The Ultimate Guide To Landing Your Next Job Interview
How to have an eye-catching resume, land more interviews and properly prepare for them.
As a recruiter and career consultant, over 70% of my time is spent interviewing and advising job seekers. The remaining 30% of my time is spent speaking with businesses about their talent needs.
I have conducted hundreds of candidate interviews and with the recession leading more companies to downsize and unfortunately resulting in many people losing their jobs, the number of candidates reaching out to me for career advice and guidance has doubled.
I generally find that I repeat a lot of advice and tips multiple times. The goal of this article is to summarize the best tips I provide to help job seekers land job interviews. This article is for you if you want to do the following:
- Have an eye-catching resume
- Land more interviews
- Properly prepare for an interview
Preparing to present your best self
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Adequate preparation is not always fun and many job seekers do not look forward to doing it. It can often be boring and uninteresting, particularly for those who love the buzz of spontaneity. However, it can prove to be one of the most valuable skills to master as a professional.
Preparation helps you to be ready to take full advantage of opportunities when they present themselves and also demonstrates your intentionality and attitude to potential employers.
If you are not willing to put in the work to present your best self to an employer, there is no reason for them to assume you will be any better if they hire you. Preparing and presenting your best self takes a lot of intentionality and work.
Preparing your resume
Your resume is like a brochure for a potential employer to decide if they like you enough to want to learn more about you and invite you for an interview.
A good resume doesn’t necessarily make a great candidate, however, a good resume will increase your chances of getting an opportunity to make your case for a potential role or opportunity that can make a difference to your career.
Considering I come across hundreds of resumes regularly, the following are some of the qualities of good resumes that catch my eye and generally get a call back from me and other hiring managers.
Layout and formatting
The first thing a hiring manager will notice about your resume is the layout. A good layout is simple, easy to read and creates a good first impression that invites a reader to spend more time reviewing it which improves your chances of being contacted for an interview.
Of course, the main thing is still your qualifications and what value you can add. However, if I was to choose between two resumes with similar qualifications and experience, the resume with better formatting usually wins.
Tips for a good layout
- Use white spaces liberally. Leave blank spaces between various sections and use at least one-inch margins.
- Stick with two font types at most, avoid underlined sentences and use bolding and italics sparingly.
- Be consistent throughout. For example, consistently use all caps to present the name of previous employers.
- Use bullet point formats to emphasize key responsibilities and accomplishments. Bullet points are easier to read and digest compared to long rambling sentences.
- Use reverse chronological order to list your work experiences with your most recent position at the top of the list.
- Ensure that your resume is no longer than 2 pages.
Demonstrating consistency in the progression of your career shows your resourcefulness, initiative and investment in your personal and professional growth.
For example, if you look at the example of Marissa Mayer’s resume, you will see that she showed progression in her career at Google. She started as a product engineer, then got promoted to a product manager role and then Vice president. This demonstrates growth in her career.
Tips to show career progression
- Separately highlight the different roles you have held at the same company. For example sales representative -> sales manager
- Highlight key responsibilities and key accomplishments for each role.
- Explain reasons for any backward career moves. For example, leaving a manager role to focus on family or health.
Employers are looking for reliable and consistent people. A “Job hopper” is not attractive because employers are not interested in investing time and resources to onboard you if they are not sure of how long you will be sticking around.
Sometimes situations like a toxic work environment, discrimination, broken promises etc. causes one to leave an employer. However, if you start to show a pattern of leaving multiple jobs after less than a year of employment, then it starts to become an issue.
Tips to show career stability
- Share reasons for leaving a position especially if you were there for less than a year (For example summer internship, contract or temporary position, family reasons).
- If most of your work experiences are over 2 years long, list them by years only instead of including months. This will allow your resume to appear less haphazard, less is more. For example instead of April 2000 — March 2005, simply replace it with 2000–2005.
- Remove work experiences or internships that are less than a month’s long especially if they do not highlight any tangible skill or practical experience.
The pandemic has forced everyone to go online, my firm has now stopped all in-person meetings and most businesses are taking similar precautions. Social events and local business events typically available for networking opportunities will most likely be non-existent for some time.
This doesn’t change the fact that you still need to connect with and reach out to potential employers and hiring managers to find opportunities. LinkedIn solves this problem.
LinkedIn provides you with the opportunity to network and to connect yourself to other professionals in your local area. It is the equivalent of Facebook or Twitter, but for professionals. Most people who are serious about their careers already have a profile set up on LinkedIn.
Tips to leverage LinkedIn
- Create a customized URL for your LinkedIn profile (ideally Linkedin.com/in/yourname).
- Include your LinkedIn link in your resume.
- Your profile picture should be professional and can reflect the type of work you do.
- Write a headline that captures attention. Your headline should showcase your specialty, value proposition and what sets you apart.
- Put in the effort to fill out vital information on your profile. Add career history, career milestones, volunteer work etc.
- Don’t be shy about asking for written recommendations from mentors, managers or colleagues.
- Engage with the online community. Share your stories, experiences, struggles, insights and participate in other people’s stories.
