Learning Objectives After studying this chapter, you will be able to: Define the purpose of application letters and explain how to apply the AIDA organizational approach to them. Describe the typical sequence of job interviews. Describe briefly what employers look for during an employment interview and preemployment testing. List six tasks you need to complete to prepare for a successful job interview. Explain the three stages of a successful employment interview. Identify the most common employment messages that follow an interview and explain when you would use each one.
Your résumé is the centerpiece of your job search package, but it needs support from several other employment messages, including application letters, job-inquiry letters, application forms, and follow-up notes.
Whenever you submit your résumé, accompany it with a cover, or application, letter to let readers know what you’re sending, why you’re sending it, and how they can benefit from reading it. Always send your résumé and application letter together, because each has a unique job to perform. The purpose of your résumé is to get employers interested enough to contact you for an interview. The purpose of your application letter is to get employers interested enough to read your résumé. Keep your letter straightforward, fact-based, short, upbeat, and professional. Some quick tips for cover letters include the following: Be as clear as possible about the kind of opportunity you seek. Show that you understand the company and the position. Never volunteer salary information unless an employer asks for it. Keep it short—and keep e-mail cover letters even shorter; in just two or three paragraphs, convey how your strengths and character would fit the position. Show some personality; this will help balance the choppy, shorthand style of your résumé. Meticulously check your spelling, mechanics, and grammar; errors will send your message directly to the recycling bin. And be aware that potential employers will treat your e-mail messages every bit as seriously as formal, printed letters.
If you’re sending a solicited application letter (in response to an announced job opening) you’ll know what qualifications the organization is seeking. You’ll also have more competition because hundreds of other job seekers will have seen the listing and may be sending applications too. In some respects, an unsolicited letter (sent to an organization that has not announced an opening) stands a better chance of being read and receiving individualized attention. Both solicited and unsolicited letters present your qualifications similarly. The main difference is in the opening paragraph. In a solicited letter, you need no special attention-getter because you have been invited to apply. In an unsolicited letter, start by capturing the reader's attention and interest. Like your résumé, your application letter is a form of advertising, so organize it as you would a sales letter: Use the AIDA approach, focus on your audience, and emphasize reader benefits. Make sure your style projects confidence. To sell a potential employer on your merits, you must believe in them and sound as though you do.
If your application letter and résumé fail to bring a response within a month or so, follow up with a second letter or e-mail message to let the company know you are still interested. This follow-up also gives you a chance to update your original application with any recent job-related information. Whatever the circumstances, a follow-up message can demonstrate that you’re sincerely interested in working for the organization, persistent in pursuing your goals, and committed to upgrading your skills.
An employment interview is a formal meeting during which both employer and applicant ask questions and exchange information. These meetings have a dual purpose: (1) the organization's main objective is to find the best person available for the job by determining whether the applicant and the organization are a good match, and (2) the applicant's main objective is to find the job best suited to his or her goals and capabilities.
Most employers interview an applicant two or three times before deciding to make a job offer. Applicants often face a sequence of interviews, each with a different purpose. First is the preliminary screening stage, which is generally held on campus and which helps employers screen out unqualified applicants. Interviews at the screening stage are fairly structured, so applicants are often asked roughly the same questions. Your best approach to an interview at the screening stage is to follow the interviewer's lead. The next stage of interviews helps the organization narrow the field a little further. Typically, if you're invited to visit a company, you will talk with several people: a member of the human resources department, one or two potential colleagues, and your potential supervisor. Your best approach during this selection stage of interviews is to show interest in the job, relate your skills and experience to the organization's needs, listen attentively, ask insightful questions, and display enthusiasm. If the interviewers agree that you're a good candidate, you may receive a job offer, either on the spot or a few days later by phone or mail. In other cases, you may be invited back for a final evaluation by a higher-ranking executive who has the authority to make the hiring decision and to decide on your compensation. An underlying objective of the final stage is often to sell you on the advantages of joining the organization.
Organizations use various types of interviews to discover as much as possible about applicants. A structured interview is generally used in the screening stage. Here the employer controls the interview by asking a series of prepared questions in a set order. In contrast, the open-ended interview is less formal and unstructured, with a relaxed format. The interviewer poses broad, open-ended questions and encourages the applicant to talk freely. Some organizations perform group interviews , meeting with several candidates simultaneously to see how they interact. This type of interview is useful for judging interpersonal skills. Perhaps the most unnerving type of interview is the stress interview , which is set up to see how well a candidate handles stressful situations (an important qualification for certain jobs). During a stress interview you might be asked pointed questions designed to irk or unsettle you. You might be subjected to long periods of silence, criticisms of your appearance, deliberate interruptions, and abrupt or even hostile reactions by the interviewer. The video interview is becoming more popular. Many large companies use videoconferencing systems to screen middle-management candidates or to interview new recruits at universities. Another modern twist is the situational interview, in which an interviewer describes a situation and asks, “How would you handle this?”
