Let’s take a minute and examine what many interviews look like from the employer’s vantage point. This means not just listening to the answers to questions about behaviors that occur during the interview that affect our judgment and decisionmaking. Now, before you start a campaign criticizing me for suggesting that it is stupid to consider such trivial matters, you are naive to think that it is not irrelevant to look at behavior during the interview. After all, when advertisers, television producers, and movie directors create a product to sell to you, they do so with consciousness knowing that every detail of their presentation affects whether you would consider buying their product or liking their movie. They target every detail for optimal effect.
So, let’s think for a second about how a receptionist reacts if he or she is treated abruptly or rudely when you arrive at an interview. Do you think he or she might not mention that to an interviewer? And if you refuse to complete an employment application, saying that all the answers are in your resume, how does an employer interpret that behavior?
These are a few of the seemingly trivial mistakes that people consistently make year in and year out. There are many others that people make. Let me share a few things to do and not to do.
- When you are asked to wait for a few minutes until the interviewer arrives to greet you, sit facing the greatest number of entry points to the room so that you can see them approaching you. There are few things worse than you can do than to lose your focus in that book that you are reading and not be conscious when someone comes out to greet you.
- The handshake needs to be proper. Many cultural differences exist between proper interview behavior in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Here, a firm handshake and eye contact while you do it are expected. To shake hands weakly, to “pump the handshake as though you were a well,” to break the other person’s hand off while you shake it, to avoid eye contact are interpreted poorly in this culture. If it is a cold day, you need to arrive at the office building where the interview is being conducted early enough to warm your hands; on hot days, you need to arrive early enough to cool off. There is nothing worse than shaking hands with someone whose hands are frozen or slippery from sweat.
- What do your shoes and clothes do or not do? Every firm has a corporate culture formal or informal. Whichever one it is, you need to dress appropriately for it. Your clothes should be wellpressed, your shoes having a shine to them. Your wardrobe should suggest success without screaming, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” This is true for men and women alike.
- Prepare for what interviewers ask. Most interviews start in a fairly predictable way, asking you to summarize your career. They may even ask something like, “Tell me about yourself and what you’ve been doing professionally?” Prepare your answer to questions like this before arriving at the interview. Also, prepare for the natural followup questions to your answer without giving the impression that you are too wellprepared. Practice. Practice. Practice. Make your answers seem spontaneous, even when they are rehearsed. You know what the job description is that the company is attempting to hire for; what would you ask to confirm that you are qualified?
- Try to make a personal connection with every person who interviews you. Do I need to say more?
- Be prepared to speak about what you’re looking for in a job and why. This is both a tangible question about the nature of the job you’re looking for and a question that speaks to your character. Many people arrive with unreasonable demands and expectations. Some people answer as though they lack ambition. Think about it before you arrive for an interview.
- Have some questions to ask the interviewer? Look at the company’s website before the interview to learn about the company. Ask the interviewer about the project the group is working on and how your role would fit into the team. What their expectations are for you? What is the due date for the project? What would you have to do to be rated as an exceptional employee vs. an average one? Not asking questions suggests a lack of ambition or disinterest. Ask a few and ask the interviewer to clarify a point or two about the job.
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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