issue.

To help you change this pattern, I consulted Susan Goodman, of Goodman HR Partners, a full cycle Human Resources consulting firm. Susan interviews candidates for all roles at all levels of organizations and she finds that otherwise well qualified candidates don't make it past the first round of interviews because they cannot convey what one CEO calls “fire in the belly”. They can’t demonstrate sincere interest and enthusiasm for the role, the company and the product. The best way to be ready to demonstrate your passion for the job is to take the time and effort to do all your homework prior to the interview.

Candidates most likely to be recommended for further interviews are those who are well qualified and well prepared. Goodman says, “A candidate who has thoroughly researched the role, the company, the market and the leadership team has an automatic leg up in the interview.” Preparation might include using your network to speak with employees or customers of the company, looking up the members of the company’s leadership team and the people you will be interviewing with on LinkedIn, and doing a deep review about why you are excited about this position and how you can contribute to the company’s goals. In addition, Goodman recommends that candidates review the job description carefully and consider the key job responsibilities, the commute, the work schedule and the travel requirements prior to interviewing.

It is unproductive and a turn off to interviewers when the candidate is unaware of something that is clearly indicated in the job description. Prepare thoughtful questions that express your interest in finding out more about the job, the company, the competition, and the industry. Don't ask questions that you can easily find answers to on the company website which indicates you did not care enough to adequately prepare for the interview. The people you are talking to are most likely very passionate about their company and product, and when you demonstrate that same level of passion your chances of getting to the offer stage increase significantly.

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