Since we’re in Halloween season, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about one of the most frightening parts of trying to get a new job: the face to face interview!
So, let’s use this time to cover some of the most common Tricks, or missteps, and Treats, good ideas, of the face to face interview.
Trick: Not Presenting Professionally for the Role
No matter how much prep I do with candidates, I still occasionally get a call from a client that says, “hey, we liked the guy, but he showed up wearing a ball cap with his shirt not tucked in and a huge dip in, so I don’t know how seriously he’s taking this.”
No one expects you to rent a tux for an interview, but it’s scary how quickly that first visual impression can end your chances. Chewing gum, tobacco, not dressing for the role or any of a hundred other easy presentation mistakes all start the interview off with the impression that you don’t care enough about the role to introduce yourself more professionally.
Even if that’s not the reason you aren’t selected to move forward, it certainly flavors the interviewer’s approach for the rest of the interview.
Treat: Following the Rule of 12s
The Rule of 12s is one of my favorite recruiting maxims, because it’s all about first impressions.
The Rule of 12s breaks down into three parts: First, what impression do you give at 12 feet? Does it look like you just rolled out of bed, maybe through some mud on the way in? Or did you brush your hair, iron your shirt, and dress like you want the job?
Second, what impression do you give at 12 inches? Does your breath stink, or did you brush your teeth and pop a mint in? Did you put forth the “limp fish” handshake, or offer a good, firm grip? Are you staring at your shoes, or maintaining good eye contact through the handshake and introduction?
Finally, what are the first 12 words out of your mouth? Are you whining about the traffic and weather? Or are you taking the opportunity to thank the interviewer and let them know how excited you are to be there? “Thank you for the opportunity to meet, I’m excited to learn more” is 12 words.
These are all little things, but they can start the meeting off on the right, positive note, rather than a negative or subpar one. Remember, you want your interviewer to leave the meeting with positive subconscious thoughts (as well as positive conscious ones) about their time with you, and it all starts from the first impression.
Trick: Ranting About Your Current/Last Employer
Even if your current manager is the dirtiest, ugliest, rudest, most incompetent SOB to ever step into a box plant, that’s not something an interviewer needs to hear from you. In an interview, you want to be as open and honest as possible, but the decision to be overly negative and tear down your current or former employer is a bad look.
For one, it injects negativity into an interview, and the last thing you want to do is have a prospective employer associate anything negative with you. On top of that, you don’t want the prospective employer, who in an industry this small, may know your current employer, to leave the interview thinking, “woah, if he says that about that guy, what’s he going to say about me in two years?”
Would you want to add a person to your team if that’s what you’re thinking about at the end of your interview?
Try to stay away from negatives, but if something was genuinely bad, try to spin it in a positive light. Maybe you learned something from the bad experience or leaving there set you on the path for something better?
Treat: Keep Your Answers Three to Five Minutes Long
One of the challenges that candidates often ask me about comes in the form of not knowing how long to talk on any given topic. This is a valid concern, as you can certainly create trouble for yourself if your answers are too short or too long
If your answers are too long, you’re going to bore the interviewer to sleep and look very self-centered. If your answers are too short, it looks like you either don’t know enough or aren’t interested enough to elaborate.
So, I recommend answers somewhere in the window of three to five minutes. This allows you to express your ideas and thoughts fully, while staying within the window of a normal, human attention span.
While we’re on the topic of answers, make sure you’re also following the rule of “Knowing Your Audience” as you answer questions. An HR Manager is probably looking for how you’re going to interact with the team and help reach big picture goals, so a hyper-technical answer is probably not effective. On the other hand, a Maintenance Manager probably wants some idea of your technical expertise, so sharing those details is warranted.
Trick: Showing Up Late
This advice goes for everything in life: BE ON TIME.
We’ve got a rule for consultant interviews here that says, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late…” you get the idea.
Showing up late to an interview is an immediate message to a prospective employer that you do not value or respect their time. Look up the route the day before, assume there will be more traffic and bad weather, plan in extra time, and BE. ON. TIME.
And if you absolutely cannot be there on time, and there are very few good reasons for this, call the Hiring Manager and let them know you’re on your way. That ten seconds of “Hey, wanted to give you a heads up that a freak tornado came down and destroyed the highway, so I might be a few minutes late” shows the Manager that you respect their time and are making every effort to be there.
Treat: Be Prepared
For starters, I always recommend having a portfolio, folder, or notebook with you, along with a pen and a few copies of your resume printed out. The Hiring Manager is probably coming from something else, so he or she might not have your resume handy, so having a few copies means everyone can have one to review.
In addition, a notepad or notebook means you can prepare questions or cliff notes on your background to refer to, just in case you get flustered. You can also write notes and questions during the meeting to come back to later.
Perhaps more important than physically having these things handy is doing your homework before you arrive.
If you’re working with a recruiter, they should be able to give you a reasonable background on the facility, the individuals you’ll be meeting with and what each person is looking for. This information can be crucial, because it gives you a way to direct your answers.
If you’re interviewing on your own, you have to do some of that research yourself. The job posting and company website can be great tools for this, and searching individuals you’ll be meeting with on LinkedIn can help to give you an idea of backgrounds and what they look for.
As my dad always said, “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”