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Improving Your Chances of Being Hired - Part One

Improving Your Chances of Being Hired - Part One

It can be discouraging when you know you are qualified for jobs, but you don't get them. Why does this happen? Usually it's impossible to know for sure. There is no point in blaming yourself if you aren't hired for a job. However, sometimes it can help to change some simple things about the way you present yourself in interviews.  

Following are six questions to ask yourself about your interview habits. By changing a few details, you might be able to increase your chances of being hired.

1. Does my personal appearance let people know that I care about getting a job? 

Am I clean and well-groomed? Is my clothing neat and clean? Does my clothing fit me properly? Will my clothing or appearance distract the employer from my qualifications as a job candidate?

Tips: You might really care about getting a job, but if you don't look somewhat professional, employers may get the wrong message and think you don't care. Fortunately, there are some pretty clear guidelines for what most employers will want to see.

Show up looking and smelling clean. Don't wear too much jewelry, make up, perfume or after-shave. Teeth, fingernails, and hair should all be clean. Your grooming doesn't have to be glamorous, but it should be neat. Scruffy beards, unplucked nosehairs, messy hair, food on your face, lipstick on your teeth, ragged fingernails and bad breath can all make a poor impression.

Expressions of your originality may distract your potential employer in a negative way. Think about saving unusual personal expression for your personal life, at least until you feel secure in a job. If you want to be hired, a job interview is not the place to express what an unusual person you are. Most employers have strong opinions about what is and is not appropriate to wear in a professional situation. The person who conforms most to the employer's idea of appropriateness is often the person who gets the job. This may seem unfair, and it may even be unfair, but that's the way it is.

The clothing you wear to an interview does not have to be fancy or expensive. Your clothes should be neat, clean, well-fitting, and free from stains and tears. Avoid wearing clothing that people usually wear when they relax at home or when they go to the gym. Sweatpants, work-out clothes, pajama bottoms, worn-out clothing, and pants with waistbands that hang below the waist are all too casual for interviews. Some employers don't like job-seekers to wear jeans to an interview. If casual pants would be appropriate for the job, you can replace jeans with khakis, which are more acceptable in business situations. Some employers don't like to see job applicants wearing t-shirts. Shirts or blouses with collars are better for many situations.  Shoes should be clean and unscuffed. Some employers are uncomfortable with piercings and tattoos. If possible, you may want to take facial piercings out and cover visible tattoos.

The style of your clothes should go along with the job you want. If you are applying for a job as a day care assistant, you can dress in clothing that is practical for working with children. If you are applying for a job as a gardener, you can wear clothing that is practical for taking care of plants.  

It is important to appear professional. This means you should look like you could start doing the job right away. Your clothing should not get in your way, need constant adjustment, or fall off while you are working. In most situations, professional also means modest. Neither men's nor women's clothing should not be so tight, so loose, or so skimpy that it reveals a lot of detail about the body.  

Avoid clothing that has slogans on it or identifies you with particular social or political groups. Your concert t-shirt or that shirt with the funny slogan or political message might be great when you're around your friends. However, your potential employer may pass on hiring you just because of your shirt.


2. Do I leave enough time to get to my job interviews at least fifteen minutes early?

Am I causing myself anxiety by always running late to interviews? Would I feel more relaxed in interviews if I gave myself more time to arrive?  Do I get lost easily? Do I need to plan ahead more? Do I need to look at a map, check public transportation options, or get directions to the interview location?

Tips: Being on time shows respect for the person interviewing you. Employee punctuality is very important to employers. Make sure you know how to get to the interview site so that you don't waste time being lost. Look at maps beforehand, or get directions. If the interview isn't too far away, you might even want to practice traveling to the interview site a day or two in advance.  

It's best to show up to your interview fifteen minutes early so you have time to find the office or interview site, find a restroom, drink water, or fill out any necessary forms. If you don't have enough time to do these things, you may feel uncomfortable and rushed during the interview, and your potential employer may notice your discomfort.  

If something unavoidable happens and you are going to be late, call the employer to let him know. You can say, "I am very sorry. I have run into some difficulty. I will be late to our interview. Will you still be able to see me today, or should we reschedule?"


3. Do I keep the basic information I need for interviews in a way that is easy for me to use during an interview? 

Do I have to rummage around in a bag every time I need to find basic information for interviews? Do I have all my basic interview information written in one place where I can find it easily? Do I bring my own pen and pencil to interviews so I don't have to ask for one? If my interviewer asks me in advance to bring a completed application or résumé, do I have the completed forms with me? Do I have any other items the employer has requested?

Tips:  There is basic information that almost all employers will ask for during job interviews. Know what it is and collect it for yourself. (If you are not sure what this information is, please see the Float Your Boat Lesson entitled "Preparing for an Interview and Talking About Work Experience in an Interview

When you are setting up an interview, make sure you ask the employer if you need to bring anything with you to the interview.

Carry all the information you are likely to need in one folder. Make sure it is easy for you to find and use.  


4.  Do I understand appropriate interview manners, or do I need to brush up on them?

Tips:  Different groups of people have different standards for politeness. In the United States business culture, it is usually considered polite to look directly into people's eyes while speaking to them instead of looking down at the floor or away from them. Also, it is considered polite to speak cleary and to speak up loudly enough to be heard easily.  

When meeting someone new, it is sometimes considered polite for men to shake hands with a firm grip (but not too hard). There is no rule about women shaking hands; they may do so if they like. If you are unsure about whether to shake hands, wait for the interviewer to put his or her hand out first. If the interviewer doesn't extend a hand, just make eye contact and say hello.  

It is considered polite not to stand too close to people or too far away from them when talking to them. A distance of an arm's length away is a comfortable distance for most people. In some professional situations, it is considered rude for a man to wear a hat or cap indoors. Caps and hats should be taken off when men enter a room. It is usually considered rude to chew gum during an interview.

Many people in U.S. business culture are more comfortable interrupting one another than people in other cultures. Many are also more comfortable making jokes and asking personal questions. You don't have to try to interrupt or make jokes just to fit in. You also don't have to answer personal questions that aren't part of the interview. However, it is good to be aware that interviewers may sometimes do these things.

If you have any electronic devices, don't forget to turn it off before your interview. It is considered rude for a job-seeker's phone to ring during an interview. You should definitely not answer your phone, text, or look at any mobile device during your interview.


5. When I really want a job, do I tell my interviewer, or do I keep that to myself? 

Tips: Some employers remember job seekers more clearly when they ask directly for jobs. If you want a job, it is fine to say something like this at the end of an interview: "Thank you for your time. I am very interested in this job, and I hope to hear from you."


6. After I have an interview, do I usually send a follow-up e-mail to thank my interviewer? When I go to interviews, do I make sure to get an e-mail address from the person interviewing me so I can send a note later on?

Tips: Sometimes an interviewer might remember you better if you send a very short e-mail within three days after the interview. The e-mail should thank the interviewer for the interview and let him or her know that you are still interested in the job. It is better to e-mail than to call so that you don't take up more of the interviewer's time. Do not ask the interviewer for anything. Do not try to convince the interviewer to hire you.

Here is an example of what a follow-up e-mail should say:

Dear [name of interviewer]:

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I enjoyed our interview, and am excited about the possibility of working with [name of company]. I hope to hear from you.

[your name]

Good luck, job seekers!

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