So you’re in the market for a new job! This is a time often fraught with anxiety, excitement, and exploration. It’s also a great opportunity for self-reflection as you imagine yourself in new and different roles, update that resume, and polish your appearance for interviews.

The challenges of the hunt

Should you obtain one, the interview process will challenge your sense of self when asked to describe yourself in one word, justify your motivation, or elaborate on your strengths and weaknesses. When you leave the interview, you may find yourself running over every detail in your mind, wondering why you said this, or why you didn’t say that, and ultimately questioning your self-worth as you wait to hear whether they liked you enough to hire you.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Preparation can help alleviate much, if not all of the anxiety. Taking the time to ensure your presentation is an effective one, you can be sure to have done your best, even if you don’t get the job.

As a Human Resources professional with experience in recruiting and hiring, I’ve scanned hundreds of resumes, fielded countless follow-up phone calls, conducted many interviews, and made hiring decisions based on all of the above. With this insight, I want to share with you some practical do’s and dont’s for the application and interview process.

First impressions

Typically, the first impression you get to make on a potential employer is the resume. Don’t have a resume?

Make one! At least having a resume will put you one step ahead of those who don’t bother to make one, and when an employer has dozens or hundreds of applicants to screen, those without resumes don’t even get a glance. Standard word processing programs even provide you with templates to get started, and Google is always there to help, so you have no excuses.

The resume is the snapshot of your experience, education, certifications, and skills. It’s you, in a nutshell! Whether you need to make one or have one, take a close look at it. Your resume needs to be free of spelling, grammar, and usage errors. This is another filtering tool employers will use. If they find a sloppy resume, they can disregard it and move on.

Don’t be shuffled aside for lack of proofreading! There are free grammar checking programs available to help you. Also, asking a second set of eyes to proofread for you can catch mistakes your eyes have missed.

Also be aware that an employer who may have dozens of resumes to sift through needs to know the facts about you clearly and concisely.

Format the resume to be scannable, that is, having clear sections with chunks of relevant information that the eye can easily pick up with a quick overview.

Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Aim for a 1-2 page resume. Highlight your most relevant job experience, instead of every job since you were 16 years old. Be sure to include any post-secondary school accomplishments.

(After high-school). Include any certifications, training courses, and specific skills that are relevant to work.

Follow-up phone calls

A small note on the follow-up phone call. If you choose to call after submitting your resume to check on the status of your application, be professional and polite! All too often, I have encountered applicants calling in with rude, pushy, impatient attitudes which propel them out of the running at once. Understand that you may be one among dozens or even hundreds of applicants, and the task of going through resumes is time-consuming. Always use your best manners; please, thank you for your time, and have a wonderful day. And if you have been told that someone will reach out if they find your skills to be a good fit, do not continue to call and hound them.

Be patient.

The interview

So your resume stood out, quite probably among others, and you get an email or phone call requesting an interview. As with the follow-up call, be sure to use your manners if called for an interview, or in your email response, and say thank you. You may be contacted for a face-to-face or a video interview. Even if it's not in person, take this preparation advice to heart.

Before the interview, do your research. Check out the company so that you know what they are about. Many employers will ask you what you know to gauge your level of interest and if you say, “Nothing,” prepare for rejection. By taking the time to look into the company you want to work for, you are showing that you want the job and have initiative.

Employers want to hire people who want to work for them. Also, prior to the interview, make sure you know where you are going, even take a test drive to ensure that on interview day you are not late because you got lost.

Don’t be late. Be at least 5 minutes early. If you are there on the dot, you are late. Employers need to see that you will be punctual as an employee.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you're interviewing for. Unless you are applying for a laborer position, it is always wise to dress up. Wear appropriate, conservative, business attire. No jeans. Nothing tight or provocative. Nothing dirty, torn, or wrinkled.

Be clean, with your teeth and hair brushed. If you are a smoker, abstain from smoking prior to the appointment so that you don’t fill someone’s office with your smoky smell.

Also, refrain from cologne or perfume, again to avoid fumigating someone’s office.

Bring an extra copy of your resume, along with a list of professional references. When brought in, shake hands, introduce yourself, and thank the employer for the interview.

Don’t be chewing gum. Don’t have the ringer of your phone on, and don’t take your phone out during the interview. Your focus should be on what is happening.

Do emphasize your skills and how they can benefit the company. Do listen attentively and ask questions related to the job or company.

Don’t interrupt the interviewer. Don’t bash your former or current employer, and/or co-workers.

Above all, be honest and sincere.

The aftermath

After it’s all said and done, thank the interviewer again, and walk away confident knowing you put your best foot forward.

If you are not accepted for the job, take it in stride and thank the employer for the opportunity. You never know if down the road something else might be available. As you apply for and get interviews for the next job, you will have gained valuable experience that will help you in the process.

And if you do snag the job, dedicate yourself to put as much effort and thought into keeping that job as you did to get it.