Make the Right First Impression at Your Next Interview
When you’ve landed a face-to-face job interview, create a presence to please.
By Julie Bos, CPC
Congratulations! You got a job interview, perhaps because you followed my advice in the article “Write the Right Resume,” on page 58. At your interview, you have one chance to make a good first impression and, hopefully, seal the deal. Your credentials won’t be the only thing being evaluated during the interview, however; your behavior, attire, mannerisms, speech, etc., will be under the microscope, too. Here’s some advice for a successful face-to-face interview.
Clothe Yourself in Self Confidence
With or without experience, your self-confidence (or lack thereof) will show. Even if this is your first job “out of the gates” of education, you can still exude a high level of self-confidence. Dig deep within yourself and list the areas you have conquered. For example:
- If you have raised a family, you’re organized;
- If you have gone to school, you have a desire to improve;
- If you have earned a degree, you have accomplished a goal; and
- If you have worked at a menial job, it shows you have perseverance and loyalty.
Look at every area of your life to find your strengths. Write them down, and remember them as you walk in to your interview, with your head held high.
To back up that look of confidence, offer a firm handshake. A limp, “dead fish” handshake says you are passive and insecure.
Speak Clearly and Concisely
An interview is no time to be shy and timid. If your potential employer cannot hear what you are saying or has to drag information out of you, he or she may assume you are difficult to train.
There are many ways to overcome shyness or performance anxiety. I am a very shy person, but one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to walk into a situation (or interview) as if I was walking on stage to receive an award. Let your enthusiasm show, speak clearly and succinctly, and be gracious.
Don’t be something you’re not; just be everything you can be.
You may know it all, but don’t have a “know-it-all” attitude. Know-it-alls are tough to train because they already know it all. The amount of time it takes to train a new employee is significant, so presenting yourself as pliable is a plus.
To show that you can adapt to the employer’s specific way of doing things, talk about all the wonderful skills you’ve gained from past employers and how eager you are to learn new skills. If you don’t have previous experience in this line of work, talk about how excited you are to put your education to good use in the real world. Often an applicant with less experience who is trainable is selected over an applicant with more experience and an attitude.
You don’t have to know everything, just be ready, willing, and able to learn everything.
Many companies allow employees to dress casual, but you do not usually know this at the start. It’s OK to come over-dressed to an interview, but it’s not OK to come underdressed. A neat, well thought out outfit says you’re a professional, and you want the job.
I will never forget the poor woman who came in to my office for an interview 15 years ago. She made it past the resume process and the phone interview, but she walked into the office in a dress, with empty belt loops dangling, clearly meant to have a matching belt. I don’t remember what her qualifications were because her appearance made such a negative impression on me. She did not get the job, and was forever known in my office as “Belt Woman.” This may seem very shallow, but it’s reality.
Beside empty belt loops, don’t let outward distractions such as tattoos and piercings be the determining factor for whether you get a job. While no one will refute your right to self-expression, if you are interviewing for a job that is open to the public, tattoos and piercings might be considered inappropriate by your potential employer, so be discreet, or possibly suffer the same consequence as Belt Woman.
Think Like an Employer
Interviewing is tedious, time consuming, and exhausting for employers. The goal is to find someone with the right skill set who is trainable, likeable, and who will stay for a long time, so the company doesn’t have to go through the hiring process again in the near future. It’s tough to find someone with all three attributes, however.
Training is a necessity regardless of experience, but employee conflicts are a waste of time and irritating to deal with. If you’re chosen for a position, it may be because the employer thinks you will fit in with the other staff, rather than how experienced you are.
Be self-confident, speak clearly, be trainable, dress appropriately, and don’t be discouraged if you do not get the position. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on to the next opportunity. We learn by trial and error.
Julie Bos, CPC, spent nine years managing a billing office in Southern California and now owns a revenue management business based in Denver, Colo. Ms. Bos enjoys teaching others the skills necessary to succeed in the medical billing field.