While lots of emphasis is placed on your online presence while conducting a job search, it’s the interview that can spell victory or defeat. The reason the interview is so important is it helps the employer determine how well you will fit in, how easily others will work with you, and how effectively you will represent the company to clients, prospects, suppliers, and the public. You get the interview because you have the skills to do the job, but you get the job because you build a stronger, better, more positive relationship with the interviewer than competitors. Remember: The interview is all about the image you leave with interviewers.
While whole books have been written about being more effective in an interviews, much of that advice can be distilled into five key points:
Be on time. You can’t be late, not even one minute. Organize yourself to arrive five minutes early. If you arrive earlier than that, find a place nearby to cool your heels until the five-minute mark.
Dress one notch up. Looking your best is important, but looking like you will fit in is equally important. Arriving for an interview in business formal at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont won’t help you look like you fit with their culture. Likewise, showing up in business casual at a trust company where everyone is dressed in business formal demonstrates a lack of attention to detail.
Prepare as for a final exam. Preparation takes two forms: Develop questions you can ask the interviewer and practice answering questions the interviewer is likely to ask.
Master the greeting. Certainly the handshake is important. It starts when you stand to meet the interviewer. Use a firm grip — not a bone crusher or dead fish. Two or three pumps and then disengage. While you’re shaking hands, remember to look the person in the eye, smile, and greet the person by name, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms./Mr. Clarkson.”
Thank them twice. Of course you offer a verbal thanks as you shake hands at the end of the interview. Then, the next day or that afternoon, write your thank-you note. It can be short, four or five sentences will do. If you offered to provide additional information during the interview, you can use a sentence to reference when you will forward it. If you meet with three people, send a note to each person. If you do and your competitor doesn’t, you will stand out.