Kathy Broughton had worked in customer service most of her career. After being laid off from her last position, she noticed an ad for a job as a front desk clerk at a local hotel and decided this would be the ideal placement for her.
"I got the job because in the interview I looked straight into the GM's eyes and said, 'I want this job, and you won't be sorry if you hire me. I have the personality and the qualifications to do this job. At the same time, I am willing to be flexible enough to do other jobs in your building, if necessary. If the bartender can't make it, I can do his job. I'm prepared to do that at a moment's notice. I'm a team player.'" Broughton was hired nearly on the spot and has turned her job into a long-term career move.
She might not have realized it at the time, but Kathy was making all the right moves to secure the position, and so can you by taking control of a job interview and selling yourself.
"The number one issue in the job interview is to make sure you understand that this is your opportunity to sell yourself to the interviewer," says recruiter Peter Shrive, a partner with Cambridge Management Planning Inc. "Many people go to an interview with the mistaken notion that people are going to ask them questions and you will provide answers, vs. being given the opportunity to tell interesting stories about yourself."
Adds Shrive, "You've got certain key things you need to tell about yourself, and these are the things you have to get across in the defined period of time."
There are three main steps in managing the interview process:
The best interview is one for which you feel well prepared and self-confident. First try to find out what type of interview you'll be facing. The three basic types are those with a written set of questions (if yes, you can ask if there are any formal questions, much like a take-home exam); the behavioural interview (where you're asked to describe how you'd act in different scenarios); and the panel interview (where you face more than one interviewer, in which case you should note each person's expertise and make sure to address specific answers to your panellists)?or a combination of these.
- Do your homework on the hiring company and the position on offer. If it's a high end restaurant with a "dress code" for servers and other staff, for instance, take the time to visit the establishment, try the food, study the menu, get a feel for the ambience. A casual pub/club environment will have an entirely different feel. Dress for success takes on a whole new meaning, depending on the type of hospitality or restaurant job for which you're applying.
- Become a "mini-expert" on your prospective new employer so you can speak with authority and enthusiasm. Use online resources to find out as much as you can about the interviewer.
- Bring full documentation - not just copies of your resume and cover letter, but any diplomas, certificates and honours.
Ace your interview
"There are three excellent techniques you should use with the interviewer," says Shrive:
- Have I answered your question completely?
- Did you get the information you needed?
- Is there any other aspect of my experience we need to review?
"Sometimes the interviewer will ask a question, note the answer and move on, so you need to check in regularly to make sure they've gotten the information they need." This is how you can take control of the interview and ensure you're communicating your best points.
Adds Shrive, "First impressions are extremely important, and not just visual impressions. The definition of an interview is five minutes of selecting impressions and 55 minutes of selecting data to support those impressions."
- Rehearse your interview. That way you can take control from the start with well-considered answers that give the interviewer the best impression of your career. Never assume your interviewer has even read your resume since he or she might be conducting dozens of interviews that day.
- Look for opportunities to tell anecdotes reflecting your experience. Were you, as a server, called upon to take over the hostess's job from time to time? Tell your story!
- Support your skills and credentials with tangible results of your achievements. If bar sales increased while you were bartender at a restaurant, quantify your successes. If you were employee of the month at your last job, this could distinguish you from your competition.
- Don't leave without asking: "Have I answered all your questions?" "Are you the person with whom I should follow up (take a business card)?" "When do you expect to make your decision?"
- Did you make any promises during the interview requiring further action? For instance, if you were involved in developing the menus at your last restaurant job but didn't bring them with you, don't forget to keep your promise.
Do follow up
In the old days, mothers instructed their children to write "bread and butter" thank you notes to their dinner hosts. The same holds true as an interview follow-up, even in today's high tech world. While email is acceptable to say thank you, according to Shrive, nothing impresses more than a handwritten note, hand-delivered. Remember, the hospitality and restaurant industry is all about customer service. Here's your chance to shine.