On the outside you appear as stoic as Clint Eastwood but in reality you feel like Dr. Doolittle let his hamster collection loose in your large intestine.
As you wait for someone to call your name and lead you to the conference room for the interview you flip through a magazine to try and stay calm. However, you might as well be sitting in the middle of the Indy 500 because your mind is racing and you couldn’t retain a word even if you wanted to. Ah yes, the interview. We’ve all been there and we all wished we didn’t have to go through it, but the interview process doesn’t seem to be going away. So here’s how to handle the process like a pro:
1. Be Gracious and Kind to EVERYONE. The first person you will come in contact with will likely be the receptionist or administrative assistant. He or she may be low on the org chart but believe me they are watching you and they have more influence than you know. Any hint of condescension and guess who they relay that information to? That’s right, the hiring manager, recruiter, HR or whomever is involved in the interview. In addition, a lot can be said about your character in how you treat those who seemingly have nothing to offer you. So treat everyone you come in contact with as though they are interviewing you…because they actually are.
2. Be a Gunslinger. You’re going to be nervous and likely your palms will get nice and sweaty. As a recruiter I have shaken too many hands that felt like a slip and slide. This is a party foul and there is a way to avoid this and start your first impression off the right way. As you approach whomever you are about to shake hands with, subtly (and I stress subtly) slide you hand across your right upper thigh just enough to wipe that pesky perspiration right off as you extend your hand. It works like a charm, your palm is dry, and the recipient of the handshake is none the wiser.
3. Keep Your Hands Where I Can See Them. During an interview all of a sudden you hands can feel like they have a mind of their own. What do you do with them? Under the table, to your sides, folded? I recommend keeping them on the table in full view, similar to a newscaster on your favorite local news. Watch what they do next time you flip on the news. Their hands are typically poised in a way that shows confidence but not aggression. Keep your hands one the table, palms down, close to each other and maybe even slightly touching. It will feel strange but it communicates professionalism and keeps you from shifting too much in your seat.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I don’t know.” I have sat through too many interviews where the hiring manager asks a question about a particular experience or area of knowledge and the interviewee comes up with some far fetched thing that really does not apply. If you don’t know the answer to a question or don’t have the specific experience that is in question it’s OK to say you don’t know or you don’t have that experience. It shows you’re honest and you’re not going to waste everyone’s time trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Unless you do it too often in the interview it won’t cost you the job and it may even help you land the job because the hiring manager will know you are self aware enough to know your limits.
5. Have Questions. Before you get to the interview write down some questions you have about the job, the company, the hiring manager or anything else you might want to know in order to make a well informed decision about the job. If by chance all of your questions were answered in the interview then ask other questions that you may not really care about, but just ask something, Always ask what the next steps are and when the interviewers anticipate a decision will be made. Candidates who ask good questions appear more intelligent and more interested than those who don’t. Never bring up salary or benefits in the first interview and if the interviewer brings it up let them drive that portion of the conversation (for now).
6. Follow up. After the interview send a thank you email to everyone who you interviewed with. In addition, as soon as you get home write a follow up letter to each of the interviewers. The follow up letter allows you to thank the interviewers again for their time and to reiterate your interest in the position. Nine out of 10 candidates will not follow up on their interviews so just by doing this small step you have separated yourself from the other candidates. You have also made your name hard to forget when they make their final decision. Mail the letters the next day after the interview.
Feel free to try these the next time you interview and I’d love to hear if they worked for you. What interview strategies have you had success with?