Getting The Interview: Five Steps To Success


By: Autumn Bell

{}{}A structured and organized job search is the key to getting an interview. Many job seekers make the mistake of taking a "shotgun" approach - applying for any job opening they find, sending out hundreds of resumes, filling out applications everywhere. This approach can lead to feelings of desperation and frustration, which will come through when and if you finally get an interview.

You should approach your job search as you would any important project - with a plan.

Step 1: Identify your career objectives.

With the high unemployment we have in the Central Valley, it's easy to think "I'll take any job that comes along." But is that really what you want? As long as you are putting time and effort into the job search, why not think long-term? Grab a piece of paper and answer the following questions:

  • 1. What are the top five skills I possess that can be of value to an employer?
  • 2. What are my short-term career goals? What work do I want to be doing within the year?
  • 3. What are my long-term goals? Where do I want to be in 5 years?

Be as specific as possible when writing your goals - the job title, type of work, skills that you will use, work environment, etc.

Step 2: Identify possible employers.

Which employers in the Valley need the types of skills you possess? Which companies and organizations have opportunities that match your goals? Use the newspaper, web sites like Central Valley Jobs, and the web sites of companies themselves to conduct your research. Make a list of businesses and organizations that may be able to use the skills you have to offer. Don't limit yourself to companies with advertised openings. Most jobs are filled through networking, word-of-mouth and being in the right place at the right time.

Step 3: Write a targeted resume.

Prepare a resume that communicates your abilities, relevant experience, and education. Each resume you send should be targeted to the company and job you seek. A generic resume will not stand out from the crowd.

Step 4: Submit application, cover letter, and resume.

Be sure to address your cover letter to a specific person in the organization. If this information is not included in the job posting - or if you are sending an "unsolicited" resume - call the company and ask to whom you may address your cover letter. Be sure to get the correct spelling.

Step 5: Follow-up with a phone call

Call three to four business days after submitting your information to verify that it was received. This may help move your packet from the middle of the pile to the top. Ask how soon they expect to call potential candidates for interviews. Make a note and be sure to call again at that time. When you call, clearly state your name and the position for which you are applying. Let them know that you are very interested in the position and would like a chance to discuss your qualifications in an interview. When calling potential employers, always use a confident, upbeat tone of voice and thank the person for his or her time.

A targeted resume, cover letter, and follow-up call can help you stand out from other job seekers. Having a more focused, professional approach to your job search will increase your confidence and the likelihood of getting that all-important interview.

Autumn Bell is an instructor in the Business Division of Fresno City College. The Business Division offers courses leading to an associate's degree, as well as career training, retraining, and short-term programs with immediate employment in mind. For more information visit