Seven Interview Preparation Strategies

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Interviewing for a job is much more than just showing up and selling yourself. There is a considerable amount of strategy that should be used in preparing for your job interview. Below are seven strategies you can use to help prepare you for your upcoming interview.

Gather Information – Prior to an interview, you will want to research the people, the position, the organization, and the industry.  Try to find out who is on the search committee, who the decision makers are, and who has influence with these decision makers.  Find out why the position is open, what the strengths and weaknesses are within the department, and what problems they face.  You will also want to find out what the duties are of the job and who the position reports to.  This is some of the information you will want to investigate prior to your interview.

Organize Your Findings – You will want to become organized with the information you uncovered including information regarding the organization, the hiring manager, the search committee, and the position.  You will want to find out who is on the search committee, what their backgrounds are, and if you can make any connections with any of them (i.e. similar friends, from the same area, etc.).

When To Interview – If at all possible, try to be the last candidate to interview. This gives you an advantage over the other candidates because you will have the opportunity to leave the final impression on the committee. As time passes, people tend to forget about the previous candidates.  In addition, the longer a search is drawn out, the more antsy candidates tend to get, and quite often, this leads to the other candidates withdrawing their candidacy.

Visit The Interview Site – Once the interview has been scheduled, make sure you familiarize yourself with the location of the interview. This will help to reduce your anxiety and help you to arrive on time. The last thing you want is to be late to an interview because you could not find the location. Be prepared and know where you are going.

Practice Your Answers – A large part of interviewing is being able to effectively communicate the answers to the questions that are being asked by the search committee. This takes practice.  You would not expect an actor in a play to be smooth with their lines if they did not practice, this holds true for an interview.  You need to know which questions will most likely be asked, and you need to practice the answers to these questions.  Knowing your Personal Sales Pitch should assist you with many of these questions.

Know The Job Description – Knowing which questions will be asked during your interview has to do, to a large part, with what the people within the institution want from the position.  Review the job description and know how you meet the qualifications and the duties of the position. Formulate questions based upon the job description and have answers prepared that effectively address each question.

Arriving At The Interview – First impressions are everything. If you are meeting a search committee member prior to the interview, such as being picked up at an airport, view this first meeting as the first stage of the interview. Dress appropriately for the situation and be prepared.

These are seven strategies that you will want to prepare for as you look to ace your upcoming interview – Good Luck! 

Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS! 

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

A Strategically Written Cover Letter is Key To Securing an Interview

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

In last week’s blog we discussed five general types of mistakes to avoid when developing your resume.  This topic received quite a bit of discussion because people generally understand how important an attention-grabbing resume can be.  Just as important, however, is having a strategically written cover letter to compliment your resume.  While the resume is a relatively static document that only changes when you receive more education or gain additional experiences, the cover letter, on the other hand, needs to be adjusted with every new job application.

The constant need to update your cover letter makes this a dynamic document that must be changed, tweaked, adjusted and personalized for every new job application you submit.  You will want to be strategic in your approach if your letter is to be effective.  In particular, you will want to understand the purpose of your cover letter, write the letter so it is specific to the organization and the position, and make sure you follow the IBS format (introduction, body and summary) for creating a strategic cover letter. 

Purpose

Your cover letter and resume are your marketing materials for your job search.  They should be used to sell you as an applicant for the job in which you are applying.  In particular, the purpose of your cover letter is to sell you and prompt the search committee to take a closer look at your resume.  A quality cover letter can catapult you forward in the job search process.  Conversely, a poorly written cover letter can eliminate you from consideration.

Specific

Your cover letter needs to be personalized and written preferably to the hiring manager or to the search committee.  Do not address your letter to “To Whom it May Concern.”  If the job announcement doesn’t specifically identify who the hiring person is or the chair of the search committee, you will need to do your homework and find out whom you should address your cover letter to.  This could include addressing your application materials to the athletic director (or the person who the position reports to), the HR manager, or even the search committee – but never “to whom it may concern.”

Your cover letter should be written in a way that introduces you and your resume to the hiring manager or the search committee.  It should tell them who you are, how you are qualified for the position, any applicable accomplishments you have, and why you are a good fit for the position.  More specifically, you will want to make sure you address how you meet each of the qualifications listed on the job description.

