Stay in front of them

Now that your résumé and cover letter have been sent into the world to impress employers, it’s time to make contact.

Ideally you should receive a telephone call or email within a few days of the employer receiving your information. If not, take initiative and follow up.

At this crucial point of contact, your personal presentation is extremely important, both on the telephone and through email. You want to make the best possible impression before you meet in person. Your attitude and etiquette count. When it's time to prepare for interviews, dedicate some forethought to your “look.”


Contact via email is considered business correspondence so be sure to keep messages professional and formal.

  • Always be polite.
  • Use complete sentences.
  • Do not write in capital letters - it is equivalent to shouting.
  • Avoid using emoticons and abbreviations.
  • Keep messages short and make the subject clear.
  • Avoid humor, as it is often difficult to communicate it through email.
  • Do not write anything you wouldn't want publicly known - email is not private and your message can be forwarded, printed, and saved.
  • Run spell check and re-read your message several times for clarity.
  • Double-check the email address before hitting send to be sure your message is addressed to the intended recipient.


When employers call you, give a polite, welcoming, and helpful response on the other end, whether it's you or your voice mail. If someone else such as your mother, roommate, girlfriend, brother, or aunt normally answers the telephone, be sure to inform and prepare them to respond properly and take a detailed message for you. Be polite and professional by always returning calls. When it's you making the phone call or sending the email to employers, keep in mind that clarity is everything.

Answering phone:

  • Assume the caller is someone important you don't know.
  • Smile - the caller will hear it in your voice.
  • Don't yell, sing, laugh, or chew as you answer.

Call waiting:

  • Generally, it's rude to interrupt your current phone call for an incoming call unless it's an emergency.
  • If you're expecting an important call, tell the person you're talking to that you may have to interrupt them.

Leaving a message:

  • Say your name and phone number slowly and clearly; spell your name if necessary.
  • Immediately state what your message is regarding, then clearly give the details.
  • Prepare your message by practicing first, as it is important not to ramble.

Your pre-recorded voice mail and answering machine messages:

  • Keep outgoing messages clear and short.
  • Be sure there is no background noise such as music, children singing, or dogs barking.
  • Do not annoy callers with a recorded “Hello?” greeting that fools them into thinking someone has answered the phone.
  • Keep messages up to date (i.e., if it's Tuesday, don't have a message saying you’ll be back on Monday - the day prior).

The Interview

The interview and follow-up will bring you full circle on your career course. Often you will be asked to return for a second or third interview, usually with different department heads. This is your chance to make a great impression, so be prepared.

Personal Presentation
Even if you already have a closet full of clothes, you still need to be sure that all details are in order. The last thing you want to worry about on the morning of your interview is deciding what to wear. Look your best on the outside and you will feel your best on the inside.

Once you have these details down, you can move on to more important things like preparing for the actual interview conversation.

  • Do not wait until the last minute to choose an outfit.
  • Research the company with which you are interviewing so you know what is appropriate to wear.
  • Have a friend or family member help you decide what looks best several days or more before the interview.
  • Be sure your hands are clean and manicured.
  • Style your hair neatly and off your face.
  • Avoid wearing perfume to an interview - you never know who might be allergic to your signature scent.
  • Brush your teeth and double-check them before walking into the interview.
  • Avoid chewing gum, mints, and candy during the interview.
  • Do not carry an oversized handbag, backpack, duffel, or tote bag to the interview, even if you've just come from the gym.
  • Carry a small purse and portfolio case for your résumé and samples.

Verbal Communication

Imagine yourself sitting in front of the interviewer, trying to answer questions and describe events. You are nervous, and your thoughts are racing. At this point of departure, preparation or lack thereof will determine your conversation course. Make yours a smooth ride. Many books have been written on the art of effective conversation. They all agree on one point: practice indeed makes perfect. Recruit a friend or family member to play the role of interviewer as you rehearse your answers and reactions. During the interview, remember to maintain an enthusiastic, positive attitude. Let the interviewer set the pace and go with the face-to-face flow.

  • Before you answer a question, spend a few moments thinking about what you are about to say. Brief pauses in conversation are fine. If you are truly stumped, politely ask the interviewer if you can have a few moments to compose your thoughts.
  • Use examples to show your skills and abilities. Before the interview, visualize examples that illustrate each of the qualities listed on your résumé.
  • Never criticize your present or previous employer. State career and job changes as moving forward to better opportunities, not as leaving something.
  • Do not give one-word answers such as "yes" or "no." Answer in complete sentences and phrases.
  • Avoid using phrases such as "um, um, um" when you are nervous or trying to finish a thought. Practice silence instead.
  • Avoid overstating, exaggerating, or bragging about your experience and qualifications. Absolutely do not lie. Honesty is of utmost importance during an interview.
  • Ask the interviewer questions to show your interest, intelligence, and thoroughness. Ask for details of the job description so you know what the employer is looking for in a job candidate. Rephrase so it doesn't end with a preposition.
  • Do not bring up the subject of compensation during a first interview. Let the employer be the first to discuss salary and do not quote a rate until you are offered the job.
  • Near the end of your interview, ask the interviewer for their business card,as you will need their information when you are ready to write your thank you letter. If they do not have a business card, ask for their contact information and confirm the spelling of their name.

Non-Verbal Communication

Body language speaks volumes. Be sure yours is sending the intended message.

  • Shake the interviewer's hand firmly when meeting and again when leaving.
  • Use gestures such as nodding and open palms to show that you are sincere, receptive, and interested. Do not cross arms over chest, as this communicates negativity.
  • Look directly at the interviewer when you are speaking to them, and vice-versa. Do not let your eyes, and therefore thoughts, wander away from the conversation at hand.
  • Do not turn away from the person speaking. To show you are interested and attentive, lean slightly forward in your chair. Do not lean way back and appear too relaxed and uninvolved.
  • Avoid rubbing your face, playing with your hair, tapping or drumming your fingers, or any other distracting gestures during the interview.

Post-Interview Thank You Letter

The importance of a thank you letter is often overlooked. As soon as possible, always send one to each of your interviewers by email or snail mail. Also called a follow-up letter, it may be the deciding factor in your favor, especially when there are other applicants with your qualifications.

Sending a thank you letter demonstrates that you are courteous and professional. It helps you to stand out in the minds of the interviewers and elevates you above candidates who didn’t bother to write them. It gives you an opportunity to reinforce your good points and allows you a second chance to include something important you forgot to mention during the interview. Don't forget this last, but extremely important step.

For the thank you letter, follow the same standards as you would for writing a professional business letter.

Good Luck!