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Nailing the Interview: Six Ways to Make a Good Impression

In a slow economy, every job interview can be a precious opportunity. Whatever your qualifications, assume there are other strong candidates competing for the same job. If you’ve been called in for an interview, then congratulations–it typically means you’ve at least made the short list based on how your background looks on paper. Whether or not you get the job, however, may depend on the impression you make in person.

Interviewing well is a form of performance. You have to prepare, and you have to put your full energy and attention into it when the time comes.

Interviewing Takes Preparation
Here are six ways you can make the most out of every interviewing opportunity:

1. Be prepared. Doing well in an interview starts before your actual appointment. Do some research on the company in advance, and try to anticipate likely questions. Run through ways of answering those questions in a positive and honest way. Know what the company dress code is so you can wear something appropriate–and when in doubt, wear a suit. It’s usually better to err on the side of seeming more professional rather than too casual. Most important of all, be on time. Work out the logistics of transportation, parking, and potential hold-ups like security check-ins in advance. Aim to arrive five or ten minutes early, so you can use the rest room to give your appearance one last check before meeting the interviewer.
2. Be friendly, but professional. Be sure to treat everyone you meet, including receptionists and assistants, with respect. This means being friendly and polite, but not too informal, chummy, or especially, flirtatious. You never know whose opinions get listened to once you’ve left the building. When it comes time to meet the interviewer, smile, make eye contact, and shake hands firmly but not aggressively. Observe small courtesies like not sitting down until the interviewer does. Throughout the interview, don’t let your eyes wander around the room too much, and sit up in a manner that reflects energy and attentiveness.
3. Take cues from the interviewer. In addition to paying attention to what the interviewer says, pay attention to how he or she acts. Some people’s interviewing style is more informal than others, and you should follow suit–though never get drawn into loosening up too much. Also, if the interviewer seems pressed for time, be sure to give concise answers and don’t interject more than is necessary.
4. Ask the right questions. You should ask questions that demonstrate a serious interest in the job. That’s where some of that advance preparation can come in–you can demonstrate some familiarity with the company in the questions you ask. Those questions should be about the nature of the business and how the area for which you are interviewing operates. Do not ask questions about pay and benefits–that’s a discussion you should have when and if you are offered the job. In particular, try to avoid asking about vacation time during the interview. It can create a bad impression when you haven’t even started to work and already your mind is on taking a vacation.
5. Structure your answers. Be careful not to ramble. Give concise answers with a clear, strong conclusion. This can show an organized mind, and leave the interviewer no doubt about what your answers were.
6. Make a strong close. When it’s time to wrap up, thank the interviewer for the meeting and say something complimentary about the company. Finally, shake hands, make eye contact, and state that you really hope to have the opportunity to work for the company. Even if you are ambivalent about the job, close with an expression of interest. You can always decide to turn the job down later, but until then you should do everything you can to put that decision in your hands. Besides, creating a good impression always pays off–it is how you can start to build your professional reputation.

Robert Half, Interview Tips


Publish date: February 4, 2009