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.