It is always surprising how people may overlook the basics that make a job interview successful.
If you’re an applicant, you should be aware that hiring managers evaluate what they see and hear from you. They form their opinion based on how you present yourself and your skills — nothing more. For example, if you don’t show proper courtesy and a presentable appearance for the interview, this will be taken against you.
There are two main reasons why such a lapse on the day of the interview can be detrimental: first, hiring managers probably will see you as careless or not serious enough about pursuing the job opportunity. Second, you need to show consistency. Employers would like to make sure that the way you handle yourself during an interview will carry over to your day-to-day interactions.
If you can’t get it right for one day — actually just a few hours — how would they expect you to be consistently reliable through the ups and downs of any job? To make sure that you don’t inadvertently leave the wrong impression, keep the following points in mind:
Like it or not, appearance matters. Appearance, however, doesn’t mean good looks — although these may be an advantage in some cases and jobs. Your appearance is the first thing any hiring manager will see and it can affect this person’s judgement. Again, there is so much we can’t change about how we look — from weight to age — but what is absolutely in everyone’s hands is tidiness and hygiene.
Focus on the small easy stuff, like getting a clean haircut, showering and avoiding strong perfumes. Believe it or not, clean nails and a generally tidy look can go a long way. Although all of this won’t help if you don’t meet the job requirements, it can easily work against you if overlooked.
Tone of confidence
Think about typical interview questions and run over your potential answers. Hiring managers typically try to hear what you’re not saying. They may be looking for clues about your personality, your ability to function within a team, your career aspiration, etc.
When asked a question, you must be sure that your answer doesn’t sound negative, bitter, hostile, etc. The reason your answer can be mistaken as such can simply be the tone or your choice of words.
For example, if asked if you left a former employer because of a high level of office politics, try to tell the story without falling into traps such as being part of those office politics yourself, making references to individuals, or simply badmouthing your former employer. The best way in this situation is to describe how you felt that the workflow was being disrupted by minor issues that aren’t related the work itself.
You may elaborate about your efforts to keep the focus on the job tasks — if that was the case.
In short, stay positive and constructive. Under no circumstances, you should make negative comments about your abilities and skills or others. In addition, make sure that your tone is respectful for your hiring manager, the employer’s procedures and existing products and services.
The overall perception
Employers form their overall perception based on three items: your technical skills, your personality and your potential. If you made it to the interview, your skills or your ability to do the job perhaps are deemed generally acceptable. If employers request any sort of testing, you should be forthcoming with this.
It doesn’t mean that the employer is questioning your ability. Rather, it means that the employer is serious about making the right choice.
Second, your personality will be assessed — as mentioned — through your communication skills and body language. The more enthusiastic and sincerely interested in the job, the more likely you will be seen as someone who can do the job. Keep confidence and courtesy in mind.
Finally, your potential is a key. Employers look for someone who can do the job today and also grow with it. That means you should show the ability and flexibility to learn and advance with the job. Short-term jobs are often advertised as such. Otherwise, try to show your dedication to your career and your promise on the long run.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf New Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.