When it comes down to it, every job has basic qualifications. Employers first look for two things: evidence that a candidate will fit in with the organization and proof that the person can handle a specific job. Most interviewers put a high priority on discovering the basic dimensions of your personality so that they can judge whether you will be compatible with other people in the organization and with the corporate culture in general. Some interviewers believe that personal background indicates how well the candidate will fit in, so they might ask about your interests, hobbies, awareness of world events, and so forth. Beyond your organizational fit, interviewers are likely to consider your personal style as well. You’re likely to impress an employer by being open, enthusiastic, interested, courteous, sincere, willing to learn, positive and self-confident. When you’re invited to interview for a position, the interviewer may already have some idea of whether you have the right qualifications, based on a review of your résumé. But during the interview, you’ll be asked to describe your education and previous jobs in more depth so that the interviewer can determine how well your skills match the requirements. . In many cases, the interviewer will be seeking someone with the flexibility to apply diverse skills in several areas.
Many companies rely on pre-employment testing to determine whether applicants are suited to the job and whether they’ll be worth the expense of hiring and training. Companies use three main procedures: job-skills testing, psychological testing, and drug testing. Job-skills tests. These are the most common type, designed to assess competency or specific abilities needed to perform a job. Integrity tests. You might not think that a test could identify job candidates who are more likely to steal from their employers or commit other ethical or legal infractions, but employers have had some success in using integrity tests. Substance tests. To avoid the increased costs and reduced productivity associated with drug abuse in the workplace (estimated to cost industry some $100 billion a year), many employers require applicants to be tested for drug use. Companies with mandatory testing have found real advantages, including lower accident rates, fewer disability claims, and decreased violence and absenteeism. Nevertheless, some employers prefer not to incur the extra expense to administer drug tests; others consider such tests an invasion of privacy. Personality Profiles. Personality tests can try to assess either general character or suitability for the demands of specific profession. General tests attempt to profile overall intellectual ability, attitudes toward work, interests, and managerial potential as well as such characteristics as dependability, commitment, honesty, and motivation. Background checks. Although not a test in the usual sense, a background check also helps employers learn more about you. A background check might be used to verify the credentials on your résumé, to see how well you manage credit, or even if to learn if you have a criminal history. These investigations can generate considerable controversy, since some people consider them an invasion of privacy. However, many employers believe they have no choice, given the magnitude of the risks they now face. Employers can be held liable for the actions of employees who obtained jobs under false pretenses—and lying on résumés and in interviews has reached epidemic proportions.
Preparation will help you perform better under pressure; moreover, the more prepared you are, the less nervous you'll be about the interviewing process. Be sure to consider any cultural differences when preparing for interviews, and base your approach on what your audience expects. To prepare for a successful interview, learn about the organization, think ahead about questions, bolster your confidence, polish your interview style, plan to look good, and be ready when you arrive.
When planning your employment search, you probably already researched the companies you sent your résumé to. But now that you've been invited for an interview, you'll want to fine-tune your research and brush up on the facts you've collected. Today’s companies expect serious candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the company’s operations, its market, and its strategic and tactical problems. Learning about the organization and the job enables you to show the interviewer just how you will meet the organization's particular needs.
Planning ahead for the interviewer’s questions will help you handle them more confidently and intelligently. Moreover, you will want to prepare insightful questions of your own. Employers usually gear their interview questions to specific organizational needs. You can expect to be asked about your skills, achievements, and goals, as well as about your attitude toward work and school, your relationships with others (work supervisors, colleagues, and fellow students), and occasionally your hobbies and interests.
Before the interview, prepare a list of about a dozen questions you need answered in order to evaluate the organization and the job. Don't limit your questions to those you think will impress the interviewer, or you won't get the information you’ll need to make a wise decision if and when you're offered the job. Here’s a list of some things you might want to find out: Are these my kind of people? Will I enjoy the work? Is the job what I want? Does the job pay what I'm worth? What kind of person would I be working for? What sort of future can I expect with this organization? Rather than bombarding the interviewer with these questions the minute you walk in the room, use a mix of formats to elicit this information. Take your list of questions to the interview on a notepad. If you need to, jot down brief notes during the meeting, and be sure to record answers in more detail afterward. Having a list of questions should impress the interviewer with your organization and thoroughness. It will also show that you're there to evaluate the organization and the job as well as to sell yourself.
