Time is precious, make it count.
While some reviewers don't even look at the cover letters, others consider it equally as important as the resume.
Why? Because it's so easy to get professional help with a resume that it isn't necessarily a true reflection of the candidate's style.
A cover letter that is customized to the position and hiring company is a better indicator of the candidate's written communication ability. That said, your cover letter will receive only a few seconds of attention, so make it easy for the reviewer to zero in on what you want to convey.
As with resumes, there is not one right way to proceed with a cover letter. Our preferred style follows, but by all means, go with whatever is comfortable to you.
With the job description as your guide, list the key elements and requirements of the position.
Match your accomplishments and experience with what the employer is seeking.
One of the peripheral advantages of this method is it forces you to take a hard look at how well you are suited to the position. That doesn't mean you must meet 100% of the requirements with to-die-for accomplishments and experience. But if you are way off base, save your time and energy for another, more realistic effort.
The Process of Working with a Recruiter
Avoid personal references. Supervisors, co-workers and people who reported to you are more meaningful.
Before the interview
We will provide you with information on where, when, and with whom you will meet, or, if it's a phone interview, who you will talk with and when to expect the call.
After the interview
You are requested to call us to give us your feedback, and we will give you feedback from the hiring company as soon as we have it. Sometimes travel schedules make it impossible to talk with our clients immediately following the interview.
This part of the process varies. Some of our clients prefer to call the candidate directly, some prefer that we present the offer.
Some clients require drug tests, some do not. If you are required to take a drug test, you will receive information on where and when to go.
Background checks (DMV, criminal, credit, etc.)
Some clients require background checks, some do not. No background checks conducted by Niles + Associates are made without your written permission.
Resignation from your current position
We do not recommend you resign from your current position until you have received the offer letter, and have signed and returned it. Having said that, not all companies have a formal offer letter; just use sound judgment in timing your resignation.
- An interview is an exploration to evaluate the "fit" between you and the prospective employer. So, try to relax and view it as an opportunity for both of you to gather information.
- You are going into the interview to sell yourself…know what you are selling! Think through your objectives and experience as they relate to the opportunity you are pursuing.
- Try to determine the interviewer’s "hot buttons." Every interviewer has three to five critical factors in mind. If you are working with a recruiter, the recruiter should be able to provide insight in this area.
- Think about the type of culture you are seeking in a company. If it’s conservative and steady, you may not enjoy the atmosphere at small entrepreneurial companies. If you want free-flowing, open dialogue, pay attention to the level of bureaucracy.
- Be prepared to explain how you would go about meeting the challenges of the position. Preparing an outline of activity you would undertake for the first three to six months is an excellent exercise.
- Situational interviews are becoming more and more common. Be prepared with anecdotal examples, but be aware of the perils of talking too much.
- Story-telling is a buzzword that simply means substantiating your accomplishments with examples from your work history. It is effective and valuable. We recommend you practice story-telling by role-playing with family/friends, or using a tape recorder or camcorder to self-critique your presentation. The "story" should flow, not be scripted.
- Be sure you have clear directions to the interview location, allow extra time for traffic problems, and take phone numbers to reach the interviewer and recruiter if you are delayed. There are free map services on the internet, yet it's also a good idea to get directions from the receptionist. We find the internet directions are not always the most direct.
- Be aware of your shortcomings (both general and in relation to the position for which you are interviewing) and think about how you can minimize them, balance them with positive attributes, or present them in a different light to reflect positively.
- Research the company thoroughly (see below).
- Research the company as much as possible before going to the interview. If it’s a private company, information is harder to attain than for a public company. Sources of information include websites, printed literature, publications, articles, annual reports, sales brochures, former and current employees, vendors and clients, etc.
- Definitely visit the company’s web site to get a feel for the culture and gain some hard facts about the company and its products. Be familiar with company products/services, major clients, vendors and competitors, what it is known for, e.g., innovation, and weave that information into the conversation.
- If you do not have a computer and internet access at home, the public library is a great resource. In today’s technical environment, it is important to present yourself as a computer and internet-literate person.
- Do some research on the competition, and learn where the company is positioned in the industry.
- The more you know going in, the better. It demonstrates your diligence, proactive and professional behavior, in addition to your level of interest. Selecting a new employer warrants thoughtful consideration; substantiate that you have done your homework!
- Be prepared with questions about the company and the position (see below)
POSSIBLE AREAS TO EXPLORE
- Critical factors for success
- Expected quantified accomplishments within specific time frames
- Most pressing challenges
- People supervised
- Budget and personal authority for budget and staffing decisions
- Interaction with other departments/parts of the organization
- Priority products to promote
- Projects that need immediate attention
- Desired mix of end-user/distributor calls
- Training/performance reviews
- Training format/location
- For distributor positions, training by manufacturers/in house
- Review frequency, by whom
- Management/employee input in setting objectives
- Position history
- Open through promotion/departure
- Most/least desirable approaches to position in the past
- Work environment
- Culture (innovative/conservative; formal/informal; closed/open door; political/non-political, etc.)
