You know the feeling. You've just completed an interview with a company you would seriously consider. But you know you could have done better and may have thought to yourself:
"Gosh, they caught me off guard with that one question."
"I wish I would have been better prepared."
"Had I been able to find the place, I would have been more relaxed."
"I wonder if they cared that I was 10 minutes late."
"Now that I think of it, I guess my cell phone call was a distraction."
"I really should have had a copy of my resume for each member of the panel."
"Oh well, I'll make a note to do better next time."
Sound familiar? Let's hope not. Here are some ideas for better success the next time out. These are not the only rules, nor are they the only hard-and-fast rules, but they have proven, over time, to be major players in the company of interview "do's and don'ts".
* Dress well, and pick out your clothing in advance. You will be amazed at the contribution this makes toward lessening your stress and increasing your confidence. Dressing well for an interview with a manufacturing company differs from dressing well for an interview in a highly paid professional job. When there is a question, take a look at what people normally wear on the job and take it up a notch. A conservative approach is always best, so if necessary, invest in an interview wardrobe that will translate well to the workplace. And for the young and uninitiated, since most people hiring you were born about the same time as your parents, you'll find that bare skin is best confined to the face and hands for interview purposes.
* Arrive on time or better yet, a wee bit early. A common mistake is to print a map from the Internet and try to figure out how to get there on the way to the appointment. Unless you are thoroughly familiar with your route and destination, take a practice run. Do what you can to minimize stress, and plan for success.
* Pay attention to hygiene and do not forget the breath mints! Never smoke before or during an interview, even if the employer smokes and offers. Clean fingernails and hair are equally important, since you are trying to make a good first impression. It would also be a good idea to minimize strange piercing and even tattoos in most cases, unless, of course, you are applying within those industries.
* Turn off your cell phone, or better yet, leave it in the car. You do not need the distraction, and few things are more annoying or embarrassing in an interview than an interruption from your personal telephone.
* Prepare and practice an answer to the universal question: "Tell me about yourself". This is your personal commercial or your "60-Second Me". You know they are going to ask it, so be ready. This is the same script you will use when networking, so spend some quality time with this and ask a friend or relative for input. You need to be able to do this one well. And while practicing, think about looking your interviewer in the eye. Do this when shaking hands, as well. Remember, your eyes are the windows to your soul, so you will want to make eye contact confidently, and often. Nothing telegraphs doubt more clearly to an interviewer than unwillingness to maintain eye contact.
* Make sure you have researched the company and have questions ready for the employer. This shows initiative, interest and concern; all qualities an employer appreciates. Use the Internet for your research. It is a great resource for this kind of information. The more you know about their business, their products, their history and their direction or mission statement, the better fit you will be.
* Use the interviewer's name and by all means, engage in off-line conversation, if encouraged, but be careful not to dominate the discussion. This can be a killer if the company is interviewing several candidates and is on a tight schedule, as is often the case when there is a panel involved.
* Have copies of your resume for the interviewer - more if you expect a panel. If your prospective employer is looking for specific skills, any examples you can bring - such as an Excel spreadsheet you have created - would also be helpful for the interviewer.
* Relay past actions in a story format. While story-telling, you are much less likely to fidget or otherwise display a lack of confidence. Here, you will be answering questions about something you've done in other positions in order to illustrate job skills, specific knowledge, your character, or your ability to use good judgment. Think of a situation that covers the question and tell your story, truthfully. It is common for employers to use this approach in order to learn more about you. Why not practice and be prepared?
* Thank the interviewer, and be sure to follow up with a card, E-mail or phone call. You really want the employer to have another reason to select your application from the pile and place it on top, so give it to them.
Oh, and now add one more thing: If you are convinced this is the company you want to join, ask for the job. At this point, you know you want the job let the employer know also.
Following these tips, you will be much more comfortable in your interview and gain an edge on the competition. Remember, job hunting is filled with rejection none of which is personal. Eventually, the right job will come along and you need to keep a positive frame of mind until that happens. And with each interview, you will gain confidence. Start with these basics, pay attention, add to your skills, and get the job you deserve!
Jim Dunnavant is the manager of the Sparks Nevada JobConnect center located at 1675 Prater Way, Suite 103. Contact him at 336-5400.