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The surefire way to ace your job interview, from Bravo’s ‘The Headhuntress’

Wendy Doulton knows what it takes to land a job. In her 15 years of experience as a recruiter, she has led talent acquisition teams at Yahoo Media Group, DreamWorks and Google, and now serves as the principal of her own firm, Los Angeles-based Katalyst Career Group.

The most recent addition to her résumé? Star of Bravo’s television special “The Headhuntress,” in which she gives struggling job seekers tough-love advice and ultimately helps them triumph.

We asked Doulton for her secrets to success for the job seekers she helps: what they need to be doing, what they need to stop doing, and how they can figure out what they want to be doing. Her guidance, in her now-famous candid fashion, below.

The Work Buzz: What’s the No. 1 thing a job seeker can do to wow a potential employer in an interview?
Wendy Doulton: When I interview people, I’m always really impressed by those who can give me really good examples of why they’re right for the job. They know themselves and they can tell me why they’ve been successful and why people have hired them. They can tell me the types of bosses they’d like to work for and the impact they’ve had on previous companies.

This is as important for a receptionist as it is for a CEO. A good assistant can tell you how she makes her boss’s life better: She can tell you she makes him seem accessible even when he’s not and she can tell you how she does it. She can tell you that she saved $100,000 on the travel bill because she was able to change vendors and negotiate a better deal. Those people know why they’re good, and people want to hire people that can prove they get results. Know your stuff. Know what you bring to the party.

TWB: How does this affect the way candidates should prepare for interviews?
 The interview is what makes or breaks the deal. I think a lot of candidates prepare for the interview in the wrong way. They need to be able to articulate why someone should hire them. I think that is so important. It’s impressive to sit there and hear somebody talk about why they’re good at something. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering; they just need to be able to clearly explain why someone should pay them a salary to show up every day.

I think a lot of people focus outside of themselves instead of focusing internally and getting very clear about why somebody should hire them. That’s the area candidates really need to focus on.

TWB: For new graduates or people in general who might not be so sure “what they bring to the party” – or how to explain it — how can they figure it out?
 For new graduates, I always say, ‘Ask around.’ Ask your parents, ask your teachers, ask your friends, ask your colleagues if you’re in an internship. Ask them for honest feedback and listen to it.

People will always give you honest feedback throughout your whole life: ‘Oh honey, you should do this because you’re so good at it,’ or ‘You shouldn’t do this because you hate people.’ You get it your whole life. You get it when you’re sitting at a bar with your friends or your colleagues on Friday night and you’re like, ‘Oh, I hate my job; I just can’t believe it,’ and your friends are like, ‘Well, honey you shouldn’t be working there. You really want to be in PR. Why are you working at the manufacturing plant?’ You get feedback all the time. Look deep inside, but also ask people. And … really be prepared for what they have to say.”

TWB: On the other hand – what can a candidate do to completely ruin his chances of getting hired?
 The thing that drives me the most nuts about candidates is when they stalk you for feedback after an interview. The phone at our office is ringing all the time, we’re scheduled back-to- back, but we always get candidates who expect you to respond literally within hours of them sending you their résumé or them leaving you a message. The candidates that start becoming the squeaky wheels do not get the attention. It’s a fine line between following up and stalking, and candidates have got to learn to master that.

Stalking is annoying in anything — in dating or if you have a girlfriend who just keeps bugging you all the time when you’re at work because she wants to know what you’re doing this weekend … The more you chase after people, the less inclined they are to call you back or to want to call you back.

Until you get hired, you want recruiters to be on your side, so you want to build positive relationships with them in a way where it feels like you’re somebody they want to help and want to call, and when you’re stalking somebody it just really puts them off. It’s human nature. Follow up, don’t stalk.

TWB: What’s the proper way to follow up, then?
 I think it’s really fair in an interview to say, ‘I’m really interested and I’d like to follow up. What’s your timeline? Where are you in the process?’ or ‘How often can I follow up with you?’ Set expectations for everyone.

 If you remember one thing, though, Doulton wants it to be this: “In an interview, what’s most important is to have a conversation that is meaningful, not to give canned answers to questions you are anticipating. If you know the value that you bring, if you know why you’re there, if you know why someone should hire you and what you’ve achieved, you will turn the interview into a conversation, instead of you fretting over an answer to where you want to be in five years’ time.”

And that is how you get hired.

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