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Posted: May 29, 2012

Nine ways to stand out from the job-hungry crowd

Top tips for acing the interview

John Heckers

Anyone who is looking for a job knows that it is brutal out there. Most economists agree that it is not likely to get better for the near future. For each position open there are five or more qualified people out there. If you are lucky or skilled enough to actually obtain an interview for one of these positions, you need to stand out from the other candidates. Here are a few tips on how to do so.

1). Research the company thoroughly. Those who know a great deal about the company they're interviewing with are much more likely to know what to say in answer to the killer interview questions. Researching a company used to be very difficult, but, with the internet, there is very little you cannot find out about a company or person. As always, expect a bit of negative and, if it isn't overwhelming, ignore it. No person and no company pleases everyone. But dig for all information possible on revenues, plans, executive staff, locations, and so on. Print a great deal of this research out and carry it with you in your briefcase.

2). When asked what you know about the company, pull out your research. Just make sure you've actually studied the research, of course. State that you extensively researched the company and have compiled a file, with a list of vital items. You can then read a synopsis of your research. This shows that you are prepared, take the job seriously, and will perform similarly when hired.

3). Prepare a list of intelligent questions for the interviewer. "So, dude, how many vacay days do I get?" is not a good question! Have your questions show that you know the company, your skills, and where the company is going.

4). Be very careful with your questions! But asking a question that is too aggressive or too low-level can destroy any good you did with your interview answers. I've posted a short list of no-no questions here for you to study. Here, I've posted a partial list of some good questions to ask. I hope these help.

5). Answer the killer questions. The worst killer question is "Tell me about yourself." Most people give a career or personal history. Both are usually a mistake. Unless asked to synopsize your career or tell about yourself personally, it is best to tell some stories showcasing your accomplishments.

6). Don't evade the salary question. Folks, you can't play games with this one. Tell your prospective employer honestly and precisely what you were making, including bonuses, commissions, equity, etc. Then indicate that you realize times have changed, and will consider their best offer.

7). If asked what it will take to get you on board, answer. This is another one everyone wants to play games with because they are worried if they state too high, they won't get the job, but if they state too low, they'll be lowballed on salary. Not true. Most larger companies have a range they can offer you, but will probably offer very close to the midrange, regardless of what you say. Most smaller companies will negotiate. My advice is to quote close to the lowest salary you can take and still pay your bills. You're not going to be at all happy if you can't pay your bills, and will leave soon. But you might consider downsizing an exorbitant lifestyle and living more simply. Doing so will open new career vistas for you, and take a great deal of stress off of you.

8). Don't be evasive in your answers. For heaven's sake, if you're asked a question, answer it! Don't play games, don't evade and don't try to be cute. While you should carefully frame answers to killer questions, an interviewer will pick up lies and evasions. There are effective ways to answer almost any question, even if you were fired for cause.

9). Send a hand-written thank you note to each interviewer before you go home. Stop at a coffee shop and write out, in your best cursive, hand-written thank-you notes, Make each one different, but state clearly (but humbly) why you deserve the job. Mail them at the nearest mailbox (until the post office goes out of business) before you go home.

Nothing can guarantee an offer. But these tips have worked well over the years for my executive clients. Good luck on your interview.


John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Cassie --- this is too big of a question to answer here. Please feel free to call me at 720.581.4301, any day after about noon. No charge and I'll be happy to talk to you. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 10 04
While your tips work well for job interviews, I could use some helpful interviewing tips for securing independent contracts for outsourced positions (especially with nonprofit organizations). By Cassie Jones on 2011 10 04
Life is full of choices and reasons NOT to do something and you seem to find the reasons not to act. Moving may be critical and should be considered. Not all areas of this country have the same unemployment. By John Wray on 2011 10 03
Many people cannot move and the jobs that executives have aren't going to be in the corn fields (or oil fields) of the rural areas of CO. Most of my management and executive people are quite willing to move to whatever major city they need to, though some are anchored here for very valid family reasons, such as taking care of elderly parents, or the jobs of their spouses. The world is rarely black and white, though some seem to think that it is. The differing needs of people are many, and not everyone can live in a black and white simplistic world. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 09 21
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