This could be the best job market in nearly two decades but don’t take for granted that you’ll have your pick of positions simply by handing in your resume.
According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6.6 million job openings in the U.S. at the end of May, one of the highest numbers since December 2000.
On top of that, a growing number of workers are so confident in their ability to find better employment that they’re quitting their current jobs. According to Labor Department data, 3.6 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in May, the highest level since 2001. That’s also more than twice the 1.6 million people who were laid off by their employers during the same month.
So, with a strong economy and unemployment at 4.0 percent—a job search should be easy, right?
Not so fast.
Yes, it’s a job seeker’s market but you have to be prepared if you want to capitalize.
Interviewing is work and if you take short cuts when doing your homework on potential employers, your search for the perfect job will probably take longer than you expect it to.
So, here are five pointers to help you take advantage of the opportunities in front of you:
- Resist the urge to talk too much. There are many reasons why normally mild-mannered people ramble once an interview starts. Perhaps they’re nervous or maybe they’re very excited to spell out their accomplishment. Regardless, remember what it’s like to be on the other end of such a conversation and do your best to keep your answers on topic and to the point. A great way to avoid filling silence unnecessarily is to prepare your interview answers using the SOAR model: define the Situation, describe the Obstacle you had to overcome, outline the Action steps you took to overcome the obstacle, and provide quantitative or qualitative results. Building the story helps you get the main elements you want down on paper. You can then read the story out loud and time yourself. If it takes more than 90 seconds, cut it down.
- Ask good questions about the company. An interview is a two-way street. Even though the focus tends to be on whether the interviewer likes you and will offer you a job, it’s equally important that you ask questions to make sure the company is a good fit for you. But don’t ask “how many weeks of vacation would I get?” or “do you have casual Fridays?” Unique questions will yield all-important information about the company, and they can also help you stand out in the interviewer’s mind. Try asking “What do people who don’t make it here do wrong?” While that might seem negative at first blush, it will be very different from the questions asked by other candidates. It will also provide a great opportunity for follow up. Whatever the answer, you can respond by differentiating yourself from the people who fail. You might even learn something valuable about the corporate culture. If, for example, the answer is, “Whoever is first to leave the office every night,” you may have all the information you need.
- Sell yourself. While bragging may not be your strong suit, an interview is no place to be humble. Don’t assume the interviewer remembers every award you’ve ever won or successes you’ve had in your previous positions. The best way to overcome this bias towards downplaying yourself is to switch your thinking. You are not bragging about yourself. Convince yourself that you are trying to help the other person understand who you are so they can make a decision. We all like to help others. In the interviewer’s case, they are trying to find a candidate who best fits their need. You are that person, so help them out!
- Focus on how the company will benefit from hiring you. A company is looking to solve a problem or fulfill a need. They aren’t interested in how you will benefit from getting a job there. It is incumbent upon you to “connect the dots” for them as to why you fit what they need. Make sure to relate your accomplishments to what they might need. Preface your answers with statements such as, “From what I understand you are looking for…”
- Take time to prepare. Remember how excited you were when an interviewer asked questions that reflected elements of your resume or LinkedIn profile? It showed that they were serious about you because they took the time to read up on you. You should do them the same courtesy. Doing basic research on a company displays the initiative, inquisitiveness and fact-finding skills that companies want in a new hire. This is a great way to show the way you research and problem solve. If they’ve just made an acquisition or are facing a particular challenge in their industry, you should know about it.
So, the opportunities for new employment are out there. The more research you can do on the positions and companies that interest you and the more you’re aware of what the interviewer is looking for, the better your chances for success.