In an economy such as this it is extremely important to stand out in a positive way. Right now, it is an employer's market, and any advertisements for job openings receive a deluge of responses. What is a prospect to do?
The first order business is to create a simple one-page document advertising, ta-da, you. This is commonly called a resume, but please, stay with me--don't let your eyes gloss over as you sink into your standard definition of resume. this is your best shot at cramming your foot into the hiring manager's door for a little bit more time with her, to show her you are the One for whom she has been looking, so make it incredible.
Two things to remember: Relevance and Uniqueness. Your rezzo should absolutely be rewritten for every single job to which you apply. Custom build it for every situation. Uniqueness is like bling; it is what catches the eye of the screener who is trudging through hundreds of pieces of paper just like yours. If you have an over-qualification or a singular accomplishment to list, list it on a single line and make it bold.
The second order of business is to write a simple paragraph addressed to the actual person listed as contact for the job opening, and introduce yourself. This is commonly referred to as a cover letter. Start off with something like, "Hi, my name is Incredible Craig, and I would like you to know that I am the candidate you seek for Lead Chair Sitter, because 1,2,3." And so on. Definitely do not start the letter with "To whom it may concern," or "I am writing in response to your ad." Instant fodder for the circular file. The point is to stand out, be different, seize the opportunity to tell why the company should hire you.
Now that we are armed with our weaponry, we are ready to do battle. Provided you have been a good little boy and have applied in this fashion to at least five openings per day, you should be getting some callbacks by now. If you haven't got any callbacks, call them to follow up on your submission. Be assertive and positive. Great results can sometimes be had by physically stopping by the place of business to introduce yourself (of course you dressed appropriately!)
One of the best ways to approach a job interview is to know that anything is possible, that the interview you're currently in is the opportunity of a lifetime. Remember, you're assessing them as much as they're assessing you, or at least you should be. Be sure to take a look around and take notes as you proceed to the "back room" for your "session" with the manager. Remember names, peculiar bits of corporate culture, titles, and try to ascertain how things tend to work at the company and fit into their norm. For instance, if there seems to be a general air of traditional propriety to the entire operation, for the love of pete, don't start cracking jokes and elbowing the staff in the ribs. The sum solution to this problem is that you have to remember people are simultaneously complex and simple; but you have to engage them, as many of them as possible, and help them to get to know you in a very short time. It can work for you if there is a buzz around the office about you in your favor--all this depends upon how well you can stand out from the other candidates in every possible way.
Upon gaining an audience either in person or by phone with the HR person in question, you are ready to begin to seal the deal. Hey, this is hard work. An interview is your best opportunity to put a face to the hard work already paid for in your resume and cover letter. You don't want to find yourself sitting in front of the desk of the person who will make the decision as to whether or not you will be hired and suddenly find yourself out of your element or at a loss for words. I'll put it this way--would you walk onto a construction job site with an empty tool belt and no idea how to build a house? Of course not! But what tools do you need in your belt for the interview?
One of the most important tools is research. Most companies have a Web site or have connections on the Web, so conduct a search of anything relevant to the company at which you will interview, so that, once firmly ensconced in the hot seat, you can whip out impressive facts or bits of knowledge.
Another tool on your belt is your network. If you know someone who knows a B2B relationship within the company, you're distantly related to an important client, you have a son who mows the mayor's lawn, whatever, be sure to mention these relationships at opportune moments.
Perhaps one of the best tools in your belt will be your sense of when to be assertive and when to listen. Instead of being a predatory car salesman looking to close the deal, let your assertiveness simply be a natural display of your passion for the opportunity at hand, whether demonstrated by what you do, say, or what you know.
Another important tool is listening; the act of actually listening to people when they speak and participating in your side of the conversation. A very quick way to disqualify yourself from the running for the job is to appear to be, or to actually be, paying little attention. Look the person in the eye, repeat their name if you need to do so to remember it, and process what they say as they say it. Make connections from what they are saying to things you already know, and maybe even engage in a little critical thinking while you're at it. After all, you're interviewing them as well. Know when to shut your yap, but know when to interject--you've gotta have people skills. If you don't have these, you can build them by--guess what--interviewing more!
Of course the whole point of this process is to land the job, to find a stable place that suits you and your goals, to engage a company in the relationship that allows them to purchase your skill and labor from you for an agreed upon price. If you don't submit yourself to a rigorous process starting with your resume or CV, you'll never find the job of which you dream. Remember, people make choices every day. What choices are you making now, and what choices will you make for the rest of the day that will carry you toward your dream? If you have this kind of mindset throughout the process, if you are ready to commit wholeheartedly to doing all you can do to earn the opportunity of a job offer from a company of your choosing, then you will nail your next interview. Now go out there and get that job--because if you don't go for it, someone else most certainly will.