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Get Ready For Your Next Interview - Tips and Advice to Get
the Perfect Job

In the ideal situation, the interviewer and the interviewee are equally interested
in finding a perfect fit. Look out for yourself. Ask hard questions about work
conditions, drawbacks, and low points. If asked tactfully and backed up with
research, well-directed questions of this sort won't offend a responsible
interviewer. After all, a happy employee is going to be more productive than
someone who hates his job.
But if you choose unwisely the first time, don't worry -- jobs are no longer
forever. People change careers nowadays about as often as their hairstyles.
Chances are, even the person who interviews you, if he or she hasn't been living
in a cave with blind fish, will understand that you probably won't be with the
company for life. Gone are the days of the 1950s "company man" who signed up
after college and stayed on until he retired. Nevertheless, choosing a job and
career right the first time saves a lot of time and angst.

Vault.com offers insider company research on thousands of top employers. You
can also fill out an employer survey on Vault and quality to win $500.

The following are some questions you'll want to answer, either by yourself prior
to the interview or during the interview, to avoid ending up in the wrong
position:

What are the hours?

If your research hasn't revealed this already, you should ask if a job advertised
as 40 hours a week really takes 50 or 60 hours a week, or more. You have a right
to know how much you'll be working and should protect yourself by asking in
the interview whether or not this is truly a 40-hour-a-week job. Interviewers
should be honest with you about this; it's information you need to know in order
to make a good decision. If you're going to be slammed with work from nine to
nine every day, it might not be worth it for you.

Pay?

Be aware that overeagerness to ask about salary can make you look
unprofessional. Asking about salary while calling up to schedule an interview is
a bad idea. The best time to ask about salary is after you've gotten the job, but
before you've accepted. Even if money is your prime motivation, wait till late in
the interview to ask money questions.

Still, salary and other benefits are important. Before you go in for an interview,
think about how much you need to make to live comfortably, and how much you
think you deserve to make, given the responsibilities and your qualifications.
You can find pay information at specific companies with Vault company
research.




















What type of work will I be doing?

Before you go in for an interview, think about which type of work environment
suits you best. As we saw earlier, different corporations develop different
attitudes. The atmosphere on the floor of the New York Stock exchange is very
different from a public library in a small town. Some jobs require you to work
with a team in order to produce a final product, while you'll work in solitude in
others. It's your responsibility to find the environment that best suits you.

How long will I be here?

Before the interview, you'll also wish to think about your commitment to the job.
The interviewer will be concerned about how long you will be able to stay with
them. Are you looking for summer employment between school terms, for a
six-month experience, a three-month internship, or a lifelong career path? In
establishing a career, consider that anything under a year does not constitute a
valid work experience to some employers. In many jobs it takes six months just
to get up to speed.

Are there walls?

When you go in for the interview, be alert to the work environment, both
physical and human. Pay attention to the way the company gets its work done.
Imagine yourself coming into that building every day. Do people in the office
wear Armani or Levis, DKNY or Dickies? Do they crowd into cubicles or kick
back in plush, well-ferned offices? Is there a backslapping, good-ol'-boy, "see
the game last night, Joe?" feel to the place? Do the workers seem happy or do
they wander round the office like zombies? Are there stains on the carpet,
interesting art on the walls? If you look at the interview experience as an
opportunity to gather as much information as you can about the company, you'll
have plenty of factors to sift through when it's time to make a decision.


Big fish in small pond or cog in machine?

How big a company do you want to work for? Will you be more comfortable as a
prominent player in an office where everyone knows one another, or as a single,
relatively unnoticed cog in a massive corporate machine? Smaller companies are
more likely to offer flexible hours and vacation policies, and they may offer more
opportunities for immediate, diverse, and substantive involvement. In addition, a
smaller company may be a growing company. It can be exciting to ride a
company as it grows, to watch and participate in the formation of its culture and
lingo. Smaller companies also tend to suffer less from bothersome bureaucracies,
so your ideas have a better chance of immediate implementation.

By the same token, it's difficult to hide in a small company. Everyone will soon
realize if you're not producing. It may be more difficult for you to take vacation,
or even a long lunch. Small companies also tend to pay less and can't offer the
benefits of a larger firm. And especially in these consolidation-crazy times,
they're somewhat more susceptible to buy-outs and bankruptcy than a big,
established operation. Fortune 500 companies, on the other hand, can usually
afford higher salaries than smaller places can. They also offer more
comprehensive benefits, and may offer a wider variety of potential places to live.

