As employment figures continue to be headline news, it's not surprising that I often run into people, both college grads and newly-unemployed mid-lifers, who are either looking for jobs or who are in the interview process. Once you've been invited in for an interview, a key to success is how well you connect with the interviewer(s). Your people skills can be the critical difference between you getting the job or someone else getting the job. While there are whole books devoted to the interview process, here are five simple tips that will go a long way toward helping you connect with the interviewer:
Be on time. It's almost impossible to recover from the bad impression you make when you're late. Many employers say that an interview is "over before it starts" if the applicant doesn't arrive on time. At the very least, know where you're going and how long it takes to get there. If you're delayed, it’s better to call and ask if the interviewer would prefer to reschedule.
Dress appropriately. An interview isn’t the time to make a fashion statement with your clothes. It’s far better to be memorable because of who you are, not because of what you wear. Do some research—visit the company ahead of your interview to observe how the employees dress or call the HR department for the company dress code. Then, dress one notch up.
Be prepared. Practice your answers to regularly-asked questions, such as “What is your greatest strength?” and “What relevant experience have you had?” and “What are your weaknesses?” Preparation also means developing your own questions, so study up on the organization beforehand and draft a few questions of your own.
Greet with confidence. Confidence is a key trait of successful business people. Stand, smile, focus on their eyes, say your name and theirs, and give a firm (not bone-crusher or dead fish) handshake. All of these actions convey your self-assurance, not only to your interviewer, but also to everyone with whom you interact.
Thank them twice. Expressing “Thank you” to your interviewers is critical. In addition to your verbal “thank you” at the end of the interview, a follow-up thank you note is a must —either written on quality paper or sent as an e-mail and preferably sent within twenty-four hours. You’ll have to determine which delivery method will leave the best impression, and it may be wise to send an e-mail with a follow-up handwritten note. The thank you note is also the opportunity to continue the conversation with your interviewer(s): to answer any questions that arose, or to deliver any additional facts or materials that were promised.