Follow these tips on interviewing well to stand out from the crowd of applicants. Over half of an employer’s first impression is based on your appearance and mannerisms; expert application of these techniques captures the rest of their interest.
Dress Your Best
Does it really matter whether you wear a suit to your next interview? It does – if you want to edge out your competitors and impress the recruiter. In “Ten Rules for Interviewing,” Roseanne Bensley states: “Studies have shown that 65 percent of the conveyed message is nonverbal; gestures, physical appearance and attire are highly influential during job interviews.”1
In a fiercely competitive job market, proper attire is the difference between hired and rejected. Wear your best suit, get your hair appropriately styled, and polish your shoes. Check your appearance in a full-length mirror before you leave for the interview and take a second look when you arrive to make sure you look polished and professional.
Ditch the Cell Phone
Leave the cell phone (and Bluetooth) in your car. Texting during an interview is a guaranteed way to be rejected as a candidate and so is sneaking looks at a phone to see who just called. Decide which is more important to you – a job opportunity or a phone call – and act accordingly.
Be Early Rather Than on Time
Most experts advise candidates to arrive on time for the interview; the safer choice is arrive about 5 to 10 minutes early. Use this time to prepare yourself for the interview by reviewing your research information and doing deep breathing to relax.
Use the Internet, a map or your GPS to map out the route and make a trial run to find the company. Factor in a time cushion by leaving early for the appointment and avoid being blindsided by unavoidable events like car trouble, traffic jams or flat tires. Build in double redundancy by having a back-up transportation plan in case your car won’t start or you have other vehicle problems.
Do Your Homework
Visit the company prior to the interview on a fact-finding mission. This gives you a chance to observe the corporate climate and meet the receptionist. Write down his or her name and be sure to use it when you arrive for your appointment, because people like to hear the sound of their name, and it makes them feel important. This makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants who may or may not care enough to take care of this little detail.
Explain that you will be interviewing in the future and ask for information such as annual reports or employment brochures. Use this information as well as online research facts to prepare for the interview.
Write out a list of questions that an interviewer could potentially ask. Refer to the job posting or advertisement, target the skills the employer is seeking, and formulate your questions. Prepare answers to these questions that highlight your qualifications.
Devise another list of questions to ask the interviewer. These must be thoughtful, intelligent questions that show you understand the company and its products or services. These questions position you as a capable, astute potential employee. Prepare more questions than you need because the recruiter may answer some of the questions on your list during the interview.
Finally, make a fact sheet listing three to four specific examples of past successes. Include measurable data and figures and avoid generalities. If you reduced employee absenteeism by 55 percent, say so. Use action verbs and take credit for your achievements.
Role Play and Practice
You may have heard the adage “practice makes perfect” but a better adage is “perfect practice makes perfect.” After all, when you lift weights and your form is wrong, you don’t get the same results as you do when your form is perfect.
Practice answering the questions on your list until you can’t make a mistake answering them. Internalize every detail on your resume; fumbling for a copy of your resume or drawing a blank when a recruiter asks you to elaborate on some point in it makes you look unprepared and unprofessional.
Be ready with the information about your past performance, but be alert for a trap that recruiters love to spring. Prepare a succinct answer to the question, “What would you say your biggest weakness is?”
Ask a friend to role play an interview scenario with you. Fine tune your presentation and timing. It’s better to make mistakes in a controlled situation like this than in the live interview, and advance practice gives you confidence. As an alternative, tape your presentation and play it back. If you don’t like what you hear, make adjustments until you are satisfied with your performance.
Watch the Body Language
It’s important to make eye contact, give a firm handshake, smile and practice active listening. It’s just as important to watch your body language and not tense up like a cobra getting ready to strike or shake your head repeatedly like a bobble head.
Be aware of any nervous gestures such as shaking your foot or twisting a ring on your finger. If you catch yourself doing this, make a conscious effort to set back in the chair and relax your muscles. Inhale as deeply as possible and pause a minute before answering the next question.
Ask for clarification before you answer questions and then be sure to really answer the question. A common complaint with recruiters is that applicants do not respond to the specific question that was asked.
Mind Your Manners
Many employers conduct a lunch or dinner interview as a test of the candidate’s etiquette skills. If you are not sure your manners are up to par, spend some time on the Internet reviewing etiquette rules.
Whether you are invited to a meal or not, watch for little slips that could raise red flags in the interviewer’s mind. Wait to be invited to sit and thank the person for the opportunity to interview. If you are introduced to someone, repeat his or her name while shaking his or her hand.
This should go without saying, but leave the hat in the car with the cell phone and other gadgets. Carry a portfolio, copies of your resume and a notepad.
Ask for the Job
Most sales are lost because the salesperson just never asks for the sale; most jobs are lost for the same reason. Ask what the next step is and when you can expect to hear from the interviewer. Ask when they will make the hiring decision. Tell the interviewer that you want the job and ask what you should do next. Get permission to follow-up on a certain date and be sure to follow-through with a phone call or email.
Be the Last Interviewee
While you may not be able to control this facet of the process, be the last interviewee if possible. If not, try to be in the last group. Recruiters see lots of resumes and lots of candidates. Their tendency is to remember the last few individuals.
Send a Thank-you Note
Outside of appearance, this is the most important act of the interview. Remember, the recruiter has seen many individuals for a brief time. Keeping all the names, attributes and skills straight is challenging for him or her. Only a small percentage of candidates take the time to follow-up with a thank-you note so by sending one, you automatically give yourself an additional edge over the other applicants.
Avoid This Trap
If you follow these top ten rules for interviewing well, you have every right to expect to move to the next step of the recruiting process. However, a surprising number of candidates make it almost as far as the job offer and then make one fatal mistake: asking the wrong questions.
It’s inappropriate during the first interview to ask questions about benefits, salaries or worker’s rights. Secure the job offer, and then clarify these important issues so you make the best decision on whether to accept or refuse the job.
It is appropriate, however, to ask questions that indicate your desire to move up in the company such as “What would I have to do to move up to the next level?” or “How could I improve my chances of being promoted?”
- SXC: Stock photo business breakfast (Image ID: 213605) under royalty free license
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- SXC: Stock photo businessman in office (Image ID: 1287062) by CELALTEBER under royalty free license
- SXC: Stock photo handshake (Image ID: 616726) under royalty free license
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- SXC: Stock photo businesswoman (Image ID: 1342188) by Gronvik under royalty free license
- Author’s experience as a representative for the Lendman Group, a national personnel consulting and recruiting firm
- Bensley, Roseanne R., “Ten Rules of Interviewing,” Prairie View A & M University, http://www.pvamu.edu/pages/1882.asp