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The 2 Most Important Tools for Landing an Interview

If you are conducting a job campaign, you’ve surely encountered countless pieces of advice. That advice can be overwhelming and even at times paralyzing.

Why is it so difficult to get an interview? I would argue it’s actually not complicated—although you should not misinterpret this to mean it is easy. Here are the two key things you need to know when you are trying to get that interview, and ultimately, your next job:

  1. Have exceptional professional documents, including a resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Depending on your industry, it might also be useful to think deeply about your long-term professional goals. I recently had a client who needed to submit a 5-year career plan prior to the interview. Simply put, your professional documents matter. And they matter a lot.
  2. Network. Then network some more. Networking opens up doors that you didn’t even know existed. The payoff of networking isn’t usually immediate, but it plants seeds. Like in a real garden, those seeds take time to germinate and grow. But in the end, networking also proves fruitful. Remember that approximately 70% of jobs are filled without ever having been posted. They are filled, in part, because when an opening arises, the hirer already has someone in mind. That person has probably has done some serious networking.

Networking and having stellar professional documents are two sides of the same coin. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education stated the relationship perfectly:

“It is important to note that while Sue’s networking got her in the door, it didn’t give her an inside track. She still had to present a résumé and cover letter that demonstrated relevant skills and experience, and she still had to argue her case persuasively during the interview process. Because of her advance groundwork, however, she went into the process with a much clearer idea of how to make a case for herself, compared with many other candidates.”

Even if a potential employer thinks of you when a job opening occurs that doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for the job. He or she might not be the one who makes the final hiring decision. Even if he or she is, you will still need to look good “on paper.” Without a well-written resume and cover letter, it might be more difficult for them to justify hiring you.

If you hear the word “network” and go into panic mode, there are many resources out there for you (and I’ll share some tips, too, in a later post). In the meantime, read Susan Basalla May and Risa Nystrom McDonell’s article (cited above), because it gives awesome tips for conducting informational, or networking, interviews.

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses communicate when it matters most. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs and organizations. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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