- Individual/team emphasis
- Mentor/buddy system
- Most likely promotional opportunities
- Value of lateral assignments in moving up corporate ladder
- Career development programs
- Management opportunities shrinking/growing over next five years
- Company performance/products
- Have at least three questions demonstrating your knowledge of the company’s financial performance, products, growth plans, recent announcements, etc.
- Important long-term trends affecting the industry and effect on this position (You should already have done substantial research on your own).
- Current industry challenges and plans to meet them
- Short and long-term goals of the company in relation to its position within the industry
- Dress professionally, but do check on the appropriateness of casual attire through the interviewer or recruiter. Although there is a trend back to more formal business attire ("suit and tie"), today's environment is still fairly casual. If the hiring company is casual, you could be perceived as "stiff" if your attire is too formal.
- Dress conservatively! Whether formal business attire or casual business attire, your uniqueness can be conveyed through the conversation.
- Avoid cologne or perfume. Many people today suffer from allergic reactions.
- Women should take an extra pair of hosiery, just in case of a snag en-route!
- Be sure your shoes are shined! We’re serious, especially if you are looking for a sales position, this is important.
- Be sure your nails are manicured. By that we simply mean clean and presentable, nothing fancy required.
- Go to the interview in a clean car! Really, especially if the position includes a company car. You could be asked to drive to lunch, another company site, etc. Even if that isn't remotely possible, you'll feel better!
NON-VERBAL BODY LANGUAGE
- Make eye contact when shaking hands, and make sure the handshake is firm, but not forceful.
- During the interview, be yourself but don’t get too relaxed!. Sit up straight, lean slightly forward, and demonstrate attentiveness. Make eye contact and do not cover or partially cover your mouth with one of your hands. It is possible you do this unconsciously; ask family/friends to observe you and give you feedback. While it may not be so, the gesture suggests lack of confidence and/or dishonesty.
- Do not chew gum, and absolutely do not smoke!
- If the interview includes a meal, do not drink any alcoholic beverages, and be sure you are well-versed in basic table etiquette.
ARRIVING FOR THE INTERVIEW
- Arrive early, and be polite to the receptionist. You should consider the start of the interview process from the moment you walk into the facility where the interview is being conducted.
- If you are going to be late, call to let the interviewer know.
- Be observant, taking in cues about the company from reading material, pictures/documents on the walls, cleanliness, furniture, movements of employees, etc.
- Take several clean copies of your resume, just in case the interviewer doesn’t have his/her copy or you end up meeting with additional people.
- If asked to complete an application, it needs to be completed in its entirety without instructions to refer to your resume. A complete, thorough job with attention to detail will get you off to a good start.
- Take your cues from the interviewer. Pay attention to the personality type of the interviewer. For a factual type of person give factual answers. At Niles + Associates we make every effort to prepare our candidates, letting them know what to expect not only in terms of the job, but personalities of the interviewers.
- Do not try to dominate or control the conversation.
- Try to determine the interview format in advance. Will you meet with several interviewers together, several in succession, or a single interviewer?
- Realize the interviewer may be uncomfortable. Some companies do a stellar job of teaching managers interviewing techniques. But often the manager has had no formal preparation. So accept that some interviewers will not do a good job! For example, the interviewer may talk the whole time, leaving the candidate no opportunity show how he/she could contribute to the company’s goals. If that happens, use the follow up thank-you note to make your points.
- No matter how badly you need/want the job, do not come across as desperate! You are there to learn about the company, just as the interviewer(s) want to learn about you. Both parties must feel a good fit.
- Approach the interview as a opportunity to present your solutions to the company.
- To help yourself be genuine, think of the interview as an effort to determine the if there is a good match between you and the company. Remember, it only works if it’s a win-win.
- Listen carefully and give thoughtful, honest responses. Do not, however, volunteer information that is not requested.
- Beyond knowing that your salary expectations are reasonably in line with those of the company, salary specifics are generally held until strong mutual interest has been established.
- It is within the confines, though, to inquire about how the incentive program is structured, e.g., paid monthly/quarterly/yearly, etc..
- Ensure focus by arranging that you will not be interrupted by phone calls or, if conducting from home, family distractions.
- Have a copy of your resume, references, supporting materials, pencil, etc.
- You will never advance your cause by exhibiting negativism about your current or former employers or co-workers.
- No matter how strongly you may feel you have been mistreated, keep it to yourself lest you be viewed as, at best, a whiner, or worse, a trouble-maker.
- If you are truly interested, ask for the job! Use your own words, but let the interviewer know your level of interest. After expressing your interest and fit for the position, some possibilities include:
- Ask about the next step.
- Ask if the interviewer can envision you in the position.