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.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.