Once you’ve set your goals, written your plan, done your research and prepared your résumé, how do you get an interview?
The first step is to get your résumé — with an introductory cover letter — into the hands of the right person at each company on your “top ten” list. Email is your fastest and simplest route.
Who should get your résumé? If possible, avoid the human resources department. H.R. directors at most companies do the hiring for all departments, and understaffing is common. More to the point, the people in human resources are generally not technically oriented. They won’t understand the needs of the position as fully as the manager who is searching. Try to identify the manager of the department or division in which you would be working. He or she is the person who knows what positions need to be filled, and will benefit the most from filling them. Your message will find a much more receptive audience.
Once you’ve sent your résumé and cover letter, follow up with a phone call. Don’t be shy. Ask to speak to the person to whom you sent the résumé, and let them know you are calling to follow up. You should make this call within a day or two after sending an e-mail résumé, and within four or five days after sending a résumé by mail.
Be specific when you call. Tell the person you are interested in working for the company. Identify the specific position if possible. Don’t try to recap your entire résumé on the phone. Instead, ask for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the skills and experience that you can bring to the position. If the company is too far away to make a meeting convenient, ask for an appointment at a convenient time in a day or two for a telephone interview.
Try to move the conversation to an agreement on a specific action step. Ask for the interview or at least a commitment to future communication by telephone or e-mail. Then follow up on the action step in a timely manner.
If the manager has an immediate need and your résumé matches the position, you’ll probably be invited in quickly. So you’d better be ready for the interview.
Acing the interview
The interview is still the key to hiring, and first impressions are still the most important. Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for interviewing:
Show up late. It’s a really bad way to start.
Do all the talking. Be an active listener and answer questions directly.
Bad mouth your current employer. The NDT industry is a small community.
Talk about salary and benefits unless the interviewer brings it up. Appearing too focused on money is a sure way to lose the job. If and when the conversation turns to salary, don’t make outrageous demands. You should know (from your research) the salary range for the position. Leave the huge salary demands to professional athletes and congress.
Forget to say “thank you!” And mean it. Even if you don’t get the job, the interview is a good opportunity for which you should be grateful.
Dress appropriately. You’re not going out into the field, so leave the blue jeans and flannel shirts in the closet. When you call to ask for the interview, ask what dress is appropriate. You’ll get extra points for preparing well.
Bring a copy of your résumé and certifications with backup documentation. The person interviewing you may not have kept your original submission.
Be prepared to talk about yourself. This is difficult for many people. Try to “step outside” and look at yourself objectively, like a new car. Then sell your good points like strong acceleration and good gas mileage.
Share your goals. Let the interviewer know why you want this particular job and how it fits in with your personal, professional, and family goals.
Demonstrate how you can help. Remember that the interviewer is more interested in how you will help the company than how the company will help you. Show how your experience and skills will make a difference.
Make sure you set up the next step before leaving the interview. Will there be a follow up interview? Is more documentation needed? At the very least be sure to set a date for making a follow up phone call.
Don’t expect to be hired on the spot. It’s more than likely that several people will be competing for the same job, and more interviews will be conducted. Hopefully, all the hard work and preparation you have put in will result in success — a new job that meets your short-term requirements and fits in with your long-term dreams.
The red-hot NDT job market means opportunity for you on many levels. But good jobs don’t just fall out of the sky — you have to go out and find them, then prepare thoroughly to get them.
The next step is up to you.