By building your confidence, you’ll make a better impression and make the whole process less stressful. Bear in mind that you’re often much more conscious of your limitations than other people are. If some aspect of your appearance or background makes you uneasy, correct it or offset it by emphasizing positive traits such as warmth, wit, intelligence, or charm. Instead of dwelling on your weaknesses, focus on your strengths. Instead of worrying about how you will perform in the interview, focus on how you can help the organization succeed. Remember that all the other candidates for the job are just as nervous as you are. The interviewers may be nervous, too; after all, they’re judged on how well they assess candidates, so help them see your positive qualities clearly.
Competence and confidence are the foundation of your interviewing style, and you can enhance those by giving the interviewer an impression of poise, good manners, and good judgment. You can develop an adept style by staging mock interviews with a friend or using an interview simulator. Pay particular attention to your nonverbal behavior. In the United States, you are more likely to have a successful interview if you maintain eye contact, smile frequently, sit in an attentive position, and use frequent hand gestures. These nonverbal signals convince the interviewer that you’re alert, assertive, dependable, confident, responsible, and energetic. The sound of your voice can also have a major impact on your success in a job interview. If you tend to speak too rapidly, practice speaking more slowly. If your voice sounds too loud or too soft, practice adjusting it. Work on eliminating speech mannerisms such as you know, like, and um , which might make you sound inarticulate.
Physical appearance is important because clothing and grooming reveal something about a candidate's personality and professionalism. When it comes to clothing, the best policy is to dress conservatively. Wear the best-quality clothing you can, but remember that clean and appropriate are far more important than expensive and flashy. Good grooming makes any style of clothing look better. Make sure your clothes are clean and unwrinkled, your shoes unscuffed and well shined, your hair neatly styled and combed, your fingernails clean, and your breath fresh. Make professional appearance and habits a routine part of your day after you land that first job, too. Some students fail to recognize the need to adjust their dress and personal habits when they make the transition to professional life.
Plan to take a small notebook, a pen, a list of the questions you want to ask, two copies of your résumé (protected in a folder), an outline of what you have learned about the organization, and any past correspondence about the position. You may also want to take a small calendar, a transcript of your college grades, a list of references, and a portfolio containing samples of your work, performance reviews, and certificates of achievement. In an era when many people exaggerate their qualifications, visible proof of your abilities carries a lot of weight.
How you handle a particular interview depends on where you stand in the interview process. If you're being interviewed for the first time, your main objective is to differentiate yourself from the many other candidates who are also being screened. Just be sure the trait you accentuate is relevant to the job in question. In addition, you'll want to be prepared in case an employer expects you to demonstrate a particular skill (perhaps problem solving) during the screening interview. If you progress to the initial selection interview, broaden your sales pitch. Instead of telegraphing the &quot;headline,&quot; give the interviewer the whole story. Touch briefly on all your strengths, but explain three or four of your best qualifications in depth. At the same time, probe for information that will help you evaluate the position objectively. As important as it is to get an offer, it's also important to learn whether the job is right for you. If you're asked back for a final visit, your chances of being offered a position are quite good. At this point, you'll talk to a person who has the authority to make an offer and negotiate terms. This individual may have already concluded that your background is right for the job and may be more concerned with sizing up your personality. Both you and the employer need to find out whether there is a good psychological fit. Be honest about your motivations and values. If the interview goes well, your objective should be to clinch the deal on the best possible terms.
Regardless of where you are in the interview process, every interview will proceed through three stages: the warm-up, the question-and-answer session, and the close.
Of the three stages, the warm-up is the most important, even though it may account for only a small fraction of the time you spend in the interview. Psychologists say that 50 percent of an interviewer's decision is made within the first 30 to 60 seconds, and another 25 percent is made within 15 minutes. If you get off to a bad start, it's extremely difficult to turn the interview around. Body language is important at this point. Because you won't have time to say much in the first minute or two, you must sell yourself nonverbally. Begin by using the interviewer's name if you're sure you can pronounce it correctly. If the interviewer extends a hand, respond with a firm but gentle handshake, and wait until you’re asked to be seated. Let the interviewer start the discussion, and listen for cues that tell you what he or she is interested in knowing about you as a potential employee.
