The interview is the "beauty contest" part of the job search process. Interviewers get to compare candidates by asking them similar questions and comparing the answers. Being just the right person for the job won't help you if you blow the interview.
Here are ten tips to help you come out of the interview with a job offer.
1. Show responsibility by arriving on time.
Nothing sets you off on the wrong foot more than arriving late for an interview. No matter what reason you have, it won't completely erase the impression that you are disorganized and irresponsible.
2. Show confidence through a strong handshake, a pleasant expression and an upbeat manner.
Although you may not feel particularly confident, it's important to look as if you are. Perception is everything when creating a good impression. Weak handshakes are a turnoff, so practice to make sure yours is strong. Sometimes we think we are smiling when we are not, so look in a mirror, smile and remember how your face feels when you are smiling. If you smile, extend your hand confidently and introduce yourself with energy, the interviewer will want to get to know you.
3. Show initiative by researching the company in advance.
Even small organizations have websites, so there's really no excuse for not knowing some basic information about the company before the interview. If you ask questions that could clearly have been answered through half-an-hour of browsing, you'll come off as someone with no initiative or common sense.
4. Show your priorities by focusing on the job before asking about benefits and perks.
When it's your turn to ask questions, focus on aspects of the job and the company and even the department. There will be plenty of time to discuss benefits when you and the interviewer have agreed that you are a good candidate for the job. Asking about perks, benefits and even salary too early in the conversation marks you as too to be a team player.
5. Show composure under pressure by asking well thought-out, meaningful questions.
When you browse the company's website, think of what else you would like to know. What questions does the website bring up for you? Use your knowledge to ask meaningful questions, and practice in advance because it's important not to stumble over the words. And, most importantly, listen to the answers.
6. Show your business savvy by connecting your own experience to the specific needs of the job.
Your resume tells the interviewer about your background and experience. In the interview, you need to express how this experience will help you do well in this particular job. This is particularly important if you are young, just entering the workforce and don't have much job experience. If, however, you have run a youth group, that may have sharpened your leadership skills. If you published the campus newspaper, you will certainly have communication skills. Talk about how these skills make you right for the job.
7. Show respect by never badmouthing former employers or colleagues.
There is no exception to this rule, and breaking it will virtually always takes you right out of the running for any job.
8. Show energy through your body language and tone of voice.
Sit up straight in the chair, lean forward slightly to listen as the interviewer speaks. Nod and smile appropriately to show you understand. Inject enthusiasm into everything you say. Nobody wants to hire someone who sounds bored with the job before he or she has even got it!
9. Show sophistication by dressing appropriately.
Even if it's Friday, interviews are not casual! Even if the workplace you want to enter is known to be casual, always dress slightly more formally for the interview. Pay special attention to grooming—scuffed, unpolished shoes can send the silent message that you are careless in your appearance, and the interviewer might assume you will be careless in other ways too.
10. Show you want the job (if you do!) by asking for it.
This sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed how often people forget about it. Remember the interview is also an opportunity for you to decide if you want to work for this company. If you do, don't hesitate to say so.
Helen Wilkie helps people use practical communication skills for success. For more on how to ace the interview and get the job, go to http://www.mhwcom.com/pages2002/interviewtele1.html
While you are at her site, sign up for Helen's free monthly e-zine, "Communi-keys", at http://www.mhwcom.com/index.html