Alwanza Home How To Get Employed How To Contents Page
The Targeted Employer Plan
Identify ten companies (it doesn't have to be exactly 10)
that would hire someone with your skills that you would most like to work for.
Do the necessary research to know if you would like to work for these companies:
that would include whatever is important to you like location, pay/benefits, opportunites for advancement, travel, perqs....

How do you research the companies to know if you want to work there?
  • News clips
  • Web site
  • Edgar database for public companies
  • Other employees (can be excellent source of info)
  • Walk in (can be excellent source of info)

After identifying the 10 companies, rate them according to how much you would like to work for them.
Reorder the list from least desirable place to work to most.
Start with the least desirable and begin making contact.
The idea here is that as you get more experienced at marketing yourself, you will go to the companies that matter more.
Contact each company as many ways as you can.
The more ways you contact the company the greater your chances are of getting an interview.
If, during your contact and interviewing process, you are turned down for a position, but you still want to work for that company, don't stop contacting them.
The person who was hired may not work out....
The company may have other openings....
The particular person who interviewed you may be leaving....
Keep trying.
A single rejection, doesn't mean the company never wants to hire you, it just means the company wanted to hire someone else for that particular position at that particular time.

How do you contact a company?
  1. Email/mail a resume and cover letter to their HR department.  If you are responding to a specific classified ad, make your cover letter look exactly like their advertisement - use the exact same words wherever you can, in the same or similar order, with similar emphasis (etc).  The HR department screens applications on the basis of "matching" skill to skill.  An HR person may not recognize the same skill when it is presented with a different label. 
  2. Make telephone contact.  One advantage to this is that you may be making contact with at least one additional person outside the HR department.  Introduce yourself to the person who answers the phone and tell him/her that you might be interested in working for the company & ask if there is someone you could talk with who might be able to answer a few general questions about the company.  Whoever is going to talk with you about the company:  get that person's name and be sure to ask if this is a good time for them to be on the phone with you - or would another time be better?  Don't take more than 10 minutes of that person's time unless he/she seems to be encouraging it.  Have your questions ready.  They should be general questions about the company and/or what it is like to work there.  Your last question should be "What would be the best way for me to apply for a job as a ____ there" (try to at least get a specific name of somone you can send the resume to)?
  3. Walk-in.  You do this very similar to telephone contact.  You arrive with questions.  You know what your last question will be (see #2 above).  You will start by introducing yourself to the receptionist at the front desk and telling him/her that you are interested in the company and you think you would like to work there, but you were wondering if there was someone who might have some time to answer some general questions you have about the company.  Make sure it is a good time (in general, midweek early mornings are best for in-person contact) to ask a few questions.  Don't spend a lot of time.  You might want to follow this one up with a thank-you note.  Be prepared with your resume in case it becomes an interview right then and there (it does happen).
  4. Meet someone who works there.  Do any of your friends or relatives work there?  Do any of your friends' friends work there?  Go to their location and see the places where employees might go to lunch or step outside to smoke a cigarette, or get a coffee.  If you see someone you think you might have something in common with, introduce yourself and say you were thinking about working for that company, is there anything that person can tell you about working there?  Be sure you are not taking up too much of this person's time.  Again, you know what your last question will be.  If that person offers to present the resume to the HR department for you, let him/her do it (and thank him!).  The best way to have contact with the HR department is AFTER someone else in the company has put in a good word for you.

Preparing for the Interview

Prepare & practice (preferably with a partner) a 30 second pitch answering this:
"Tell me about yourself."

When the interviewer says "Tell me about yourself" he or she isn't asking you to divulge personal information: so don't.
Talk about all experience you have that is relevant to the job you want.

Be prepared with an answer to all the common interview questions:
Tell me about a difficult situation that you resolved involving a coworker or supervisor
What is your greatest weakness?
Turn the weakness into a strength or explain how you know you have a tendency to __ but you have learned to control it and this is how you handle it now ____.

Why did you leave your last job?
Explain this gap in your work history.
May we call your old employer/supervisor?
Describe your best supervisor.
List 5 adjectives that describe you.
Describe your best working environment
How do you react to stress?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
(watch out for this one it is not as innocent as it seems).
Unless the person interviewing you has indicated that he/she wants to hire someone who will eventually be the manager/supervisor of ____, don't indicate that you are that ambitious.

Do you have any questions you would like to ask about the company? (see below)

The Interview Itself

Arrive early, be prepared, be dressed appropriately for the position, plus some.
Bring at least one additional copy of your resume, cover letter, and bring along your list of references.
Also have a list of questions you would like to ask them.

During interview be sure to get the names (and preferably title, too) of every person you meet, and especially everyone who interviews you.

Focus on your skills and abilities and how they match the position.

Provide short quick respectful answers to history questions that you would rather not answer:
don't dwell on previous bad situations or talk about what you don't want in a work place.
After a short quick respectful answer about the past, bring the interview back to the present by focusing on your skills and qualifications.

Questions you might like to ask the interviewers

Did I answer that to your satisfaction?
How do you feel about my qualifications?
To whom would I be reporting?
What is the average amount of overtime in a week?
What equipment would be at my workstation?
How much access would I have to supervisors/guidance/support?
Does the company have an established structure for evaluations, raises, benefits?
Who would evalute my work?
Do you expect growth in this department?
Is the position new or did someone else hold it before?

Questions to end the interview to show that you are still interested in the position:

(don't use these unless you know you want the position)
When can I start?
What is the next step?

What not to do:

Do not ask specific questions about pay, benefits, vacation, etc, until it is clear that the job is being offered to you.
Negotiation begins then and not before.

After Interview:

During interview you got the names (and titles?) of everyone who interviewed you.
If not, phone the company and try to fill in the gaps.
Write thank you notes to EACH of them immediately. The best way to deliver the notes is to hand deliver them (they see your face & smile again) to EACH person who interviewed you.
But if you can't hand deliver them, email and mail are also acceptable.
In the Thank You Note include anything important you might have neglected to mention in the interview, also if you thought of a better answer to any of their questions, you might include that here, too.

Do not Thank by telephone because you interupt them, and they don't have anything in their hand after you hang up.
Also see Alwanza:  Employment Resources for employment links.
To email please see:  contact.cgi if you have any comments or questions about this page.

This information based on a free presentation provided by the Washington State Job Service Center on improving interviewing skills.  Thank you.  They worked for me!

Compiled & created by Meryll Larkin:  3/11/01
Updated:  11/16/09