Questions and answers will consume the greatest part of the interview. The interviewer will ask you about your qualifications and discuss many of the points mentioned in your résumé. You'll also be asking questions of your own. Let the interviewer lead the conversation, and never answer a question before he or she has finished asking it. Tailor your answers to make a favorable impression. Don't limit yourself to yes or no answers. If you're asked a difficult question, be sure you pause to think before responding. If you periodically ask a question or two from the list you've prepared, you'll not only learn something but also demonstrate your interest. Paying attention when the interviewer speaks can be as important as giving good answers or asking good questions. Listening should make up about half the time you spend in an interview. The interviewer's facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, and posture may tell you the real meaning of what is being said. Be especially aware of how your comments are received. Employers cannot legally discriminate against a job candidate on the basis of race, color, gender, age (from 40 to 70), marital status, religion, national origin, or disability. If you are asked personal questions, how you respond depends on how badly you want the job, how you feel about revealing the information asked for, what you think the interviewer will do with the information, and whether you want to work for a company that asks such questions.
Like the opening, the end of the interview is more important than its duration would indicate. In the last few minutes, you need to evaluate how well you've done. You also need to correct any misconceptions the interviewer might have. You can generally tell when the interviewer is trying to conclude the session. He or she may ask if you have any more questions, sum up the discussion, change position, or indicate with a gesture that the interview is over. When you get the signal, respond promptly, but don't rush. Be sure to thank the interviewer for the opportunity and express an interest in the organization. If you can do so comfortably, try to pin down what will happen next, but don't press for an immediate decision. If you do receive an offer during the interview, you'll naturally want to discuss salary. However, let the interviewer raise the subject. If asked your salary requirements, say that you would expect to receive the standard salary for the job in question. If you don't like the offer, you might try to negotiate, provided you're in a good bargaining position and the organization has the flexibility to accommodate you. If yours is a typical job search, you'll have many interviews before you accept an offer. For that reason, keeping a notebook interview notes can help you refresh your memory of each conversation. As soon as the interview ends, jot down the names and titles of the people you met. Briefly summarize the interviewer's answers to your questions. Then evaluate your performance.
Touching base with the prospective employer after the interview, either by phone or in writing, shows that you really want the job and are determined to get it. The two most common forms of follow-up are the thank-you message and the inquiry. These messages are often handled by letter, but an e-mail or a phone call can be just as effective, particularly if the employer seems to favor a casual, personal style. Express your thanks within two days after the interview, even if you feel you have little chance for the job. Acknowledge the interviewer's time and courtesy, and restate the specific job you're applying for. Convey your continued interest, then ask politely for a decision. Even if the interviewer has said that you are unqualified for the job, a thank-you message may keep the door open. If you're not advised of the interviewer's decision by the promised date or within two weeks, you might make an inquiry. A letter of inquiry is particularly appropriate if you've received a job offer from a second firm and don't want to accept it before you have an answer from the first.
Other types of follow-up messages are sent only in certain cases—letters requesting a time extension, letter of acceptance, letter declining a job offer, and letter of resignation. If you receive a job offer while other interviews are still pending, you'll probably want more time to decide, so write to the offering organization and ask for a time extension. Preface your request with a friendly opening. Ask for more time, stressing your enthusiasm for the organization. Conclude by allowing for a quick decision if your request for additional time is denied. Ask for a prompt reply confirming the time extension if the organization grants it. When you receive a job offer that you want to accept, reply within five days. Begin by accepting the position and expressing thanks. Identify the job that you're accepting. In the next paragraph, cover any necessary details. Conclude by saying that you look forward to reporting for work.
After all your interviews, you may find that you need to write a letter declining a job offer. The bad-news plan is ideally suited to this type of letter. Open warmly, state the reasons for refusing the offer, decline the offer explicitly, and close on a pleasant note, expressing gratitude. If you get a job offer and are currently employed, you can maintain good relations with your current employer by writing a letter of resignation to your immediate supervisor. Follow the bad-news plan, and make the letter sound positive, regardless of how you feel.
This chapter discusses interviewing for employment and following up. You have learned about the typical sequence of interviews: screening, selection, and final. You have also learned about the various types of possible interviews. The chapter covers how to prepare for a job interview by doing some follow-up research, thinking ahead about questions, bolstering your confidence, polishing your interview style, planning to look good, and being ready when you arrive. This chapter also discusses the three parts of any interview: the important warm-up stage, the question-and-answer stage, and the equally important close. You’ve learned about following up after an interview with a thank-you message and perhaps with a letter of inquiry or a request for a time extension.
Applying and Interviewing for Employment
Employment Messages Applications Inquiries Follow-Ups R é sum é Support Documents
Tips for Application Letters Be Clear and Specific Avoid Discussing Salary Show Some Personality Show You Are Informed Keep the Letter Short Aim for High Quality
Types of Application Letters Getting Attention Building Interest Increasing Desire Motivating Action Solicited Unsolicited