Professionalism during the hiring process is a key attribute to make a positive first – and lasting – impression on a potential employer. There are many steps involved in the hiring process, and it is important to put your best foot forward from beginning to end.
Here are 10 checkpoints where communication can set you apart with a prospective employer.
- Think long-term
When reaching out to a potential employer, remember that you are not only marketing yourself as a qualified candidate, but you are also putting yourself in a position to represent the employer if hired. An employer will take your professionalism during the hiring process as evidence you are capable of carrying over those communication skills when interacting with their current employees and clients.
In most cases, it is best to return a phone call with a phone call. Be prepared to leave a message if the person is unavailable. When leaving a voicemail, it can be helpful to plan your talking points before you make the call. This allows you to get your message across while remaining clear and concise. Speak slowly and confidently – try to keep your message under 30 seconds. Start with your name, provide your contact information and do not forget to thank the listener!
As with all written communication, a well-written email shows the employer you are detail-oriented and professional. Try to respond to all emails within 24 hours, keeping your response short and to the point. If you have multiple questions, suggest organizing a time to meet in person to discuss. As always, maintain a friendly, businesslike tone. Use a professional email address and include a signature block with your contact information in case the recipient wants to call you.
- Application Documents
First of all, make sure to submit all requested application materials and follow all application instructions. Utilize the application review services available in the Career Development Office and use the writing sample assistance offered by the Legal Writing Clinic. Eliminate errors in your resume and cover letter. Use these written documents to market yourself as a qualified, detail-oriented and coachable colleague with a genuine interest in the employer.
- Public Persona
In reference to thinking long-term, also develop a holistic approach to marketing yourself as a candidate. Set your personal social media accounts to private, and take some time to polish your LinkedIn account. Your reputation is the most valuable asset you own – assume you might run into a potential employer again later in your career and conduct yourself accordingly.
- Interview Details
In preparation for an interview, attention to detail is key. Clarify the date, time and location of your interview and request a list of people you will meet. The interview is the perfect time to use active listening. Respond with follow-up questions demonstrating your attentiveness to the interviewer. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication – body language and eye contact can say more to a potential employer than your words!
- Follow Up
After an interview, send a thank you note to each individual you spent significant time with, and include the staff who coordinated your visit. Email is appropriate, but if you are looking to stand out, a handwritten thank-you note will set you apart from the competition and make you more memorable. Use neat handwriting, and place the correct note in the corresponding envelope!
- An Offer! Now What?
First and foremost, acknowledge you received the offer. If you receive the offer via email, respond with an email, and likewise respond by phone if you received the offer by phone. The offer stage is an incredibly important time to be explicitly clear with all communications. Make sure there is an official offer in place by asking for an offer letter, which should provide details on salary, hour requirements, and other specifications. Be explicit in your acceptance or rejection, and if you need time to consider the offer, be clear in that request as well. It might seem obvious, but this is a critical time where communication is key – you do not want to leave an employer under the impression you have accepted the position when you are still unsure.
- Handling Multiple Offers
If you are fortunate enough to have received multiple overlapping offers, tactful negotiation is crucial. Tie up any loose ends with each employer – now is the time to find answers to any lingering questions before you accept or decline an offer. Request a follow up meeting, or contact alumni who have worked with the employer in the past. Once you are certain of your decision to eliminate an employer from your list of possibilities, do not continue to leverage that offer against another. Integrity is key, and for the offer you do accept, this is the beginning of an important relationship.
- Offer Acceptance or Rejection
If you decide to reject an offer, thank the employer for their interest and consideration. Be polite and use language that will keep the bridge intact with the employer in case you become interested in another opportunity with them further along in your career. With an offer acceptance, again, make sure to review the entire offer package. Once you are sure you intend to accept, contact the employer with the good news!
Abiding by these professional practices will maximize your chances of securing meaningful employment and succeeding once you get there. The Career Development Office is available to answer questions about professional communications for your summer placement and beyond.