You’ve reworked your resume so it’s just right. You signed up for every job search site and networking group you could think of. A new pair of Florsheims and a freshly dry-cleaned suit sit in the bedroom closet.
You’ve been out pounding the pavement, applying for jobs with a single-minded focus you haven’t exhibited since that first-year trig exam in college. And it’s finally paid off. You just got a call from a potential employer who wants to meet with you in order to determine whether you’d be a good fit for their organization. So you may be thinking to yourself, now what? How do I close the deal? What can I say or do that will give me a leg up on the competition? These are all good questions. Here are seven distinct things you can do that will allow you to maximize your effectiveness in the hot seat.
Dress the Part
Your physical appearance is the very first thing a potential employer will notice. And not just the interviewer; but his boss, the receptionist, HR, co-workers and others who might be influential in the hiring decisions. Being fresh, clean, well-groomed and wrinkle-free show that you’re taking the interview seriously and gives the interviewer an idea of how you’ll look representing the company. In addition, it’s important to dress for the job you want, not the one you have or had. This lets them more clearly visualize you in the new role.
Greet the Host
Your physical appearance is only half the battle in making a good first impression. The other half is how you present yourself when greeting the interviewer. When she enters the waiting room to fetch you, be sure to stand up tall and straight. Don’t fidget or exude nervousness; confidence is paramount. Shake hands firmly, maintain eye contact and radiate a genuine smile. Also, be sure to pay attention to the interviewer’s name and job title when they offer it; you may need them later.
Know Your Resume
Nothing looks more unprofessional than not knowing the contents of your own resume. Be sure to thoroughly review it the night before or morning of so you can adequately address the interviewer’s questions regarding it. For those who have multiple versions of their resume, be sure to know which one you gave to the employer. You will typically be expected to bring a hard copy to the interview (yes, even in this digital age), so bring at least two – one for the interviewer and one for you to refer to as a shorthand.
Know Their Company
With the Internet being as easily accessible and navigable as it is nowadays, few excuses exist for not having at least a cursory knowledge of the organization with whom you’re interviewing. Do some background research and information-gathering the night before. Know the company’s stock and trade, awards, clients, key players and any claims to fame. Impress the interviewer with your knowledge and enthusiasm for what they do. Allow her to see your understanding of company philosophies and practices. Moreover, demonstrate an informed understanding of their industry and the specific position, if possible, as well.
Listen and Engage
Anxiety often causes people to talk too much. So make sure you’re calm and relaxed prior to starting the interview. Avoid being loquacious, which can create the perception that you’re nervous, unfocused and inattentive. Spend at least as much time listening as speaking. Respond to the interviewer’s questions with lucid, concise and relevant answers. Choose words carefully, ask questions and engage the interviewer with thoughtful dialog that propels the conversation forward.
Maintain Professional Conduct
Be conscious of your body language during the interview. Just as with the greeting, good posture, eye contact and a healthy smile go a long way. Avoid fidgeting with your hands by keeping them gently clasped together in front of you. Don’t fold or cross your arms either, as this comes across as antagonistic and aggressive. Nod as the interviewer is speaking to show you’re fully engaged. When responding, be careful not to say “um” or “uh” too often and refrain from using inerudite slang like “ain’t,” “yeah” and “nope.” Also, watch the interviewer’s body language and speech patterns to ensure she is reacting to you in a positive way; if not, make some adjustments to your own.
Have Passion and Positivity
Genuine passion for a job is a quality all employers universally seek in new hires because it begets hard work, high performance and lower turnover. Similarly, a positive attitude makes for a better workplace with less stress, eventually resulting in greater productivity. Show the interviewer through your knowledge, tone, inflection and body language that you possess a real excitement for the position and that you’re upbeat disposition will translate into more efficient man hours, significant attention to details and a team-oriented work environment.
Note: After the interview is over, exit the way you entered – with a firm handshake, eye contact and a confident smile. Always be gracious, even if you feel that it’s likely you won’t get the job. Follow up with a thank you letter or phone call a few days later. Habits like these and the ones above will eventually become your hallmark, demonstrating a commitment to professionalism that could ultimately make the difference between landing that job or losing out to the competition.