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April 28, 2014 at 1:00 AM

To get the job, prep work is crucial

Once, while conducting interviews for an open position in my department, it became obvious that a candidate hadn’t bothered to read the entire job description that was posted online. That told me he wasn’t very interested in the position.

It also gave me some insight into what his work habits might be. For example, I imagined he was probably the type of person who waited until the last minute to get things done, who didn’t complete adequate research or analysis for projects, who didn’t anticipate questions that might be asked when presenting in front of groups. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.

Why is analyzing and understanding the job requirements so important? Because when you fully understand these, you can position yourself much better as the candidate that should be hired. If you’re going to a lot of job interviews but not getting hired, you might not be doing enough of the right prep work. To improve your odds, do these six things before you apply:

Examine the job description closely. Download it, read it several times and make sure you fully understand it.

Find the gaps. Analyze your knowledge, skills, experience, education and attitude against the job requirements to see how you compare and to look for gaps.

Highlight the keywords. Read the job description again and highlight the keywords used to describe the job and requirements.

Customize your resume. Using the highlighted keywords, tailor your resume to that specific job in a way that showcases your skills and accomplishments that are most relevant to the requirements.

Brainstorm interview questions. Read the job description again and brainstorm questions the interviewer might ask to find out how your background fits the job requirements. Then practice your answers out loud.

Determine clarifying questions. If you find you don’t understand something listed on the job description or requirements, come up with some questions you could ask to obtain clarification once you’re in the interview.

As a hiring manager, I always take time during the interview to review the job description and requirements with the candidate. I then go through each requirement one by one and ask the candidate to tell me how he or she meets it based on knowledge, skills, experience or education.

As a candidate, it’s much easier to have this discussion with a hiring manager if you’ve completed the six steps listed above. You can discuss the areas on your resume that demonstrate your experience — because you’ve already made sure to include the relevant pieces of information on your resume.

There are usually far more job applicants than there are available positions. The key is to determine all the ways you can make yourself stand out from other candidates. Reviewing the job description; analyzing job requirements against your knowledge, skills, experience and education; addressing these areas in your resume; and then using your analysis to prepare for job interviews is a great way to differentiate yourself.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: interviewing, job search, resumes

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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