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Getting Prepared for that Interview

Preparing for an interview is as important as the interview itself. Here are a few ideas on how to be ready.

Review job requirements. Draw a vertical line down the cen­ter of a blank page (or, you can do this on your computer). At the top of the left side, write “WHAT THE EMPLOYER WANTS.” On the right side of the paper, put “WHAT I HAVE TO OFFER.” Next, list the key job requirements on the left side and your ability to meet each on the right side.

Know the organization. Before going in for an interview, find out as much as possible about the organi­zation. Start with an Internet search then look for maga­zine articles and books with in­formation about the company at the library.

Review possible ques­tions. Brainstorm questions with a friend and prepare answers which show you understand the job. Anticipate what you will be asked and have an­swers ready. This will make you look better and increase your con­fi­dence during the interview.

Check your mannerisms. In a university study, interviewers de­scribed the people who were of­fered jobs at a job fair as enthusi­astic, confident, smiling, and self-assured. They said the applicants had a firm handshake, had good posture, and were neatly dressed. The interview­ers felt the winning applicants were serious about find­ing a job and ex­pected to get an of­fer.

Negative mannerisms like tap­ping your feet or fingers during an inter­view may be taken as a lack of self-confidence. Nervousness may cause you to tap your pen or jingle your keys or jewelry. Ask a friend to check for body lan­guage that may distract an inter­viewer. Practice doing interviews with friends to learn to control any an­noying ac­tions.

Be enthusiastic. Employers look for people who are enthusias­tic and confident. Those who smile and act as if they can get along with the rest of the staff have an edge over those who don’t. If this doesn’t come nat­u­rally to you, then practice.

Act healthy. Employers also want someone who is going to stay long enough to justify the cost of training and not be absent a lot. Healthy look­ing, healthy talking, self-confi­dent people get picked first.

Try these ideas and be better pre­pared for that next interview.


Handle Applications with Care

One time back when I was in a position to hire employees, I received 125 applications for one vacancy in our computer support section. Since we were expecting many applicants, we were careful to include detailed job requirements in the ad. Even so, all but 14 of the 125 applicants were elimi­nated in the first pass.

Here’s why. Qualifications didn’t match job requirements, résumés were slanted for a differ­ent position, poor handwriting on applica­tion made it impossible to read, missing phone numbers and addresses, and résumés difficult to read

Some of the eliminated appli­cants were probably qualified for the posi­tion but they didn’t provide enough information to let me know. The qualifications given by many appli­cants simply didn’t match the job description, but I was astonished by the number of other problems.

Several applications were un­read­able because of poor handwrit­ing. One cover letter had no ad­dress, no phone number, and it ref­erenced a résumé I couldn’t find. One ré­sumé had the person’s ad­dress only on the last page hidden in the text. Some résumés were clearly slanted for a different type of job.

Many résumés were too long and quite a few had abbreviations and acronyms that couldn’t be deci­phered. Some applicants included addresses without city or zip code. At least one résumé was in all capi­tal letters. It was difficult to read and boring. Unusual type and blurry facsimile transmissions are distract­ing. There were many mis­spelled words in cover letters and grammat­ical errors such as “duties was…” instead of “duties were…”

Many job applications are online. There is less chance of making some of the errors mentioned above. However, you still need to be careful while filling out online forms. Read the application procedures before starting and make sure you following the rules. You may want to ask someone else to review your application information before hitting the submit button.

The application is the em­ployer’s first look at you. Take your time completing it to make the best impression possible.

BOOK REVIEW: Work at Home 101: Your Work-at-Home Starting Point by Jill Hart

This is a short book. From what I can tell, it is an introduction to the longer Jill Hart book, So You Want to Be a Work-At-Home Mom: A Christian’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business. Work at Home 101 is 32 pages and available only on Kindle. So You Want to Be… is 224 pages and available only in paperback.

I’ve read only the short Kindle book. What caught my attention is how well it is written. Many times I find this short books also short on editing. This one isn’t. It is easy to read and professional sounding.

Although the book is relatively short, you’ll find some useful information about working at home. You’ll also find links to the author’s website and blog for additional information. There are several interviews of mother’s working at home.

The books, blog and website are Christian based and the author talks freely about God. I like that, too.

You can find this book on See:



BOOK REVIEW: Insider Tips On Writing An Effective Cover Letter by Tom Nixon

I’m giving this book Four Stars out of Five, but I hope you will read my review in full so you won’t be surprised. If I could, I would give it Five Stars for content, Two Stars for presentation, and Two Stars because so much is left out.

I like what Mr. Nixon has to say and I think you’ll get your money’s worth as long as the price remains under $1.00. It is very short and the writing does not follow the author’s advice about writing cover letters. He may have not read his chapter titled, “Reread, Review, Revise,” because if he had, the book would have been easier to read.

Not only should the author demonstrate a good cover letter in his description of one, I think it would be nice to include an example or two.

This book is available in Kindle format on

With a Little Help From Your Friends

A study at the University of Southern California found that job seekers with many friends and relatives are more likely to find work than those with fewer contacts. Makes sense, but what if you have a small family and few friends? Expand your network. Increasing the number of contacts you have and using them properly will speed the process of finding a job. Here are some ways to improve your job search with help from your friends…as well as family, distant cousins and complete strangers. Check the following suggestions.

Make a list of possible contacts. If you don’t have a written contact list, start one now. Begin by writing down the name, address, and phone number of everyone you can think of who might help in your job search. Include everyone who comes to mind. You can trim the list later. If you have trouble thinking of names, ask a friend or two to help brainstorm with you. Your first draft should include family, friends, and business acquaintances. Add your doctor, dentist, lawyer. As you think of possible contacts don’t question whether or not a name should be added to the list, just add it. Check your mother’s Christmas card list for family friends who probably know you better than you know them. You will be surprised with the number of names that will come to you.