Format 

Your cover letter should not be any longer than 1 1/3 pages of 12-point font.  Preferably, you should try to limit your cover letter to one page if at all possible.  But don’t try to squeeze your letter on to one page by using 10-point font.  This font is too small and most people won’t continue to read your letter.  If they stop reading your materials you have just been eliminated from the candidate pool.

Make sure you follow the IBS format for writing a cover letter.  This includes having a minimum of three paragraphs and a maximum of five.  The first paragraph is considered an introduction and it tells the search committee which job you are applying for and what actions you are taking to apply for the job.   

Following the introduction is the body of the letter.  The body will range between one and three paragraphs in length.  It is designed to show the search committee how you meet the qualifications for the position (education and experience); what strengths, abilities, and traits you possess; and what accomplishments you have achieved in a similar position.  The final paragraph is a summary of your interest in the job and explains why you are a good fit for the position. 

A well-crafted cover letter will aid in the sale of you as an applicant.  If properly prepared, the cover letter will prompt the search committee to want to take a closer look at your resume and will get you one step closer to the coveted interview.  Therefore, in order to move your candidacy from the application process to the interview stage, it is extremely important that you have a properly formatted resume that is complimented with a strategically written cover letter.  These are essential elements that are necessary for receiving an interview.

Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS! 

 

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

 

Five Common Resume Mistakes

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Steve was discouraged because he hadn’t received any interviews from the dozens of applications he had submitted.  To help him in the job search process, a colleague in the athletics department suggested two books Steve should read to brush up on his job search skills and techniques.  As Steve was reading through these materials, he saw a topic that caught his eye entitled “Five Common Resume Mistakes.”  The article suggested that many of the errors people make on their resume includes one of the following five broad mistakes:

Not using the proper format – A resume is read from top of the page down the left margin.  Information you want the reader to see needs to be included in this area.  A resume needs plenty of white space so the information jumps out at the reader.  Be strategic on the use of bold, underlining, and italicized words.  Don’t use too much of these specialized formatting techniques or they will lose their effect and your resume will look awful.  The font type and size needs to be legible – too many people use fonts sizes that are too small.  Also, keep in mind that bulleted information is much easier to read than information written in paragraph form.  Finally, remember that your resume is a sales tool.  The reader will initially scan a resume in 10-15 seconds and the format is critical in order to show off your skills and accomplishments.

Inappropriate length – Too many people suggest that job hunters should limit their resume to one page.  I disagree with this advice.  Instead, a resume should be long enough to sell you.  It should effectively highlight your skills and accomplishments.  A resume that is limited to one page makes you appear too inexperienced and that you don’t have anything to offer the employer.   However, don’t make stuff up just so you can extend the length of your resume.  Conversely, don’t make your resume too long.  Try to limit your resume to no more than 3-4 pages.  Don’t confuse your resume with a curriculum vita.  A CV is used when you apply for a faculty position at a college or university.  It is not appropriate to use a CV when applying for non-faculty positions.

Contact Information – Make sure you use an e-mail address or phone number that you check on a regular basis.  Don’t use contact information that you don’t check on a daily basis or consistently when you’re out of the office or on vacation.

Sending a resume in the wrong format – While it is important to apply for jobs in a timely manner, it’s not a race.  The first resume to arrive doesn’t win the job.  Therefore, take your time and make sure your resume is perfect before sending it to the employer.  In most cases it is best to mail the resume to the employer.  This is so you can control the way it appears when the employer receives it.  In other words you can control the way it looks and you can control the type of paper it is printed on.  If you’re sending it electronically, it is best to send it in a pdf file if you can.  This is because a pdf file is a picture and it prints out the way it appeared when you saved the document.  Too many times a document will change from how it looks on your computer and how it appears on somebody else’s computer.  You can’t take chances on the way your resume looks and you need to be able to control its appearance as much as possible. 

Misspelled words – Again, take your time and produce an error-free resume.  It might not be important to be the first applicant, but it is important that your resume is perfect.  Most resumes that include a typo or misspelled words will be eliminated immediately.  Competition for jobs is just too keen and employers have too many applicants who present themselves in a professional manner

Quite often when a job opens up within a college athletic department there will be more than 100 or even 200 applicants.  With so many applicants, you need to make sure your resume is perfect and error-free.  The key to getting the job is knowing the basic fundamental skills that are associated with each stage of the job search process and that you effectively perform each of these skills to the best of your ability.  In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS! 

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.