By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: I get job interviews but not job offers. Help a young man who needs employment. Please? -- J.M.

The following key clues to passing job interviews at the top of the class -- that is, snaring the job offer -- will tip you off to what you may be doing wrong in this workplace-changing recession.

Because it now appears that millions of lost jobs in the manufacturing, services and retail sectors aren't coming back, I strongly encourage you to gain in-depth knowledge of the ultimate make-or-break component of job search -- the job interview -- by studying interview how-to books and videos, participating in job clubs or working with interview coaches. In the meantime, here's the 4-1-1 on what you should know:

1. Realize that, apart from commonsense courtesy, there's no single standard of rules. Cultural fit is in the eye of the beholder making the hiring decision. Dress, look and speak like the rest of the company's crew, silently proclaiming, "I'm one of you."

2. That's why a big dose of research on the company and industry is more vital than ever. Fortunately, the Internet makes the research easy. Supplement it with firsthand knowledge from anyone who knows the company or the decision-maker.

3. Before the interviews begin, study salary negotiation techniques, a very, very big deal today. If you don't, you'll wish you had when push comes to salary shove.

4. Understand behavioral interview questions ("Tell me about a time when you ..."). Develop a storytelling knack -- prepare short, true stories that support your claims of relevant skills and accomplishments. Be ready to describe how you met specific problems and solved them.

5. Concentrate on what you can do for the company, not on what the company can do for you. Emphasize how you can make or save money for the company.

6. Bring front and center the skills that will make you immediately productive. Employers don't want to wait six months -- or in some jobs, even six weeks -- for you to get up to speed delivering benefits to them.

7. Likeability plays a winning hand. Show confidence, but not cockiness, as you show your friendly personality with good eye contact, a strong handshake and big smiles. Don't use your interviewer's first name unless invited to do so (or you're 100 percent positive that the use of first names in interviews is the company culture). Immediately try to find a connecting bond, such as friends, people you know within the company, school, displayed artwork or sports team.

8. Verify early what the company wants and show how you can deliver. Ask the interviewer to describe the scope of the position and the qualifications of the ideal person for it. If you already know that through research, you confirm the direction of your interview responses. If you're wrong, immediately shift strategy.

9. Don't chatter to fill a silence. Don't trash your boss. Don't bring up negatives unless you must tell your side to neutralize bad news that you're dead sure is coming.

10. Load up on questions that illustrate you care: "What do you expect the person you hire to accomplish in the first three months?" "Why is this position open -- what happened to the person who formerly held it?" "How is the company doing in this economy?"

11. Never leave without asking when a decision will be made, and whether you can call back or e-mail to ask questions or to check progress on the decision. These questions suggest your interest in the job and gracefully leave the door open to follow-up.

12. Always follow up! Use your e-mail thank-you letter as a sales tool, confirming that you offer what the company wants. When appropriate, include other persuasive documents, such as reference letters or awards. Not following up may be seen as a lack of interest in the job.


12 Things to Know About Job Interviews| Jobs & Careers
Jobs & Careers Advice - Joyce Lain Kennedy - Careers Now

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