1. Don't be late. We all know that though don't we? Believe it or not, being too early can leave the same bad impression as being late can. Interviewing candidates for a job I'm trying to fill has added one more thing to my already long to-do list. I don't want to get a call from the receptionist 15 minutes before we're scheduled to meet letting me know that you're in the lobby already. I need that time to focus on whatever else it is I'm suppose to be doing. Arrive 5 minutes early, no earlier.
2. Listen to the question being asked of you, then answer THAT question. Seems easy enough right? It's not though. Interview candidates often answer questions like beauty pageant contestants. If I ask you why you're interested in working for a startup when you've been working for a large corporations for years, don't tell me what you didn't like about working for a large corporation. Tell me what appeals to you about a startup. If you're nervous and you didn't understand the question or you didn't hear it because you were zoned out, that's ok, just ask me to repeat it. I'd rather do that then hear your go off on a tangent about something I didn't ask you about.
3. I can't emphasize number 3 enough. You've got to be confident in your abilities. Try your absolute best to lose the sweaty palms, shaky voice and for the love of god, avoid #2 at all costs. I know that people are out of work for all sorts of reasons. Some have a safety net, others may be hanging by a thread, "if I don't get this job I'll lose my house/my car etc." That's serious business and clearly when the latter is the case, there's a lot at stake. No matter what your situation, remember, you've been called in for a reason, and believe me, there is no shortage of people looking for a job. If you can't be confident in you, how can I?
Honestly, 99 out of 100 times, I'll hire the person who's less qualified on paper but showed confidence in an interview because I know they'll be more self sufficient on the job. Shhhh, managers secret here, most managers don't want to manage people on a daily basis. We've got our own jobs to do and are looking for people who can make decisions on their own. People with confidence can do that.
4. Make and hold eye contact, while smiling. This is a sure sign of someone with confidence, and remember, more often than not, confidence gets you the job. No joke though, doing both at the same time is definitely a skill that needs to be developed over time. I kind think of it like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. How many of you just tried that? I did, and might I add, unsuccessfully. Anyways, it's totally unnatural and so is holding eye contact and smiling at strangers.
Over the years I've perfected the skill by practicing in elevators. Typically you get in, shoot someone a quick glance, and then you immediately look down at the ground or at your cellphone right? The next time you're in an elevator, I challenge you to test yourself. Hold eye contact for even 5 seconds while smiling at a stranger. It's harder then you think at first, but after a dozen or so awkward exchanges, you'll start to feel more comfortable.
5. Dress for the job and the company your interviewing for. Don't show up for an interview at a law firm wearing glitter eye shadow, a summer dress and open toe sandals (I've actually seen this). On the flip side, don't walk into an interview at a boutique wearing a conservative business suit either. Over time I've found that a sheath dress (in black), a cardigan (here's where you incorporate some color) and a closed toe sling back pump (either in black or nude) works across all spectrum. Add a statement necklace or a watch, carry a nice structured bag and you've got a look that is both polished and stylish.
The next time you find yourself on the hunt for a new job remember: don't arrive to early, listen carefully, confidence is key, smile and make eye contact and dress the part. These tips will help you hit it out of the park. I'd love to hear your thoughts and interviewing tips. What have you found works great for you? Are you a hiring manager? Share your secrets with us.