Here’s An Easy One: Be Prepared

Here’s An Easy One: Be Prepared

by Kerry Scott on 2 December 2009


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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Em-Dash December 2, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Funny, I was considering a blogpost on how to be prepared for business trips in Russia (among other things, it involves office supplies, emergency food, water, and toilet paper in my suitcase/purse at all times). But it’s the same idea — the organizations that I visit are so impressed that we are completely self-sufficient on the road. I don’t even have to ask for a paperclip!

I do miss my labelmaker…. too bad it doesn’t print Cyrillic.
.-= Em-Dash´s last blog ..Your bags? =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott December 2, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I love my label maker probably more than is even appropriate for a human-machine relationship.

Amy Boland December 2, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Then you must not be a fan of Dan Savage or familiar with his thoughts on the future of robotics.
.-= Amy Boland´s last blog ..Post-Thanksgiving soup blues =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott December 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I didn’t know about Dan Savage’s views on the future of robotics, so I googled. Now I’m up-to-date on that, and also aware of the existence of dino-dragon porn.

I’m okay with the robots, but I am not sure how I feel about the dino-dragon thing…mostly because it seems unsafe for the dinosaurs. All that fire-breathing seems a little abusive to me. I guess as long as the dinosaurs are consenting, and everyone’s using protection, it’s cool.

class factotum December 2, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I label my leftovers in the freezer. I love my label maker.

As far as being prepared. No. I will not lend you a pen. You are a perfect stranger in the emigration line at the airport/the post office/the DMV/the grocery store/the courthouse/anywhere in the darn world.

Yes, I have extra pens in my purse, but they are extra pens for me. I planned. You did not. Prick your finger and write your passport number in blood. Loser.
.-= class factotum´s last blog ..Eating for fun =-.

Jen @ Next Rich Girl December 4, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Great idea. I always think it’s the little things like this that can really set someone apart from the crowd.

Also, when I interview people, I always ask if they have a copy of their resume with them. I think how prepared people are shows how important the job is to them.
.-= Jen @ Next Rich Girl´s last blog ..Productivity and Unemployment: Is it Time to Stop Working So Hard? =-.

Deadhedge December 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm

I completely understand the need to have an extra copy of your resume when you were interviewing 8 years ago. That’s the last time that I was ever asked for a copy. Now that the world is on-line so your resume has been forwarded around and printed out by everyone or they just bring their lap tops to the interview and look at it.

Of course, I still bring copies of my resume to every interview because that’s still considered normal interview preparation like wearing pants. However, are we really just killing trees by always having copies of our resume with us at interviews? Shouldn’t it be time to evaluate the necessity of bringing the resume to the interview?
.-= Deadhedge´s last blog ..The Time to Hate Health Care Reform is Over =-.

Kerry December 7, 2009 at 7:35 am

Deadhedge—you’re probably only going to need one copy of your resume for your entire job hunt, for the reasons you outline. I bring a copy so that I look organized and prepared, but I haven’t actually had to hand it to someone since, like, 1998 or so. I don’t think it’s a necessity, but it does help show them that you’re organized.

I laughed that the part about wearing pants, partly because it’s funny, and partly because the number one search string that brings people to this blog is and always has been some variation on “can women wear pants to an interview?” Someday I’m going to snap and do a post that tells people to go in their underwear. Maybe I can start a trend (a Darwinistic trend, to be sure…but still).
.-= Kerry´s last blog ..Video Interview Coaching: What Do You Think? =-.

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