With all the exemplary work that you have accomplished – Cover Letter, Resume and Initial Telephone Interview it is imperative that you don’t sabotage the opportunity for a position by your unintended non-verbal cues. Studies show that 65-90% of the meaning of a message is carried through non-verbal cues. In essence it is more important to your success on how you present yourself and answer the question than what you actually say to the interviewer.
When preparing for an in-person interview it is imperative for you to consider how people see you as a potential new hire. The minute you enter that building for the interview you should consider yourself on stage. Always dress the part of the interviewee (dark suit and nothing too flashy), refrain from perfumes or colognes (too many people are sensitive to sents these days), have a breath mint handy just in case and make sure that as you wait in the lobby that you present yourself as a calm and collected professional. Who knows, the receptionist may also have an opportunity to provide an opinion on your candidacy to the selection committee.
Like any interaction the initial impression is key to your eventual success. Many experts believe that the first minute of any interaction can either make or break your potential for success. A firm handshake with direct eye-contact is important. Make sure you introduce yourself to all who will be a part of the interview. Initial introductions can be awkward and nerve-raking but make sure you can proceed without being overtly nervous or clumsy. Turn off your cell phone and make sure you are smiling – not that nervous grin you sometimes have but a true “happy to meet you and I look forward to spending some meaningful time with you” smile. Remember that smile you had at your wedding receiving line – shaking hands with all those long lost relatives? It is just like that but more realistic.
Make sure the host directs you to the appropriate chair. Make sure you keep your hands above the table at all times – not on your lap. Don’t use a pen or any other object as a crutch. Use your hands as your descriptors but make sure you motion in a variety of ways and don’t overdo it! Sit to the front of the chair and lean in towards the questioner. Never, never look like you are in a lazy boy and you are watching the Sunday NFL game. You need to provide the impression that you are engaged and attentive at all times. If you agree to the content of the question – shake your ahead, which will give the interviewer a sign that the two of you are indeed connecting.
It always helps to include the name of the interviewer in the answer to the question. Don’t overdo and please make sure you are mentioning the right name. There is nothing wrong with using Mr. or Ms. and the last name. It provides an aura of respect but also allows the interviewer the opportunity to say – please call me Joe or Mary. It breaks the ice and allows for a personal interaction.
Listen carefully to the question being asked. Maintain eye contact with the questioner. Never interrupt or cut short the question. It is fine to pause a second or two before you start responding. Show your enthusiasm and excitement in your answer, just make sure you vary your tone and vocal inflection. Your inflection as well as the volume are just as important as the answer itself. There is nothing more boring as the same monotone response. Show the interviewer that you are excited to be here and that you can make a difference.
Don’t ramble on! Your answer doesn’t need to be as short as a tv or radio response because of the fear of being edited but no longer than 2 0r 3 minutes is certainly advisable. When you ramble it gives the impression that you can’t organize your thoughts and that you might think too highly of yourself! Not everyone appreciates hearing your entire life story within an answer.
Structure or outline your responses by stating that you have 2 or 3 main points. It makes it easier for the interviewer to follow your train of thought. Also refer to the job description or job posting. Mention how you meet the needs of the organization while you answer the particular question. Such a response will give the impression that you did your homework.
Like any sales pitch, and don’t think an interview isn’t a sales pitch; if you haven’t had a chance to use your A material make sure you fit it into your responses or the questions you ask prior to departure. Make sure you close your argument for the job and always thank the participants for their time.
When you are departing make sure that you ask if there is anything else they need from you. Make sure all your questions have been answered and as was the case when you entered, firm handshakes are in order.
Though there are no guarantees with an interview, these few tips can go a long way toward making the experience more productive.