Once you master the small talk, here are some tips that will help you impress your interviewer.
- Work on your handshake: Don‘t offer up a flimsy or sweaty hand. Instead, when you meet with prospective employers or interviews, offer a firm handshake, with one or two pumps from the elbow to the hand. It‘s a good way to illustrate your confidence and start the interview off on the right note.
- Get serious: If you take a casual approach to the initial interview with a company, especially with a screening interviewer from the human resources department, you may be sealing your fate. Job seekers should treat every interview as if it‘s their one and only chance to sell themselves to the recruiter.
- Get the practice: If you find yourself being offered an interview for a job you are not really interested in, go on the interview anyway; you can make contacts for future job opportunities and get valuable interview practice.
- Be enthusiastic: Bring a positive attitude to your interview. Most interviewers won‘t even give a second thought to someone who has a negative presence or seems like they almost need to be talked into the job. “You‘re selling yourself, and part of you is the positive approach you‘ll bring to the office every morning,” says Alison Richardson, a recruiter for several New York financial firms. “That smile and friendly demeanor go a long way.”
- Ask questions: When interviewing for a new position, it‘s essential to have a handful of questions to ask your potential employer. Some questions could include: What do you consider to be the ideal background for the position? What are some of the significant challenges? What‘s the most important thing I can do to help within the first 90 days of my employment? Do you have any concerns that I need to clear up in order to be the top candidate?
- Tell a story: Your interviewer wants to know about your skills and experiences, but he or she also wants to know about you. Don‘t fire off routine answers to questions. Instead, work your answers into stories or anecdotes about yourself. People remember the people who are interesting. Prove your value by tailoring stories that address the main concern an interviewer may have: What can you do for us?
- Show restraint: During an interview, what you don‘t say may be as important as what you do say. As a rule, don‘t talk about money or benefits, especially during the first interview. You should already know if you fit the parameters. Don‘t badmouth about any of your past employers. Organizations don‘t hire complainers. Don‘t mention outside career aspirations or part-time jobs. Employers are looking for people who want to be part of their organization for the next decade and beyond.
Whatever you do, don‘t mention the need for an immediate vacation. First of all, you‘re making an assumption that the recruiter wants to hire you. Second, you‘re essentially removing yourself from the list of potential candidates. A job candidate we once interviewed was quick to announce that she needed time off immediately for a two-week honeymoon. We hadn‘t even offered her the job. Needless to say, we didn‘t. Certainly, there are scenarios in which you‘ll need to discuss pending scheduling conflicts, but the interview isn‘t one of them.
- Be memorable: Considering the number of job seekers interviewing for positions today, it‘s fair to suggest that many HR workers can hardly keep track of the differences. That‘s why it‘s important to do or say something that will allow you to stand out in the mind of your interviewer. It will strike a personal note and also provide a point of reference when it‘s time to recall the top candidates. Sure, the job candidate with “American Idol” experience we mentioned in the introduction had no real usable background for the job we were looking for, but he was memorable.
When 24-year-old Noreen Hennessy was looking for a job in marketing in a tough San Francisco job market, she mentioned to one interviewer that she recently ran in a Tough Mudder competition, a hardcore obstacle course that pushes one‘s physical and mental skills to the limits.
“She had a picture of her and some friends covered in mud on her desk,” Hennessy says. “I casually brought up the Tough Mudder, and she had a million questions. Our interview was pretty much over by then, but our conversation went on for another 10 minutes.”
Hennessy says she didn‘t get that job, but because of her interviewer‘s interest in the event, she put it on her resume as one of her interests and activities. “Every recruiter I spoke with after that would bring it up,” she says. “It became a major talking point and I think it said a lot about my grit and determination.”
Hennessy says she took some time off from the job search to assist a friend in setting up an event-planning business, which she says may or may not turn into a long-term job. “I‘m getting paid, working with people I like, learning a lot,” she says. “There are a million shades, but marketing is marketing. What I practice at the startup level will be something I can bring to the corporate level and it‘s certainly something else I can talk about during interviews.”
- Ask for the job: “Tell your interviewer you want the job — period,” says Dana Fulbright, an IT recruiter for Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. “So many people leave without ever saying they want to be hired. It sounds so simple, but it‘s true. Let your employer know that you want to work there.”
This article was excerpted from the new eBook “Calling All Grads! Turn a Degree into a Job,” edited by careers writer and editor Marco Buscaglia and published by Tribune Media Services, Inc. For more information or to purchase the book, click here.