Charming Your Way to a Job Offer
by Heidi Russell Rafferty, Contributing Editor
Article Sponsored by: Colorado Springs Utilities
Military members have a lot going for them in job interviews, but there is a subtle difference with civilian competitors that could hinder them: their culture of structured protocol, says Diane Gottsman. She's owner of The Protocol School of Texas, Inc., and a national dining and etiquette expert.
Before the Interview
Speak to recruiters in civilian terms, not military acronyms and jargon. "If it's technical what you did, explain it in a way they understand it," she says. And one important thing that sets you apart for many government contractor positions is if you have a security clearance. A lot of civilian applicants probably won't have this, and it will help get you into the door for the first interview.
During the Interview
Be as nice to the receptionist as you are the employer. From the moment you walk in the door, everyone, even the receptionist, is paying attention to your manners. Give the receptionist a card to take to the boss to let them know you've arrived.
Talk about how you'll benefit the job and the company. "You are proud of what you did but you also need to brush up on your skills of today," Gottsman says. So in lieu of discussing a special commendation or medal, you would say, "I was an accountant in the military, and I increased our such and such by so much percent."
Body language speaks loudly. Don't fidget; it looks like you're shaking, Gottsman says. Keep your hands above the desk as much as possible. Don't lean back in the chair.
Ask for the job before you leave. Say, "I really appreciate all the time and effort you took. I'm very interested in this job and look forward to hearing from you. When do you think you'll follow up with me?"
Then, have a thank-you card ready to write up in your car and a stamped envelope - and mail your note immediately so that the employer receives it the next morning. It should say something like, "Thank you for your time. I enjoyed learning about the company." Then mention something specific that you got out of the interview that you didn't know before. Tell them you're interested in the position and available for a follow-up interview. Sign off with, "I look forward to hearing from you soon." Make sure you proofread before sending. And by the way, an e-mail thank-you is a no-no, Gottsman says.
Freelancer Heidi Russell Rafferty is a reporter with 19 years of experience who writes about employment and business issues.
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