[Editor's Note: This story is a sidebar to the latest installment in an ongoing series that highlights unique career strategies for navigating the jobless recovery. To read the main story, which appears elsewhere in today’s (Friday’s) issue of Money Morning, please click here.]
When the time comes for your job interview, you have 60 seconds to make a first impression.
Then it’s “Go” time – quite likely your one and only chance to dazzle your interviewer. Here is a 10-rule “checklist” that – if followed – should make you into one of their very top job candidates.
- Be Punctual: It goes without saying that you don’t want to be late. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too early; we’ve heard horror stories of late about a number long-out-of-work job-seekers – and just kicked around the office lobby until it was time for their appointment. Sorry, but that comes across as weird.
- Meet AND Greet: Beginning with receptionist, greet everyone who comes into the room you’re in, as you have no idea who’s the CEO or the new intern. It’s always a great feeling to finally get into an interview and find that you’ve already met some of the company reps present, and have engaged them politely. So, greet everyone with enthusiasm.
- Forget the Divide & Conquer Strategy: In many cases, after you leave the interview session, the interviewer may ask the receptionist, or anyone else you talked with, what they thought of you. If you’ve made the mistake of trying to press anyone for confidential information, or tried to get on anyone’s good side by asking whether or not the boss is a nasty butt-kicker, those actions can do way more harm than good.
- Pay Attention to the Introductions: If there is more than one person in the room with you, try to get everyone’s name correct the first time. If you have to, start taking notes right then. If you have to refer to them to get a name right the first time but are fine with everyone thereafter, those will be points in your favor to.
- Be Receptive AND Courteous: If you’re asked if you like a water or coffee, take one or the other, even if you don’t need it at that moment. You may need one of them later in the interview and might derail a great conversation by asking then. And say “Thank You.” While it’s common courtesy to thank everyone at the end of the meeting, why not do it up front, acknowledging that whoever’s with you is taking time out from their busy day. Helps to establish a more familial atmosphere.
- Command Your Non-Verbal Communication: Remember, your posture, facial expressions and general attentiveness speak volumes about your enthusiasm for the position. So, sit up straight and take notes – to show you’re listening and that info is important. Keep taking notes throughout the interview, as this information will jog your memory after the interview, when creating your thank-you letters. Plus, it’ll show that you consider the information you’re hearing to be very important.
- Command Your Verbal Communication: Don’t swear, unless you’re interviewing for a tattoo-parlor job. Even if your interviewer comes off as the most foul-mouthed person you’ve ever met – try to refrain following his or her lead, unless it becomes obvious that level of conversation is expected. Same goes for slang or regional conversation tones.
- Make Sure to “Ask” for the Job: In the business classic, “Liar’s Poker,” author Michael Lewis recounted his experience during his interview for an entry-level job and Wall Street bond-market heavyweight Salomon Brothers. The interview just seemed to go on and on. Then he remembered the counsel of a friend who said that the interviewer wanted to hear the candidate “take the job.” Once he had that epiphany, Lewis turned to his interviewer and said: “I accept the job.” His interviewer smiled, shook Lewis’ hand, and welcomed him aboard. That’s a bit of an extreme example. But you will score points by telling the interviewer that you’re “excited about,” or “jazzed about,” and “really want” this job. Don’t be afraid to say that you see it as “a great opportunity.” That said, don’t go on and on about the bills that are piling up, and how badly you “need this job.” In fact, that leads us to our next – and final – interview tip.
- Always be Positive: As obvious as this sounds, it’s the tip jobseekers forget the most. And, unfortunately, it's the one misstep that can negate all your good, hard work, and that can make your prospects disappear like they were part of a David Copperfield trick. In fact, it’s so important that you have to adhere to it from the outset – from the very first call you get from the company until after you sign and deliver your acceptance letter. Avoid being negative. For instance, if you were laid off you’re your previous job – as so many people have been as a result of this recession – don’t “bad-mouth” your former employer. Even seemingly innocent comments – “yeah, I think they’re really headed downhill,” or “they need to value their people better” – can make you appear petty, mean, or even a bit instable, emotionally. Just keep your comments positive (but realistic). If they ask about the layoff, for instance, tell your interviewer that you “prefer to look forward, not back.” If the interviewer presses you, consider such replies as “I can’t tell you how much I learned while working there,” or “I worked with some incredibly talented people.”
- End With a Firm Handshake: While you want to make it clear how happy you were to get the interview, you also want to display confidence. And believe it or not, for many, a weak handshake is viewed as a lack of confidence – if not an outright sign of weakness. If your handshake is weak or wimpy, they may view you that way, too. However, if you end your interview with a smile, a confident “Thanks very much!” and a firm handshake – making sure to look directly into the interviewer’s eyes – you’ll come across as a real go-getter, and much more confident that you might imagine.
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