In the interview process, employees at small companies understand that they
don't have the name recognition of bigger places and won't expect you to know
as much about them. This is why it's an especially good idea when interviewing
with a smaller place, to find out who they are and what they do. Make sure you
thoroughly check their web site, if they have one. At least research the industry
in which the company's involved if you can't find anything more specific. Also,
Vault.com's company research provides insights into workplace culture at major
employers.
Tips for Writing the Perfect Cover Letter to Get your Resume
on the Top of the List

Something happens to people when they get online. Maybe it's the instant
access, maybe it's the "I-could-be-naked" anonymity, but when people get
online they sometimes get overly casual and informal. This might be fine when
your talking to your buddy in Omaha or the sweetheart you just met in a
chatroom, but it doesn't work well when you're trying to get business done.
Just because you're communicating online does not mean you should consider
yourself exempt from any of the formalities of paper-based communication.
Online cover letters are notoriously awful, poorly written throwaways of fewer
than three lines whose only purpose is to say "I'm applying, this is my resume,
have a nice day."

When formatting the cover letter, stick to left-justified headers and four-inch
wide text lines in your paragraphs. You never know when the address you're
mailing to has a small e-mail-page format that will awkwardly wrap text around
the screen. Also, many e-mail systems cannot handle text enhancements like
bolding, bulleting or underlining, so play it safe by using CAPITAL LETTERS --
or dashes -- if you need to make an emphasis. For more expert advice on cover
letters, check out the Vault Job Search Survival Center .

Proper E-mail Cover Letter Etiquette

Anil Dash, the former chief information technology officer for an online music
video production studio in Manhattan, lost his job this January when the
company fired nearly all its employees. Since then, Dash figures he's applied for
more than a dozen jobs, contacting every one of the potential employers -
befitting an out-of-work CIO - through e-mail.

But every time he prepares another e-mail, he faces a choice. Should he bother to
write an e-mail cover letter, the sort of thing he'd do if he were mailing the
resume, or should he merely dash off a few lines to the effect of, "Hi, I'm
interested in your job, and I've attached my resume as a Word file. Thanks." "I
do cover letters for jobs I really want," Dash says. "For ones I don't care about, I
just spam them."

Why cover letters still matter

According to recruiting experts, Dash is doing the right thing by writing
extensive e-mail cover letters. Even though cover letters came of age in the age
of pen and paper (or typewriter and paper), they still have a place in the 21st
century, when want ads, resumes, and interviews all fly over virtual networks.
"It's going over the Internet, but it's the same product," Madeline Miller, the
manager of Compu-Type Nationwide Resume Service in upstate New York, said
of e-mail cover letters. "The cover is very important and it should be the same
quality if you were to mail it."

Since e-mail messages generally tend to be conversational and quickly written,
many people aren't used to drafting carefully written e-mail cover letters. But
Miller said any applicant who creates a fully-fleshed e-mailed cover letter has an
advantage over an applicant with a more slapdash cover letter.

"There is a tendency to jot off a few lines, and people might write, "I'm applying
for this job, here is my resume," Miller said. "But if there is a cover letter, that
could put somebody over the top." But at the same time, make sure your
e-mailed cover letter isn't a chore to read. If brevity is a virtue with conventional
cover letters, it's a necessity for e-mailed cover letters. You can find out more
about cover letters with Vault's expert career advice.

Appropriate cover letter length

Reesa Staten, the research director for OfficeTeam, a staffing service firm, says
e-mailed resumes shouldn't run more than two or three paragraphs.

"You want to include the same type of information, albeit in a shorter version,"
Staten said. "What you don't want to do is rehash your resume. There's no need
to restate what you've done in the past. What you want to do is tell them where
you learned about the listing, why you're right for the job, and how they can
reach you."

Tips for sending cover letters and resumes

If you really want the job, follow up an e-mailed cover letter and resume with a
hard copy you mail. Make sure this hard copy includes a cover letter, too, that
restates who you are and why you're qualified. Somewhere in the cover letter, be
sure to write, "I recently e-mailed you my resume and I'm following up with this
hard copy."

Why should you do this? A hard copy gives your resume another chance for
exposure and makes it easier for a potential boss to pass around or file your
cover letter and resume. In cases where your e-mailed cover letter and resume
have been overlooked in someone's in-box or rendered inaccessible by a
computer glitch, a hard copy may be your only chance for exposure.

If you're including a resume as an attachment, first make sure the prospective
employer accepts attachments. Then, in your cover letter, mention the program
you used to create your attachment. ("I've enclosed a cover letter written in
Microsoft Word 2000.") It's also a good idea to include a cut and paste text
version of your resume in addition, in case the person reading the resume
doesn't have the software to open your attachment.

With any resume file you're attaching, open it first to make sure it's updated,
error free, and the version of your resume you want to send. Sending a virus is
tantamount to sealing your job-doom. Save a copy of whatever you send by
including your own e-mail address in the "BCC" field or by making sure a copy
goes to your "Sent mail" folder. This allows you to resend the letter if a problem
pops up. Lastly, don't fill in the "to" field with the recipient's e-mail address until
you've finished writing and editing the cover letter and resume. This prevents
you from accidentally sending off the message before it's ready.

For more expert advice on the job search, from resumes and cover letters to
interviewing and salary negotiation, go to the Vault Job Search Survival Center.