Set the list aside overnight, then delete those who will be of little or no help. If you are unsure, leave them on the list. Organize the remaining names in a format that makes it easy to add, delete and change the information as well as insert new information when it becomes available.

Use the resulting list daily. Once you have identified potential contacts and documented the basic information about them, use the information to help find a job. Go through the list each day and select people to call, write or visit. If you are unsure of what to say, make notes. The purpose for the contact is to get leads. Don’t ask for a job. Ask for information that may move you toward an application and interview.

Along with the information you’ve collected about each contact, make notes when you communicate with someone on the list and show the results, if any. Did the person give you another name? If so, add it to your list. Did you get any other suggestions? Record them all, whether they seem useful or not. If you need to make a follow-up call, mark it on your calendar. Every time you contact someone on your list, write down the date, and the how you made the contact–phone, person, letter, e-mail, or whatever. Then add what occurred during the contact. Review your notes each evening and make a to-do list for the next day.

Expand your contact list. Everywhere you go, whether it is social, recreational, or business, be alert for names to add to your list. If you meet someone at a party who might help in your job search, make a note and contact them later. Don’t discuss unemployment at a party. Enjoy the social and recreational times with friends and their friends. Be friendly. Ask questions. Listen and learn. Learn names and occupations. Everyone there is a potential contact. You may get so much information you will need to write it down before you forget. Do so unobtrusively.

Another way to expand your contact list is to get involved in associations related to your career. If you are not a member of such an organization, join one. If you are a member, become more active. Go to meetings. Work on committees. Get to know people. In these encounters, it is appropriate to talk about work. Let people in the group know you’re available. Get names. Find out who is hiring. Make notes. Hand out business cards. Be open about your situation with business associates while maintaining a confident attitude. Be supportive of others and accept support when it is offered.

Speed your job search by expanding your contact list. Observe these guidelines and keep good records. Follow up on all leads and you, too, can find the right job, with a little help from your friends.

Need a Job? Try Working for Free

Are you looking for a job and coming up short on experience or skills? You are not alone. Thousands of job seekers face the same problem. Even after years of steady employment, applicants are being turned down for lack of technical knowledge and up-to-date experience. If this happens to you, update your skills and add to your experience by volunteering your time in exchange for on-the-job training.

We think of volunteers as hospital candy stripers or retired people giving something back to the community. But volunteers are also people like you getting experience, learning new skills, making contacts, adding to your résumé and collecting references. Going to work on a regular basis, even if you don’t get paid, keeps you organized and motivated. It also helps improve your skills and gives you a feeling of accomplishment. This leads to an improvement in your attitude in general. When you think more highly about yourself, you are more attractive to a potential employer.

One reason to volunteer is to get experience. In my last job we used twenty to thirty volunteers each year. Most were college seniors or recent graduates and they knew the importance of including real-world experience on their résumés. You don’t have to be a student to get good unpaid positions. If you need experience because of a career change or because your last position didn’t allow you to grow, volunteering will work for you, too. Volunteer work enhances your résumé, provides references, and lets you try a job before accepting a permanent position. You also learn what is involved in doing the work. This helps when you are interviewed. Being able to describe what you have done lets the interviewer see you in that position.

If you are returning to the job market after a several years away for some reason, it is a good idea to learn the latest computer technology before applying. Volunteer to do data entry work, spreadsheet entry, or word processing in return for training. There are not enough volunteers for this type of work. This way you learn to use the latest computer software and get experience while the employer gets the data entered at no cost.

Volunteers have more opportunities to meet people in their career field than the average job seeker. Volunteer your time to increase the size of your network. Another benefit is that as a volunteer, you find out about openings where you are volunteering before the general public. Being known as a good worker may get you the job before it is even advertised.

Employers are requiring and checking references more than ever because there are more applicants for each opening. Volunteering helps build good references. For the best references, treat your volunteer work like a regular job. Get to work on time, work the hours you said you would and make meaningful contributions to the organization.

If volunteering sounds useful, follow these suggestions to find a position. First, check if your city has a volunteer center. If so, talk to them and see what’s available. Select a position in your career field unless you only want to learn a new skill. If there is not a volunteer center in your town or you don’t find a position that interests you, the next step is to check the bulletin boards at the career center at your local college. The postings may be for students, but apply anyway. Some employees use the bulletin boards simply because there is no easy way to reach the general public.

Don’t expect to walk in and start working just because it’s a non-paying job. Employers may have to invest some training time in you and they want to know what you have to offer, how much time you can give each week, and how long you will be around. It helps to have a résumé to let the employer know the skills you offer, but it is not a necessity. Employers know you will resign if you get a paying job. They know you may need to take off occasionally for an interview. However, in the meantime, they expect volunteers to work like paid employees.

Use the experience you get as a volunteer to help land a job. Learn new skills and add them to your résumé. Keep a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of the people you met on the job. And, finally, get paid with references. Working for free pays more than you might think.

Sidney W. Frost, B.A., M.S.

The author's job-search advice has appeared in more than forty newspapers and other publications around the country. He has worked as a corporate recruiter in information technology and, as an IT supervisor has reviewed many applications and held many interviews over the years in both the private and public sector. His knowledge of the emotional impact of a job loss comes from his own experience as well as training received to help people who have lost jobs and faced other losses.

Mr. Frost is also the author of the Job Seekers' Attitude Adjustment Guide which is available in paperback and Kindle editions as well as two inspirational novels. See for information. His other blog, The Christian Bookmobile/ talks about reading and writing.

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