Don’t Just Land Your Next Interview…Ace it
When you are looking for a job, your goal is to land an interview for the job you applied to. Getting in front of the hiring manager and letting them know who you are and what you can do is key to success in a job search.
Below Kinsa Group’s recruiters provide tips on what steps you should take to get that interview. And while resumes and cover letters can get you interviews, it’s the interviews that can get you a job. If you land an interview, your goal must be to ACE it and get that job offer! We are sharing tips on how to both land and ace your next interview below:
- Updating a Resume
- Writing a Cover Letter
- How to Ace an Initial Interview with HR
- How to Ace an Interview with the New Boss
- How to Prepare for a Video Interview
- The “So What?” Technique
Updating a Resume
Before you begin looking for a new job, take a look at your resume. Food and beverage industry recruiters and headhunters, and corporate talent acquisition professionals sift through dozens of resumes every time they have a new job opening. You want your resume to stand out – to provide the best first impression of you and your skills in order to land that coveted interview.
- You should optimize your resume for the job you are applying to. A resume should tell a story about your career and your accomplishments, but it should also be aligned with the job you’re applying for. We have a more specific blog series on how to optimize your resume. When writing your resume, make sure to highlight these types of specific details and accomplishments. Take a look at your resume and see if it matches up with each bullet point on the job description. If not, update your information and make it easy for anyone to see how qualified you are for the job.
- Next, form your resume as the solution to the company’s potential problem areas. Think of a job posting as a company’s way of listing all the ways they need help. If the job description aligns with your resume, it could be a good match on both sides. With the applicant pool being so competitive, you must find a way to market yourself above the rest. Check out our blog on how to stand out with a strong food & beverage resume. Look at the problems the company has on the job description and think of all the ways you can solve them and be sure those details are in your resume.
- Lastly, think of your resume as a first impression. This is the easy stuff that a lot of people forget about. Take the extra time to represent yourself in the best light, yet be concise. Your resume should be packed with your accomplishments, yet simple to read through.
- Ask yourself these questions before finalizing your resume:
- Is there any spelling or grammatical errors? (These are sure to get your resume thrown out in a competitive market.)
- Is the font consistent throughout your resume?
- Does the format look good? (i.e. spacing, use of bold or bullet points, punctuation, etc.)
- How does it look overall?
Writing a Cover Letter
A cover letter is a one-page document (or email introduction) that you submit as part of your job application (alongside your CV or Resume). Its purpose is to introduce you and briefly summarize your professional background, especially as it compares to any specific job opening you’re applying to. On average, your cover letter should be from 250 to 400 words long. A good cover letter should spark the HR manager’s interest and get them to read your resume.
A bad cover letter, on the other hand, might mean that your application is going directly to the trash bin. So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s essential to know how to write a convincing cover letter. See Cover Letter Samples here.
- Find the hiring manager. While it’s smart to apply via the traditional route listed in the posting (with a traditional cover letter), don’t stop there. Do some research on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, or the organization’s website to find out the name of your potential new boss.
- Grab the reader’s attention. Set yourself apart from the first sentence. Instead of leading with the standard, “I came across your job posting…” start by acknowledging a recent accomplishment or newsworthy item you found about the company, the hiring manager, or their department. Don’t worry if the introduction isn’t directly related to the position you want; the idea is to capture the reader’s attention in a positive way, indicating you’ve done your research about the company.
- Identify the pain. Read between the lines when you see an intriguing job posting, looking beyond the essential requirements. Think about the business pain that’s driving the need for the ad. Is the organization growing rapidly? Dealing with talent or skills shortages in their market? Facing quality or distribution challenges? Threatened by new competition in their product category? Tap your network, review the organization’s press releases and search for recent news about the organization, products, and key decision-makers. Once you’ve identified the likely pain, name it. Empathize with it. Then explain what you bring to the table.
- Tell a good (true) story. Give the hiring manager a taste of what you can really do. Review your measurable accomplishments to find an example of how you solved a problem similar to one the prospective employer may be facing. If none exists, explain how you can use your skills and experience to address the business challenges the hiring manager is currently experiencing.
- Keep the focus where it belongs. Write more about the hiring manager’s issues and less about your own skills and competencies. Skip the buzzwords and pat phrases like, “I’m a motivated, results-oriented professional.” The hiring manager can get specifics about your qualifications from your resume if he needs them.
- Close strong. End your letter with a one-sentence paragraph that expresses your interest in the position and clearly explains the next steps you will take.
How to Ace an Initial Interview with HR
You got an interview! Now you need to prepare for the first-round interview with the human resources department representative.
