If you haven’t interviewed in a while, or if you have gone on more interviews in the past year than you care to admit, it may be time to go to Interview Boot Camp 101. Even senior executives can sometimes forget the basic things that can make or break a good job interview. Please keep in mind that boot camp, as the name implies, can be fairly rough – think of it as tough love.
Unless you are going to work at a downtown art gallery, professional business attire is a must. Don’t ask the interviewer if it is okay to dress casually – he may say yes. I recently heard a story of a medical billing professional who asked if she could wear scrubs to an interview. She did, and the impression she left was not one that screamed ‘hire me’!
Even if the company is business casual, wearing clothing that says you are polished and poised sends an important message. Show the interviewer that you take the role very seriously and that you want the job. Choose clothing that is basic. Go with solid colors and tailored suits and jackets. Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing. You are not interviewing to be a pole dancer. Also, don’t wear anything you don’t think is flattering. You will be nervous enough without worrying about your skirt riding up or your buttons popping.
Teeth – white as can be, nails and cuticles clean, and well manicured, shoes polished, jewelry – understated, deodorant, but no heavy perfumes or colognes. Yes, this means you soldier! No stone should be left unturned when it comes to maximizing your appearance. There is ample research that shows the importance of attractiveness. You don’t need to be a movie star, but being your personal best is a must. If you need to, enlist the help of a trusted friend or two. Do a mock interview preparation and ask them for their honest opinion about your appearance. Is your hair well combed, does your breath smell fresh. Do you have a beard? Off with your head – or at least the beard! All of it matters.
Give me 20 handshakes NOW. OK, so you may only shake the hand of a few managers, but how you shake should be firm and confident. If you have a limp handshake or conversely, have been known to squeeze someone’s hand off, you should practice. While the handshake may seem trivial, body language is an extremely important component of a successful job interview.
Try to match the body language of the interviewer. By leaning in when she is speaking, you are showing interest. Do not cross your arms, bite your nails, or fidget. These behaviors send out the wrong signals and can be misinterpreted. Concentrate on making good eye contact. Smile often.
If you are job hunting, it is likely you have been disattisfied in some way with your past or current role. Whether you feel you are not able to advance to the next level, or you have been laid off for 6 months, you do not need to share the negative details. While the facts are the facts, negative experiences should be reframed into the most positive light. Focus on your value and the good attributes you will bring to the role. Provide honest answers, but don’t dwell on any ‘’’woe is me” stories. That will only label you as a loser. I told you this was going to be boot camp.
As a career coach, I find that those who live in a place of negativity have more trouble getting hired than those who learn from their experiences and believe that good things will come to them. Attitude really is everything. You can have the best suit and the most well groomed hair, but if you have a stinky attitude, hiring managers can smell it a mile away. When I teach my clients to reposition themselves in a more positive way, viola! Suddenly, after months of rejection, they are getting second and third interviews like never before.
Drop and give me dress, appearance, etiquette and attitude. There you go. That wasn’t too hard now, was it? Being prepared properly for interviews may take a little muscle, but the results are well worth the effort. If you aren’t doing everything you can to make the best possible impression, you may be sabotaging your job search efforts – even if you have a great résumé and an outstanding work history. Hut 2-3-4.