Interviewing: Start Strong, Finish First

— Jun 6, 2013 —

The interview process begins the second you submit your resume to a company.  This is the very first impression the company gets of you, and you should make it a great one. The next step is the phone interview and again, be sure you know how to deliver a successful phone interview.

Now that you’ve impressed hiring managers in steps 1 and 2, here comes the hard part:  Are you in person as you are on paper?

Your face-to-face interview begins immediately after you step foot on company premises.

If the weather is on the wetter or snowier side, and you are of the boot-wearing variety, be sure to change into your interview-appropriate shoes prior to entering the building [link to 12 tip list for dressing for the interview].  More on this later.

Greet the receptionist warmly and confidently.  The receptionist is the company’s first point of contact and the hiring manager can and most likely will ask them about your behavior upon arrival.  If you are asked to wait, sit as you would if the hiring manager were in front of you.  Don’t slouch or hunch over; poor posture reflects poorly.  Don’t play with your phone; it should be on silent mode or off and put away.  If you can’t sit quietly and wait 10 minutes to meet with someone without fiddling with your phone, it sends the message that you’re dependent on it and can’t disconnect while you’re at work.  What kind of impression does it send if you’re texting away when the hiring manager does come to greet you?

Shake hands with a firm grip.  Use your entire hand when you do this; don’t just grab the other person’s fingers.  Weak handshakes are awkward for the other party and are associated with lack of confidence.  A handshake that is too firm may give the impression you are aggressive, as opposed to assertive.  Overly strong handshakes are also awkward (and sometimes painful).  Practice with different friends to find a balance.

As you’re being led to the interviewing room, make small talk.  If the position is available because the company recently opened the offices in your city, comment on how lovely the décor is, how the location is perfect, or a museum in the area that you’ve been to.  Making small talk shouldn’t leave you feeling anxious.  If you’re really stuck for something to talk about, talk about the weather, but whatever you do, don’t move silently.

Wait to be invited to sit.  It’s the polite thing to do.  You wouldn’t go to a stranger’s house and make yourself immediately comfortable, would you?  The hiring manager should ask you to have a seat, and if they don’t, worry not; if you notice they sit and you’re still standing, simply ask if you can sit by motioning toward a seat and saying something like, “may I sit here?”  This behavior reinforces that you are respectful and courteous and sends a strong message of professionalism.

Leave your baggage at the door.  Don’t go to interviews with and extra carried items.  You should have your resume and a handbag if you use one.  Place any extra bags, such as the one with your wet boots, on the floor next to you.  Your handbag should also be placed either on the floor next to you, or on a chair.  The only items on the table should be your resume, a folder, a pen and your hands.

Retrieve your crisp resume from an encasement.  Whether you prefer folders or sheet protectors, you should always carry your resume with you in some vessel.  This will protect it from getting bent or wrinkled and show that you care about how you’re perceived.  If a hiring manager receives a resume that isn’t pristine, they may get the impression that you don’t really care if you get the job or not.

Speak clearly and concisely.  Try not to over answer questions, but don’t omit details either.  There’s a fine balance between under-selling yourself and over-selling yourself.  Again, practice with a friend and you’ll have someone who can tell you as soon as you begin talking too much.  Interviews are conversations, not monologues.

Take notes if necessary.  If the hiring manager mentions a program you are unfamiliar with, write it down and look it up when you’re finished with the interview.  It may be specific to the company, or it may be a technology new to the field.  You can even mention this in your thank you note [link to the thank you note post week of 6/3] by saying, “I did some research on the CRM software you mentioned during our meeting, and the UI is similar to ABC Software, which I utilized heavily in my previous position.  I know that in-depth knowledge of this software is critical to the role, and I am confident that I can learn the ropes with ease.”

Thank the interviewer for their time.  Express your interest and ask about next steps.  Remember to send a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview

You’re not in the clear yet!  Thank the receptionist on your way out, don’t ignore them!  They greeted you, potentially got you a beverage while you waited, and offered their facilities to you before the interview.  They did their duty in being attentive to a guest; you are, after all, a guest.  Thank them for their hospitality and proceed to exit the building.

If you did change your shoes before you entered the building, you can change them back, but only after you’ve exited the premises.  You never know if they’re still watching…

The idea behind the interviewing etiquette is that you should come off as a polished, put together individual who is the whole package: professional, poised, and intelligent, with an even-keeled demeanor.  Hiring managers directly correlate the amount of effort you put into the interview with the amount of effort you’ll put into the job, so prepare thoroughly.  This is essentially an audition. 

Do you know your lines?

 

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