While lots of mention is made of the importance of your online presence to your job search, it’s the interview that can spell victory or defeat. The reason the interview is so important is it helps the person doing the hiring determine how well you will fit in, how easily others will work with you, and how effectively you will represent the company to clients, prospects, suppliers, and the general public. You get the interview because you have the skills necessary to do the job, but you’ll get the job because you build a stronger, better, more positive relationship with the interviewer than your competitor does. Remember: The interview is all about your image, the image of you that you leave with the interviewer(s).
While whole books have been written about what you can do to be more effective in an interview, much of that advice can be distilled into five key points:
- Be on time. You can’t be late, not even one minute late. Organize yourself to arrive five minutes early. If you arrive earlier than that, find a place nearby—maybe a coffee shop—to cool your heels until the five-minute mark.
- Dress one notch up. Looking your best is important, but looking like you will fit in is equally important. Arriving for an interview in business formal at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont won’t help you look like you fit in to their culture. Likewise, showing up in business casual at a trust company where everyone is dressed in business formal demonstrates your lack of attention to detail.
- Prepare like for a final exam. Preparation takes two forms: Develop questions you can ask the interviewer and practice answering questions the interviewer is likely to ask you.
- Master the greeting. Certainly the handshake is important. It starts when you stand to meet the interviewer. Grasp the interviewer’s hand crook of thumb to crook of thumb, use a firm grip—not a bone crusher or limp wrist, dead fish—two or three pumps and then disengage. While you’re shaking hands, remember to look the person in the eye, smile and say the person’s name as you greet him or her, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms./Mr. Clarkson.”
- Thank them twice. Of course you offer a verbal thanks as you shake hands at the end of the interview. Then, the next day or that afternoon or evening, write your thank-you note. It can be short, four or five sentences will do. If you’ve offered to provide additional information during the meeting, you can use a sentence to reference when you will be forwarding it. If you meet with three people, send a note to each person. If you do and your competitor doesn’t, you will stand out.
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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.