Choice of companies to approach
Many people make the mistake of applying only to companies that they love, admire or consider the holy grail of their profession. For example in game development, only applying to Ubisoft, EA or BioWare.
People like this ignore all the upcoming and small to medium-sized companies in pursuit of their dream of working at the big and sexy companies.
In an ever-competitive job market, applying to less flashy companies allows you to practise and refine your interview and presentation skills in a less pressurized environment.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that interviewing with a smaller or medium-sized company is any easier, but you will feel less disappointed or deflated if you have a bad interview performance at a company you don’t necessarily have strong feelings for.
Practice makes perfection. Every interview you can get is an opportunity for you to refine your skills, learn new information and continue to build your reputation. Sometimes, you might even find that companies in these categories are a better fit for you than your dream job.
Do your research, find emerging companies or smaller competitors of your ideal company and send them your resume.
Using job descriptions
Job descriptions offer valuable guidance on how you can best position yourself as a strong competitive candidate. Job descriptions vary from company to company even if you are looking at similar job titles, so knowing how to interpret the information in front of you is valuable.
Job description tips
- Pay attention to the required qualifications: The job qualifications list is one of the most important parts of the job description as it includes what the employer is looking for like education level, work experience and required licenses or certificates. Sometimes these requirements are broken up into preferred and required qualifications with the most important requirements typically listed first. If you meet these requirements, be sure to emphasize them in your resume and during your interview if the opportunity comes up.
- Understand the job responsibilities: Employers will often include a list of duties required for the position. These duties can vary from company to company even if the job titles are the same. As you read through the job duties, make a list of the duties you have performed in your previous jobs, highlight them in your resume and consider bringing them up in the interview if the opportunity comes up.
- Check for questions or keywords: Sometimes, employers will ask candidates to answer a question or use a certain keyword in their application to make sure that they thoroughly read through the job description. This question may be something simple or might be an important part of the application. Make sure you demonstrate your attention to detail by double checking all the requirements listed in the job description.
- Understand the lingo: While looking at job descriptions, you may notice certain buzzwords and phrases popping up again and again. These buzzwords often reflect the type of environment or mindset the company wants its employees to adopt. Words like “must be self-starter” or “detail-oriented individual” are examples of standard phrases and most times should be taken at face value. Sometimes, however, they may not mean what you think. To parody what employers expect GetVoip created this visual on what descriptions mean.
When you successfully land an interview, there is a good chance you won’t know too much about the company. It is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about the company to be better prepared for the interview.
Most people just do the bare minimum which is to show up for the interview. It is not uncommon for companies to move on from a candidate because the candidate showed up without doing their research or knowing basic information about the company.
Companies expect you to be curious and interested in their organization and expect you to come with questions and a good baseline of knowledge about their company. The good news is that it’s easier than ever before to learn about an employer before the job interview.
Tips for researching companies
- Visit the company website: This is pretty obvious and straightforward. Review the company’s mission statement and history, products, services, and management structure. These types of information are usually in the “About Us” section of the site. If there is a press release section, read through featured articles to see what the media is saying about them, you could find valuable information about recent projects, awards or community involvements etc. Pay attention to the themes that come up repeatedly and observe how it resonates with you, do you want to work at a place where people are “driven to excellence” or do you like the idea of working in a more laid back environment where coworkers are treated like family?
- Browse social media: Check the company’s social media accounts. Visit their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter pages. This will give you a good sense of how the company wants its clients to see it. Like or follow the company to get updates. You will find some useful information that you may otherwise have missed. You may also uncover some red flags which you might want to ask about during the interview.
- Use LinkedIn: Most companies have a LinkedIn profile, there are several things you can look out for. Search for connections you might have at the company, profiles of people who work at the company including your interviewer, new hires, promotions, jobs posted, related companies and company statistics. If you have connections at the company, consider reaching out to them. Not only can they put in a good word for you, but they may also be willing to share their perspective on the company. If they permit you, you can even drop their name during the interview (use this at your discretion). Learning these types of information will certainly help you to build rapport during the interview.
- Check Reviews: Consider looking up the company on Glassdoor or similar platforms. Their interview, questions and reviews section has a goldmine of information ranging from previous employee’s experiences to salary information. You can find out what candidates for the position you are interviewing for were asked and get advice on how tough the interview was. You can also get a sense of the company’s culture from the review and by looking out for repeated themes, although take that with a grain of salt since employees are often likely to leave reviews when they are unhappy.
- Google Search and Google News: Search both Google and Google News for the company name, this can provide vital information. For example, you may find out that the company is expanding into Asia. This knowledge can help shape your responses to interview questions. Also try to learn more about the industry the company is, get to know the company’s biggest competitors and identify their successes and flaws too. Insight into the company’s industry and rivals are bound to impress interviewers.
Hopefully, all of these tips are helpful in you landing more interviews. Good luck!
I am a business owner, consultant and creative entrepreneur. I bring a lot of energy, passion and optimism to any project I am involved in. I drive to maximize my talents and potentials alongside those I work with. I bring a wealth of business ownership and coaching experience.