By Dr. Alexandra McDermott Wilcox
Faculty Member, School of Business at American Public University
First in a series, Ask the Experts: Interview with Senior Director of Top 25 Forbes Global 2000 company.
The interview participant asked not to be identified so as to speak candidly. Throughout his career, he has served in various corporate roles from president to general counsel. In those capacities, he has interviewed and hired hundreds of employees and now shares with our readers how they can best position themselves to land the job of their dreams.
Question: I’d like to start by discussing the pre-interview phase of the job search. Is there anything a job candidate should do once he/she receives a job alert about a possible opening with your organization?
Answer: Yes. Look closely at the job description. Do you qualify? Is it interesting? Is this something you can be passionate about every day? Make certain you research what you think the company does. Align your résumé to match the qualifications in the job description. Find someone, anyone, who can offer you a personal recommendation to the hiring manager. If you can’t do that, find someone that can offer you some insights about the company, the manager, the role or even a similar company, manager or role.
Question: What criteria do you use to sift through the piles of résumés you receive for a job opening?
Answer: I discard about 90% of all résumés as being “unqualified” due to a couple of simple things: Lack of punctuation at the end of a sentence. Unmatched headings. Spelling errors. All three of these are deal-breakers for me. And don’t leave off the years you got your degrees. That is a huge red flag that says I’m too old or I’m too young. Embrace your experience.
Question: What are some of the biggest mistakes job candidates do in submitting their résumés?
Answer: Don’t rely on a single touchpoint. Use your resources and connect to someone within the organization. That connection creates a personal touch that always matters. A cover letter is important to frame why you are a good candidate beyond your qualifications. The cover letter makes you a person, shows your passion and gives perspective as to why the interviewer should talk to you.
Question: How should job candidates follow up with your organization after sending in their résumés?
Answer: Try to make a connection, but don’t leave more than one message or more than one e-mail. That may even mean you have to call anonymously (recall *67) until you reach the person you want to talk to. And, please, please, please, have a plan for what you are going to say. Write it down. Practice it in the mirror and out loud. Make certain this is a compelling elevator pitch that is no longer than 20 to 30 seconds.
Question: What advice do you have for a job candidate to make sure he is adequately prepared for the interview?
Answer: Go to the company’s website to understand the products and services your prospective employer provides. Check to see if there are any recent press releases, LinkedIn announcements or Facebook news that you should absolutely know about. And, be conservatively dressed in the interview. Dark suit, shined shoes, collared shirt. You will never regret dressing too conservatively.
In Summary, Here Are The Top Three Things You Can Do to Land an Interview
1. Find ways to get personally connected to the organization.
2. Do your homework and be prepared.
3. Don’t let the lead get cold. Follow up.
About the Author
Dr. Alexandra McDermott Wilcox has 20 years of professional business experience as an executive, attorney and entrepreneur. Alexandra has earned a Juris Doctor, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Global Executive Doctor of Education and a B.A. in English Literature. She has authored many published articles covering business and employment topics, as well as poems in a variety of literary journals.