Well you got the call and you are finally set up to meet with a team of people at the company you’ve been dying to work for. Maybe you just lost your job, maybe you quit unexpectedly because you could not take it, or, like some you keep knocking on every door hoping someone will answer. You are not alone. It’s hard to figure out what will and won’t work when you are meeting new people for the first time. Perhaps someone refers you for the job that is high up in the organization like the CEO and the position you are applying for is an entry level one-how do you position yourself? Or, you could have a friend or relative in the company that put in a good word for you, how much do you leverage your connections for the right opportunity? When it comes to meeting people for the first time on an interview, how much is too much information and what can help or hurt you land the job?
When it comes to making a good impression though, here are a few things to consider when you finally do get your interview and want to really impress the hiring team:
- “I’m sure I can figure it out?” When it comes to describing what your skill level is and what systems or processes you are familiar with it’s best to be honest and not try to impress someone for the sake of it. Your skills are one of many professional attributes you possess that are important to a hiring manager. Understanding and presenting yourself accurately is key when asked about skills you may not have. Telling a hiring manager you can figure it out does not leave anyone with a sense of confidence that you can master the skills for the job. Shoot straight and tell it like it is when it comes to describing what you know.
- “It’ not personal”: So you maybe lucky enough to know the right people but flaunting your relationship with a senior member of the company is not the way to impress the hiring team. Remember, these folks likely report to or work for the top gun. Your relationship whether real or imagined may threaten folks you are meeting with. Describing your relationship with the person who may have referred you for the job as “personal” rather than “professional” send out all the wrong signals and puts everyone who meets you in an uneasy position. Keep your personal and professional boundaries apart and be clear you are not there to forge a personal connection you are there because you want the job.
- “Wink & rub”: Responding to a question or comment posed by the interviewer with a “wink and rub” of the hand is not an appropriate gesture if you want to be taken seriously in an interview. You may have some good skills, but knowing how to present yourself in a professional manner will help you land the job you want and not offend the people you may work with. Touching, winking or giggling should be saved for a date and not an interview.
- “Sending gifts,” You may think it’s a courteous gesture to thank someone for interviewing you. No one likes it when you send chocolates, flowers or balloons to the interview team and thank them for interviewing you for the job. Bottom line, it’s viewed as “bribery” no matter how insignificant the size of the gift. Sending a follow up email, note or letter is a much more appropriate response to saying “thank you” than a Starbucks’ gift card.
- Trying too hard: Answering every response with “I can do that” is not a way to reassure a hiring manager that you know what you are talking about. You may be eager to please but being too eager is a sign of desperation and not of someone who wants to pitch in and be a team member. Being direct about what you can and can’t do on an interview gains you far more points that trying to be a pleaser.
- Doesn’t be a groupie: Everyone wants to interview someone who is interested in the company and the people who work there. But don’t feel the need to recite the entire employee directory for the company. You will likely come off as a stalker or a groupie rather than someone who is in the know and has done your homework. Underplay your relationships and talk about the company and its products and services if you want to impress someone with your knowledge rather than recite the employee listing.
- Chewing, biting & crunching: The only thing that should come out of your mouth on an interview is your words and not what you are eating. Chewing gum (no matter how delicately you chew), biting your lips or crunching on candy are all distractions to the interviewer and are really not appropriate during an interview. If you are thirsty ask for water don’t consume a small meal.
- “The color of Halle Berry’s skin please” And when someone DOES offer you a drink whether it is water or coffee (best to ask for water it’s less complicated) don’t be cute enough to describe how you like your coffee as the skin color preference of a major celebrity. It might be cute in a coffee shop, but it certainly doesn’t win you over with a recruiter whose probably got ten more candidates lined up after you and has to try to figure out the complexion of Halle Berry’s skin tone! Not cute or cool under any circumstance.
Remember, first impressions count and you do only have one shot to make it stick. Make sure you don’t say or do anything that will make you appear less than qualified for a job you really want. You are what you say and what you do in an interview so make sure the lasting impression you leave is not something they will talk or tweet about once you leave. If you want a call back, act like a star not a starlet!
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