“You wouldn’t believe how many people applied for this job! The competition is fierce. I’m so nervous about the interview.” Emily looked miserable. If this young lady was going to impress anyone, her confidence needed a serious boost.
I decided to level with her. “Emily, you are absolutely correct. The competition IS fierce. That’s why it takes more than just skills and education to land a great job.
“Qualifications can get you an interview – but class can get you the job.”
Now I had her attention. “Making a classy impression doesn’t usually happen by chance. It’s all about preparation!” Here’s what I told her to do:
- Research your potential employer, the industry, and any recent developments or initiatives. Commit a few key facts to memory and mention them when the opportunity appears.
- Select your outfit the day before, making sure it is clean, pressed, fits well and flatters. Refrain from wearing anything low cut, short, tight. If you’re unsure about the dress code, dress “up” rather than “down” (i.e., dress a more formal way rather than a more casual way).
- Be freshly groomed, including nails, hair and face – and remember, no fragrances.
- If you carry a purse or portfolio, make sure it’s well organized so you can retrieve information quickly and easily. After all, spilling your private belongings across the desk is the antithesis of class.
- Make sure the vehicle you drive to the interview is clean. Some employers view how you maintain your car as a reflection of how you’ll take care of their tools or equipment.
- Familiarize yourself with your destination so you are sure to arrive as scheduled.
- Arrive early enough to make a quick stop at the rest room to check your hair, teeth, and clothing.
Each step sets you up to feel relaxed and confident when the pressure is on.
Once you get into the interview room:
- Stand when introduced to the interviewer and do not sit down until invited to do so.
- Place your belongings on the floor, not the table or desk.
- During the interview, show interest, confidence and deference.
- Stay focused. Do not fidget, repeat yourself or move objects around.
- If you are being interviewed over a meal, follow your host’s lead. Don’t order any alcohol, unless you are interviewing with an alcohol-related company.
- No matter what: never criticize a former employer.
When the interview comes to a close, be sure to request a card from your interviewer(s) so you can send a handwritten ‘thank you’ note within 48 hours. In the note, be positive and genuine, and if appropriate, refer to something that was discussed in the interview.
Social grace under pressure, specifically, the intense pressure of an interview, always makes a strong impression. It implies a certain degree of personal power, insight and self control, uncommon qualities that any employer would value. That’s why I call it the Etiquette Edge.