Over the course of 25 years as a recruiter I’ve interviewed thousands of people. Beyond that, I debrief with my clients after they interview candidates and get their feedback and impressions as well.
Although there is an occasional “new one” I’ve never encountered before… most of the time candidates make the same mistakes, usually without even realizing what they’re doing is a problem, or realizing that they are creating a negative impression. Remember, right from the start, you’re being evaluated.
Often, issues are minor or subtle, but why create an issue when it’s not necessary?! Here are some observations to consider before your next interview…
First impressions count… a lot! Those first few seconds when you meet the interviewer can make a world of difference in the outcome of the meeting. Based on that first impression, you will either be working the rest of the interview to overcome a bad one, or get the benefit of the doubt on any blown answers because you created a positive one. And you’re not likely to know which it is!
How do you look? Dress, composure, neatness, and polish can create a very positive first impression. Is your hair neatly combed? Are you dressed too flashy or inappropriately? (conservative dress is always better than flashy); Are you wearing khakis or jeans to a formal business environment? Are you sitting or standing straight, or overly slouching? Are your shoes clean and polished? Are your pants, shirt, coat or skirt or blouse neat and pressed, or overly wrinkled? Do your clothes fit properly or are they too tight, too loose, too short, or too long? Are you wearing too much makeup, hair gel, perfume, or cologne?
How do you greet them? Is your handshake too firm or too limp? (a big factor for men AND women); Are you too loud or do you mumble? Are you too informal with them? Do you mispronounce their name? Are you too serious or are you exuding a warm smile?
All of these things make an enormous difference in how they perceive you right off the bat!
Turn down the drink! When arriving for an interview, or when the interviewer is walking you back to their office, it’s very common that someone might offer you a something to drink; a glass of water, coffee, or pop. It’s generally best to politely let them know you’re fine and don’t need it. Why? For multiple reasons…
- They usually ask to be polite, but don’t particularly want to go to the trouble to get it for you.
- You’re probably somewhat nervous already, and creating a situation that makes you need to go to the restroom during the interview won’t help.
- Many people end up fidgeting with the cup or can to the point of distraction.
- There’s always a possibility of spilling it, on you, on the floor, or on their desk. Don’t go there!
Be professional, yet natural! Often, people either sit too relaxed, or too stiff. Sliding down in your chair and crossing your legs with one knee over the other, may be appropriate, or it may seem lazy and overly casual. Depending on how far you slouch and the interviewers subjective opinion. Sitting straight as an arrow and crossing your legs with your ankle on your knee, may be appropriate, or it may seem like you are very nervous and uncomfortable. Sitting with your feet on the floor or one knee over the other, reasonably straight and slightly leaning forward can appear alert and engaged. Practice in front of a mirror to find what works best for you, but how you sit makes a very distinct impression.
Be friendly! It’s not just your skills that matter, rather, they are looking for the complete “package”. In addition to evaluating whether you can do the job, they are deciding whether they would like spending 8 hours a day with you! If you’re too stern in your discussion with them, or exhibit a bad attitude, or complain about previous co-workers, managers, or companies, they are not likely to warm up to you when it comes to personal considerations. Without being overly gregarious or cracking jokes, discussing the job and your skills in a warm, comfortable, and upbeat manner will go a long way toward building a relationship.
Brevity is a virtue! While you definitely don’t want to give one-word answers to their questions, or answers that are so short they are always looking for more… you definitely don’t want to give answers that are far too long. Usually people do it because they aren’t sufficiently prepared for the questions being asked, so they ramble on until they think they’ve covered every aspect of it. Preparation by writing out answers to commonly asked questions and practicing them at home will help you give succinct and effective answers in the interview. Don’t try their patience by being too long-winded!
Have questions! It surprises me how often people near the end of an interview, and when they are asked if they have any questions, they say “No”! Not having any questions makes you appear uninterested, having a lack of curiosity, or not being too bright… or… all of the above! ALWAYS have questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Have several more questions prepared than you will be able to ask, so that if some of them were already discussed you’re not rehashing old ground. Always follow up with some questions.
Although most people “know” these points, they are still the most common issues in most interviews. Be sure the next time you have an interview scheduled, you think through, prepare, and plan your moves in advance.
Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives.
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