Imagine this: You have had a total of four job interviews with different people in the same company. You’re feeling good and hoping for an offer. At the end of the last interview the hiring manager tells you that you are one of the “finalists” and that he will be making a decision within the next 48 hours. What can you do to break a “tie” in the interviewer’s mind? Unfortunately, with the exception of sending another “thank you” letter that also expresses your interest in the job and highlights several of your strengths, not much.
For everything else, it’s probably too late so let’s start from the beginning. What can you do to prepare to break a tie in the mind of the interviewer?
#1 Start with your resume and cover letter
Both documents are key door openers. They must be error-free, well-written and customized for every job to which you apply. Resumes get interviews; interviews get job offers. Both your resume and cover letter will make an impression before anyone even meets you. Whether that impression is good or bad, these two items represent you on paper. If that impression is good, you will be called for an interview. Sometimes it begins with a telephone-screening interview. If you pass that interview you move on. Your resume and cover letter is part of a package that will go forward with you during the company’s interview process. Everyone who interviews you will see it, evaluate it and judge you because of it. Your resume and cover letter could be a tie-breaker later on in the process.
#2 Your appearance is something you can and cannot control
This means that certain things like your age, height, race, dialect, and ethnic background cannot be changed. However, your appearance in terms of what you wear can be changed and should be a major consideration when it comes to preparing for the interview. Whether you are a man or a woman, unless you are told to dress “business casual,” the rule of thumb is that you should wear a dark-colored suit. You won’t lose a job because you are a bit “over-dressed,” however if you “under-dress” for the interview, it’s over. Your appearance is a definite tie-breaker.
#3 Confidence, or lack there of
No one wants a wimp working for him or her, nor do they want an arrogant, loud-mouthed colleague or direct report. However, you need a certain level of confidence to convince the people with whom you interview that you can tackle anything that needs to be done. Some people exude confidence while others don’t seem to understand how important it is and they fail miserably despite their qualifications. Confidence is a tie-breaker whether you realize it or not.
Enthusiasm is a bit different than confidence, but it is equally as important. Enthusiasm is something we have when we are excited about something such as a potential job opportunity. You can express your enthusiasm by showing interest, listening carefully and asking well thought-out questions. The words you use and the smile on your face along with the energy you exude, is a tie-breaker every time.
Personality includes how comfortable you appear during the interview in answering easy as well as tough questions. It also involves your ability to “connect” on an intellectual level with the interviewer. Keep in mind that questions about your technical expertise should be a “no-brainer” to answer. But how you answer the “tough” behavior-based questions will give the interviewer additional insight into your personality. If you get frustrated or upset because you either don’t know how to answer a question or stumble with your answer, your personality is showing. For example, how would you answer the question: “Can you tell me about a time when you were criticized by your previous supervisor?” This is a “weakness” question; it’s asked to find out how you react when you are criticized. The interviewer will learn a lot about you with a question like this. What if you were asked: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” This question may sound ridiculous, but your personality comes through loud and clear when you answer it. Personality is a HUGE tie-breaker.
#6 The language and words you use
If you slur your words, are difficult to understand, use occasional profanity or use inappropriate language of any kind, you are history unless you are applying for a job as a longshoreman.
#7 What you ask when it’s your turn to ask questions
You need to prepare BEFORE the interview, as many questions as you can think of that will help you make a decision should you be offered the job. You will add to your list after the first interview and before the next interview(s). The questions you choose reveal so much about you that they can be a tie-breaker too.
#8 Your references
Who you choose for references is critical. Most employers want work-related references only so you can skip personal references such as a neighbor, close friend or your doctor. Employers want to speak with people for whom you have worked about what kind of employee you are. It’s also important to coach your references so that they know what you would like them to do. If you have carefully selected references that will say great things about you, you need to take it one step further and call each reference as soon as the employer asks you for your list of references. That’s your signal that the company is getting serious about you. When that happens, call your references immediately and share with them key information about the job and what you would like them to emphasize in relationship to what the employer sees in you. For example, if the employer is attracted to you for your project management experience in the electrical engineering field, make sure your references know how important it will be for them to share your fit for the job based upon your project management experience. A neutral reference can kill your chances for getting the job offer. References can be important tie-breakers.
#9 Sending a thank you
Most job seekers hate writing these letters until they realize that a “thank you” letter can be a tie-breaker for sure. Thank the interviewer for taking time to meet with you and express your enthusiasm for the job for which you interviewed. Re-emphasize your qualifications in relationship to the specific job requirements. And if you were interviewed by more than one person, each should receive a personalized letter of appreciation from you even if that means sending out twenty-seven e-mails.
After the interview you may be asked for some additional information such as references, work samples or a portfolio that represents your work. You may be asked for a copy of your licenses and/or patents. If this happens, be sure to follow through as requested, as this act could also be a tie-breaker in the mind of the interviewer(s).