Career Advice, Interviews

Does Your Interview Style Sell You Short?

First, let’s start with something simple: Don’t chew gum during the interview. Do you really need to be reminded of one of Mom’s rules? Of course hers was more straightforward: “get that gum out of your mouth” or so I seem to remember it that way.

There are a number of things to think about during an interview like what you say, how you say it, when you say it and how you sit while you are saying it. And thinking of all these points while trying to make the right impression can be mind boggling at times and cause you to trip up on your thoughts or words.

So what can you do to make sure that when the pressure is on that you’re not selling yourself short?

Write down the questions you know you will be asked and write out answers. Think about why you took past jobs, why you left, what are you looking for in a career and what motivates you. You know the softball interview questions that everyone asks and we sometimes hate to answer. Be positive, answer truthfully, look the interviewer in the eye (never look down while thinking what to say next – look up…gets a positive reaction for lots of known reasons) and be concise. Long-winded answers get boring fast.

Prepare answers to behavioral questions. Think about what questions an interviewer could ask that seeks specific examples. I ask those types of questions all the time and candidates aren’t prepared to answer. An example could be, “tell me about the most difficult assignment you were given? What made it so difficult? Were you successful? Why or why not?” When preparing for your interview, please pick examples that resulted in a positive outcome or at least be prepared to state why the outcome was positive for you. For example, in interviews, I talk about how I was once meeting with the president of an oil company who kicked me out of his office once he figured out my age and lack of experience. I was back in his office in 2 weeks and impressed him with what I had learned. While I did not get the job I did develop a passion for the industry. So positives can come from negatives – prepare them.

Shake the interviewers hand with some positive energy, not over the top, just positive. Look the interviewer in the eye, smile and sit down where you are directed. Sit up and keep smiling. Fold your hands on your lap and don’t use them too much when answering questions. There’s nothing wrong with gestures that help make a point just don’t overdo it. When asked a question, look up and take a moment to think, and if you are prepared you should roll off an incredible answer. If they catch you with something you have not prepared for simply say, “great question, give me a moment to collect my thoughts.” It is not a problem because we all have been on the candidate side of the table and know what you are going through.

Say thank you. While I’m sure you will, I am surprised about the number of times candidates are rude.  And follow up with a hand written note…we don’t see enough of those these days. Either Google ‘hand-written notes’ and find a technology solution to help you, or write a real hand-written note. I promise it will be read.

So a few tips on interview tactics…prepare and practice with friends, family or people you meet at the coffee shop. And don’t forget – don’t chew gum during the interview!