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How to Rock An Interview

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By Judith Bowman

Being invited to an in-person interview implies your educational background and technical qualifications are in place and that you’ve made it to the first round.  You now have the chance to show what else you bring to the table.

Employers seek people who have the proverbial “X” factor that makes a candidate stand out. Having two key qualities — people skills and confidence — will help distinguish you.

Research the firm, who will be conducting the interviewing. Make sure you know how to pronounce their name.  Research competitors and know how they’re different from the firm you’re talking to. Be up-to-date on current industry trends.

Next, try to make it more of a conversation. Remember: this is a two-way street. You are evaluating each other, so take some time to prepare questions to show you’ve done your homework. Ask your interviewer why they work there. Be curious about what it’s like to work there.

Phrase questions to get a sense of where you stack up. Ask the interviewer how they view your background and how your expertise might benefit them and their company.  If they are positive, bring their answer full circle in your closing remarks to remind them of how they feel and left them know you were listening to every word they said.

Always confirm your meeting the day before. Get a good night’s sleep and psyche yourself up a la Rocky. As you enter the building, assume the sale.  Walk through the doors as if this is your building, as if you already work there, as if the person with whom you are meeting is already your boss or manager.

UCLA’s Albert Mehrabian says that 55% of your presentation is visual.  That means the way you look, how you carry yourself and what you wear are key.  Project a professional image with a can-do attitude — someone others want to get to know more.

Think about your entire demeanor, from your outfit and to your pen. Dress for the position you seek, but remember: professional attire is never wrong. Travel lightly.  Leave your overcoat in the car or at the reception desk and that large, brand-name pocketbook at home. If you carry a purse, make it small.

Carrying a large, over-stuffed briefcase to a 20-minute interview suggests this is one of many you have that morning or that day. Not good. Bring just what you need to the interview, but always carry a few extra resumes.

Arrive no more than 15 minutes early — assume you are not the only prospect — and before you walk in the door turn your cellphone off. If there is time, go wash and dry your hands thoroughly to reduce chance of having a clammy hand. Pop a breath mint. Stand, don’t sit, in the reception area and hold items you’ve brought in your left hand, so that your right one is free to shake hands.

Let your interviewer be seated first.  Position yourself at an angle to them, versus across the desk. Do not assume a first-name basis, yet.  Nothing wrong with asking someone, “How do you prefer to be addressed?”

Make good eye contact throughout your session. Sit up straight and forward, not slouched or back in your chair.  Good posture cannot be overstated.  Hands on the table, not touching your face or hair.  Graciously decline all offers of coffee or croissants to avoid spilling or having crumbs land on your lapel. If the mood is casual, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of casual small talk to get thing going. The key is a bit.

Have details of your  “story” down cold, including the choices you made, why you made them and how they lead to  you being there today.  Share experiences that speak to your skills and accomplishments in a non-boastful way. “I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to….” Having a passion for what you do contagious.  Share what stimulates you and how that passion will help you in the position that brings you here today.

Above all, be yourself and always send an email the same day to your interviewer thanking them for their time and interest in you.

7410a 4x5x250dpiJudith Bowman, author of, How to Stand Apart @ Workcan be reached at