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Perfect Phrases for the Perfect Interview
By Carole Martin
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2005The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
How to Use Perfect Phrases to Land Your Dream Job
The Words You Use Send a Strong Message
You are selling yourself during the entire job search process, beginning with the words you choose to write your résumé and continuing through the interview, salary negotiation, and acceptance of the offer. You are constantly revealing information about yourself and putting together a picture of yourself with words. And the words you use give details and add life and drama to your statements and stories.
Before we look at the specific phrases you can use for success, let's discuss some important ideas about choosing the best words for your interview. For starters, you should be aware of the key words used in your industry, in the companies you want to work for, and in the specific job positions you are applying for. Knowing the vocabulary for these areas is critical to your success as you interview for a specific job.
How will I know which words and phrases are "key" for the position or industry that I am applying for?
There are various sources you can look to if you want to learn words and phrases specific to your industry. You can look at company Web sites, their PR material, and even Web sites of competitors to learn what language they use. You can also look at trade magazines and journals, and even books for that industry as another resource.
Another very accessible source of key words and phrases is actually one that's free and that can save you valuable time. Using job boards, you can go online and look at job postings where you will discover the exact words used in the job, company, and industry. One more source to consider is the classified ads in your local newspapers, which also feature the specific job words to use. After all, experienced professionals write these words, and you can use the words to let them know you are on their wavelength and have what they are looking for. Once you become aware of these words, you will discover that there are specific words and phrases that are universal, describing what is required to succeed at specific jobs. The correct usage of these "key words" in your résumé or presentation can make or break your chances of being able to impress the interviewer and sell yourself as the best person for the job.
Some postings or ads are quite descriptive and have lots of details. Other postings will list only the essential facts. Look specifically for descriptive ads, which include a list of qualities and skills that are required in a candidate. This is considered the employer's "wish list." There is no guarantee that the words listed in the posting or description are going to be complete or that the employer won't change some of the requirements, but working with the posting will help you to plan your interview script and be prepared for whatever comes your way during the interview.
One way to prepare is to start looking at online postings, even if you aren't ready to apply for a position. Begin by visiting one of the major job boards and do an online job search. Enter the title of the job you are interested in pursuing, but at this point leave the geographical preference open. By leaving the location open, you will get a broader look at the industry and the common words and phrases that are used nationwide.
When you find job postings that are of interest to you, print them out and put them aside. After you have seven or eight, read through the postings noticing the words and phrases used. Read through the posting the first time for content. Then, read it again and begin to catch the key words used. Read the posting through one more time, but this time read between the lines. Become aware of what is not written. As you read between the lines, ask yourself, "What would it take to do this job?"
As you answer this question, begin writing down words that come to mind. Words such as "outgoing," "good people skills," "very organized," "good at problem solving," "flexibility" may begin to surface. Even though these words aren't written in the posting, these are the skills and traits that employers are seeking. These traits and skills are considered transferable, meaning that they can be taken with you from company to company, no matter the job.
Here is an example of a rather vague ad that required some reading between the lines:
POSTING — Customer Service Representative
Responsibilities include answering customer calls, entering orders, and processing requests. Work in a team environment. Advancement opportunity for a professional individual with outgoing personality, good communication skills, and the ability to resolve problems quickly.
This ad could be for a number of office positions that require customer contact. By reading this posting carefully, you can pick out what is written, but you can also pick up the words that are "not there." Begin to read between the lines. For example,
Answer customer calls—resolve problems quickly (Fast-paced call center)
Good communication skills—outgoing personality (Sales/customer service a plus)
Enter orders and process requests (Computer skills needed here)
Team environment (Work with others doing similar work)
Opportunity for advancement (Supervisor opportunities)
By looking beyond the actual written words and phrases and making some judgments, you can assume that this company is looking for a very outgoing, high-energy person to deal with customers who have problems—and to do it quickly. The person should be computer- savvy and have leadership potential.
In order to impress your interviewer, you should use the words you glean from the posting. Doing so will prove that you see what it takes to do this job—a certain type of person and you are that person! For our example, you could say:
From the job posting and our conversation during this interview, it sounds like you are seeking a person with high energy to handle customer problems with tact and diplomacy. It also seems that if the person had some computer skills and some leadership potential, you would be impressed.
You have demonstrated your ability to read between the lines and let the interviewer know that you have been listening and that you understand what it will take to do this job.
As you are interviewing, you'll want to use "perfect phrases" to show that you have these desired characteristics and that you are the perfect candidate for this job. Here's an example phrase for each of the desired skills in our example:
Perfect phrase: "If you were to ask any of my coworkers at my last job, they would tell you they call me 'Mr. Energy.' I am always upbeat with customers or coworkers."
Perfect phrase: "I have a successful track record of working with people and solving problems quickly in a very fast-paced environment."
Great communication skills
Perfect phrase: "In my last job my customers called and asked to speak to me directly because they knew that I would take care of them while solving the problem and following through."
Ability to connect with the interviewer
Perfect phrase: "I am very interested in your company and this job. From what I have heard, it sounds like morale and team spirit run high here. That is the atmosphere where I thrive best. I feel I could bring added value to the team and to you as a manager."
Excerpted from Perfect Phrases for the Perfect Interview by Carole Martin. Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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