Landing the first-round interview is a huge accomplishment in your job search process. Overall, it means that you did something right when it comes to the application process. For instance, your resume was on-point, your experience is on-track, and your cover letter was well-written. But now it’s time to interview and prove that you are what they are looking for!
A first-round interview is usually done over the phone or by video call. It’s a screen that you have to pass in order to be truly considered for the job. It has its own set of best practices and precautions that should be acknowledged in order to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Here are seven initial interview tips for snagging that second-round spot:
1. Prepare answers for these three common interview questions
There are certain questions that every interviewer will ask in one form or another, so you have to be ready to answer them regardless of which career path you’re trying to enter. The good news is, if you’re a great candidate for the job, coming up with an answer that will impress your interviewer should be easy.
These questions are:
- Why are you interested in this role?
- What are your strengths?
- Why do you want to work at this company in particular?
2. Next, exemplify that you have done your research.
There are three things you really need to learn about before your interview:
- Learn about the company’s business and history. You should know what the business does (obviously) and how it started. Make note of things like acquisitions, major turning points, and the biggest wins (and losses) in its history. This kind of information can come in handy and—more important—is not something you want to be caught off-guard without.
- Learn about your potential role. Understanding the business means understanding what you would add to the business. Thoroughly read the job description. After that, search the name of the role plus the name of the company to get more example-based definitions of the position. This will greatly inform your answers in regard to strengths, fit, and what you hope to gain.
- Check the news. When was the last time the company made the news? You probably won’t want to bring up any scandals or PR disasters. But showing them that you not only keep abreast of current affairs but also have an eye on the company is a great opportunity to shine.
How are you going to show them you’ve done the work? Let the research inform your answers. It’s okay to be explicit and say, “For example, in my research, I learned…” They don’t expect you to be a lifelong expert on the company, just someone who can do their homework when they’re called upon.
3. Express enthusiasm and gratitude throughout the entire interview.
Already by applying, you’ve shown some interest in the position. However, to prove to the interviewer that this isn’t “just another job” to you, make sure to sound engaged, enthusiastic, and grateful for the interviewer’s time and consideration. This is especially important over the phone, where your interviewer’s only impression of your attitude is the sound of your voice.
If you’re nervous, you should answer the phone with a happy, “Hi, this is ____.” rather than just a “Hey!” or “Hello.” Next, listen closely to what the interviewer says, thank them for their time, and be sure you’re showing your enthusiasm with thoughtful answers. It’s better to be over-enthusiastic than not at all!
4. Lastly, have a notepad and printed version of your resume in front of you.
How to Ace an Interview with the New Boss
A lot of the fundamentals of job hunting have changed in the last 25 years. Certainly, the internet has had a huge impact on how you conduct your search. But a successful search will still end with an interview, because interviews are what get you hired. Interviewing skills remain a cornerstone of a successful search for employment, and the rules have remained pretty consistent. It all boils down to asking the right questions and giving the right answers.
Let’s start with three questions you can pretty much expect to encounter, and how best to respond.
Who Are You?
- First is some variation on “tell me about yourself.” Interestingly, even though it’s probably the single most common interview question, a lot of job seekers seem completely unprepared for it. The simple key to answering this question is to remember the “question behind this question:” why should we hire you? In other words, what makes you different than other people with similar qualifications? (And keep it work-related; the interviewer is not asking for your personal information that isn’t necessary to do the job.)
What’s Your Biggest Weakness?
- A lot of people (interviewers and interviewees) dislike this question, but it remains common. First, the two worst ways to answer the question are to deny having any weaknesses or to present strength as if it’s a weakness. (Interviewers’ #1 pet peeve answer: “I’m just too much of a perfectionist.”)
- The simple key here is to volunteer something that 1. is true, 2. is relevant to work, and 3. is not something that would have a huge impact on your job performance. Also, try to answer it in such a way that you address how you have worked to overcome the weakness, and perhaps even turned it into a success story.
What’s Your Career History?
- If you have any short-term job stints on your resume, be prepared to talk about them, especially if there’s a pattern of short gigs. There aren’t really any cut-and-dried rules about the explanations you offer, but try to keep an employer’s perspective in mind. They don’t want to hear complaints about former bosses or employers. They will be understandably concerned if it looks like you jump any time someone offers you more money. And they will be suspicious of answers that don’t really seem to make sense or be good enough reasons to quit a job.
- In contrast, there are answers that demonstrate qualities employers like, such as the desire for professional growth. And there are answers that really can’t be questioned, such as “the company went out of business,” or “I had to move back to Chicago for family reasons.”
Questions to Ask.
