Here’s An Easy One: Be Prepared


A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out out the closet in my office when I came across some of my supplies from a previous life.  I used to be an HR consultant, and most of the work I did during that period wasn’t really consulting.  Instead, I served as an interim or ad hoc HR director.  I swooped in, acted like I worked there for real, and then left when they didn’t need me anymore.

One of the interesting things about that kind of work is that you never know where you’ll be sitting.  In some cases, I had a posh office.  In others, I was in a hallway, a lunchroom, or the cubicle where they kept the fax machine.  I never knew whether I’d have even basic supplies.  So I put together a little office kit, so that I had everything I’d need no matter what.  I had a little portable hanging file folder box, and in the top there were compartments for paper clips, staples, sticky notes, etc.  Then I had this accordion-style thing that folded out and hung on a wall or door.  I used my label maker to turn the top slot into an IN box, and then had the others labeled with “waiting for reply,” “calls to make,” and so forth.

I originally put this whole system together to help me get up and running more quickly at each location, and to give me a consistent system and set of tools to work with.  Later, though, I found out that the real benefit was the effect on clients.  It blew their minds.  You would be amazed at how people respond when they see that you’re organized and prepared.  I got some of my business from referrals, and each time, the new client mentioned that the old client said I was so freakishly organized that I had a traveling office, and that that made them think I could solve problems.  It’s funny how people form opinions on little things like that.

You can use this same technique in job interviews.  When you show up, have extra copies of your resume.  If you’re interviewing for the sort of job where they’re going to hand you a paper application, have a neatly-typed list of all of your old jobs, with addresses, phone numbers, and everything else laid right out.  Have a file folder with their company name on it, and when they say, “Do you have any questions for us?” you can whip out a typed list of questions, with spaces for you to take notes on the answers.

The effect is amazing.  It shows that you’re organized, businesslike, and interested enough in the job that you actually put some effort into your prep.

A little window dressing can go a long way in setting you apart from the crowd.  In can also make you feel more confident in the interview.  Those are two good things.

Photo by jo-h

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8 Responses

  1. Em-Dash 8 years ago
  2. Kerry Sandberg Scott 8 years ago
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