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I have a few suggestions for you as you prepare to return to the work force after quarantine. There are a variety of likely ways this return will happen. Some companies will gladly welcome back former employees. Other companies will require returnees to be interviewed as though they were new employees. You probably have heard people suggest that only a percentage of fellow former employees will be needed; your former company may have decided to run with a leaner staff. Are you prepared to be interviewed by an HR professional by phone or an online meeting? Most of the basics that I cover below are generally applicable whether the “interview” is face to face, phone, or online.

Let me reacquaint you with some thoughts that could prove to be valuable, regardless of who or how you are interviewed.

Some wise person once said, “God is in the detail” which means that attention paid to small things may produce big rewards. After a Chicago Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers the Bears starting center, Olin Kreutz, said “We aren’t doing the little things‘’. A quick reaction to hearing about this particular oversight might be “that would never happen to me”. Hopefully you are right, but most of us have overlooked at least some of the details of tasks we were working on. Ever leave the front door of your house unlocked?

Let me relate this issue (being aware of the details) to your next interview.

Do you know the exact address of the company, if it is going to be in person? Do you have the phone number of the individual you are interviewing with? These questions are quite pertinent to an actual in person interview or one done over the phone. If you are likely to have some online interviews, have a friend interview you via Zoom. Get used to the program and how it differs from a face to face. Remember you need to succeed in the initial interview if you hope to go further in the process.
Craft a resume that really highlights your professional and academic achievements. Most of us do not take enough time effectively recounting our achievements. If your resume is more than two pages it screams to be discarded. Be sure to have a couple of good friends review the document critically.

If your screening interview(s) succeed and you are invited to an in-person interview that’s great. But it would be helpful to have an idea of the company’s dress code. One of my clients dropped its dress code and went informal as they moved to new quarters. Some prospective interviewees might even make a visit to the building, perhaps just to get a “feel” for the environment. Do yourself a favor—lay out your wardrobe the night before the interview. Get an opinion or two on your selection. Remember you are likely to only have this one visit if your appearance doesn’t mesh with the company’s style. Shine your shoes!

I realize that this column is likely to be read by some savvy people. But as we all know our expressways can be jammed up at some unexpected times; finding a parking spot might be difficult and distant from the building. You don’t want to be too early for an interview—it may suggest you are really overzealous. Of course being late for an interview also sends a negative message (which is also why I suggest you have a contact number). Find a restroom when you enter the building and make sure your appearance is A-Okay. I recommend that you repeat some very positive self-talk on the way to the interview; even on the elevator or in the waiting room. It is essential that you have done your homework about the company. But on the other hand, don’t talk too much. You want to leave the interview knowing what would be expected of you.

Once you are in the interview room, quickly survey what things the interviewer has on or near his/her desk. Understand that the interviewer is in his “space”, so he may appear to be very much at ease. But realize that virtually every interviewer is at least a bit nervous. Practice how you are going to cover your major achievements before you meet the interviewer; consider what questions might be asked. Ideally if you have given yourself enough time, walk around the block to relax yourself.

You need to be honest in your responses but you don’t have to bare your soul to this total stranger. Be enthused when you are talking about your past experiences. STAY positive about everything and everyone in your background. Maybe the interviewer is having a bad day, but do not let him/her “rain on your parade”. Be sensitive to the words used by the interviewer. Be attentive even if you decide early this is not the job for you. Experts tell us that the language we use provides a gauge of our intelligence. Your posture should be erect, whether sitting or standing. Be sure that you are using your eye contact to engage the interviewer. If you think a hand shake is appropriate, be firm but not bone crushing.

Be sensitive to the time. You don’t want to overstay your welcome; so focus on using the time to your best advantage. If there is no signal given to you as to how long the interview will be, ask the interviewer pleasantly how long he has allowed. I believe it’s better to leave a bit early, which hopefully will prompt the interviewer to ask you to stay a while longer. Ask if the interviewer would welcome a call if you have any questions. Get a business card. (This will clarify the name and title you’ll need.)
When you leave the office, find a place to make notes for yourself about the specifics of the interview and any particular concerns that might have been mentioned. This will facilitate how detailed your thank you note to the interviewer could be. Dispatch your message sooner rather than later whether by email or a hand written note.
Decide on your follow up to the interview. A week? Two weeks? Don’t allow yourself to think negatively about any possibility. Persistence often pays off. Stay strong. Good hunting. CARPE DIEM.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: In times of great stress and adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive. Author unknown.

James F. Fitzgerald is the president of James F. Fitzgerald & Associates, Inc., a Naperville, IL-based senior executive coaching and career transition firm. Jamesffitzgerald.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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