Many interviewers place more stock in the questions you ask than the answers you give. Here are some great questions that will set you apart and help you better understand the job and the company:
- What does success look like 90 days out? 6 months out? A year out?
- What are the “soft skills” that will help me succeed in this role?
- Tell me about the company’s culture.
- What is it that you personally like best about working here?
- How is your company adapting to the latest trends? (Be prepared to identify specific trends if they ask for more details!)
- What does the rest of your hiring process look like?
Additional tips about your questions and your answers in interviews.
- When answering a question, it can be difficult to gauge how much detail the interviewer wants. Err on the side of brevity. You can always end with “I can go into more detail if you like.” (Just don’t repeat that too many times throughout the interview.)
- Always save at least one really good question for the end of the interview. Usually, one of the wrap-up steps involves the interviewer asking if you have any questions. Even if you have been asking good questions all along if you say “no, I think you have answered them all,” the interviewer’s final thought may be “hmmm… no questions.”
- Anytime you can answer a question with a story that illustrates the answer to the question, do so. If about your communication skills, demonstrate your communication skills by sharing an example of a time when your verbal and writing skills helped you resolve a serious problem at work.
- When you ask questions, it’s always good to take notes as the interviewer responds. It makes a positive impression. Plus, your notes can help you remember ideas that seem to be important to them, and useful for any future interviews or responses.
How to Prepare for a Video interview
- Set Up Your Video Interview Tech Station. While most laptops sold over the past 5-10 years feature a built-in webcam, you definitely need to make sure yours has one before you do anything else. If your computer does not have one, you can buy an inexpensive external webcam or be prepared to use your mobile phone for the video interview. Check your camera with the chosen app prior to the interview to make sure it works properly and no additional downloads are needed. Additionally, test your camera and internet connection from the intended site of your interview in advance to make sure you are up and running with no possible technical difficulties in sight.
Charge it up. Whether you’re using a laptop, phone or tablet, make sure it’s fully charged on the day of the interview. And pick a spot that has strong Wi-Fi. If you’re using a phone or tablet, plan to prop it up to keep it stationary. Otherwise, the screen may appear shaky if you’re holding the device.
Dress for success. Dress as you would for an in-person interview — from head to toe. Doing so will make you feel more prepared and confident. Don’t try the old newscaster trick of wearing a blazer with sweatpants assuming you’ll only be seen from the waist up (you never know). Also, avoid wearing bright, flashy colors, and choose something that looks neatly pressed while you’re sitting down. Wear your video interview outfit during your trial run so you can get feedback from your friend or family member about how it looks onscreen.
Remove Distractions from the Room. Whether you love massive posters of classic cars or you collect antiques, it is best to avoid sharing those interests in the background of your video interview. Either choose a location clear of distracting items or temporarily remove them.
- Maintain good eye contact and body language. It’s easier for your eyes to wander when the person you’re talking to isn’t in the room. Maintain virtual eye contact by looking directly into the camera instead of at the screen or at your own photo. Make sure your face is centered and try not to move around too much. Keep good posture, sitting with your back straight, feet on the ground, and arms resting in your lap or on the desk.
When in Doubt…Use the “So What?” Technique
Writing resumes and answering questions in job interviews can be challenging, for many of the same reasons. What do you say? And how best to say it?
There’s a simple technique we have found very effective. At first, it may sound kind of harsh, but it really isn’t. Anything you consider adding to your resume, and any answer you provide during an interview, should pass the “so what?” test. By this, we mean two things.
- The first “so what?” refers to: is this really meaningful information? Worthy of space on a resume or time in an interview? We recently received a resume for a Manager whose resume included “Attend all meetings punctually.” That’s great, but it’s kind of a given. Your resume (and your interviews) are where you share information that distinguishes you from your competitors, not just how you meet basic job requirements. So, do yourself a favor and set the bar high when you volunteer information.
- The second “so what?” may be even more important. It’s the “why” behind the “what.” This may be best explained via examples. Rather than just saying “Implemented a new ERP system,” how about going on to explain “which reduced rework by 15%, streamlined fulfillment time by 23%, and led to a 12% increase in on-time deliveries.” Or, instead of saying “revised Managerial training program,” it would definitely add some mojo to add “which increased retention by 11%, garnered kudos from employees as well as managers, and won an employee of the quarter award as a result.”
Resumes can get you interviews, and interviews can get you a job. Hopefully, you can leverage the “so what” technique to achieve both!
Kinsa Group’s recruiters and our broad network of food industry executives are always looking for top talent and we’d like to help you find the best opportunity to match your skills. View our open jobs. Don’t see anything that catches your eye? Submit your resume below and our recruiters will reach out as new roles open up!