Turns out your mother was right. Manners do count, and perhaps no time more than when you interview for a new position. Whether you’re looking to move up the ladder within your current company or land a job with that cool new tech enterprise down the road, a firm handshake and direct eye contact go a long way. And while the ways in which people today apply for jobs has changed dramatically since their grandparents—or even their parents—were in the job market, some advice still holds true.
Know your audience
No matter the job, dress to impress, meaning clothes should be clean, pressed, and professional. Don’t wear clothes with slogans, obvious logos or something you might wear to school or worse yet, to go to the gym. A good rule of thumb is that it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Err on the side of conservatism but keep in mind that dressing professionally is a relative term.
Want a career in corporate America? Don’t wear jeans and a t-shirt—you’re already off on the wrong foot. But not everyone is looking for candidates to come in wearing a suit. Sales people should, of course, but if you’re looking to work with a company such as Levi Strauss or a tech-start-up, you’ll be better served to come in wearing jeans so long as they are clean, neat and without holes, no matter how on-trend it might be.
This is where working with a staffing agency such as Insight Global really comes into play. Hiring firms have relationships with their customers–they know them and what they expect. If you apply blindly to a job online, you don’t know what you’re walking into and might find yourself sticking out like a sore thumb.
Remember the Boy Scout motto
When it comes to interviews, it’s best to be prepared. Do your homework on the company and what they do. Better still, go a step beyond and research the industry as a whole, including competitors. You want to show the interviewer that you have a real interest in the company and the space they inhabit.
Interviewers want people who are excited about the company and what they’ll be doing so having meaningful questions prepared is key. Unfortunately, it’s an area where most people struggle. Unsure of where to start? Ask about the position itself and what a typical day might entail, what’s expected from the job, turnover rates, why the previous employee left, and so on. And don’t forget to bring a copy of your resume.
It might seem old-school but there’s something about having something physical to look at. It can make a big impact, especially in the creative arts or digital media. And while you don’t have to haul in your entire printed portfolio, bringing your iPad with all your material on it is a smart move.
In the hot seat
The second you arrive, the interview begins. Consider the fact that every person you interact with is a potential influencer, from someone you pass in the hall or speak with at the front desk to the person you’ll be sitting across from answering questions.
Recruiters know that it’s often what do you do when no one is looking that seals the deal. And not always to your advantage. Let the door slam on someone without an apology or be overheard speaking rudely to someone on the phone? Those won’t be considered points in your favor.
Other business etiquette tips? Be sure to give the interviewer a firm handshake and look people in the eye when speaking to them; make sure your phone is turned off; and be mindful of body language, i.e., look engaged and lean slightly forward in your seat. While it might seem obvious, don’t chew gum, slump in your seat, fidget, or otherwise behave as if you have someplace else to be.
Remember when your mother told you not to interrupt? She was right. Let the interviewer take the lead and allow them the chance to finish their question before jumping in. Small talk is great—not only can it build rapport with the interviewer, but it can showcase some of your personality and interests that might not come through on your resume. However, when it’s time to answer, don’t ramble. Get to the point without getting off topic. You want to be sure that your answer conveys your knowledge. There’s no need to throw in a story about your last vacation in Cabo, no matter how hilarious.
Smile like you mean it
An interview is an interview, regardless of whether it’s in-person or over the phone, and should be treated as such. Accordingly, make sure you are someplace quiet with excellent phone reception. Now is not the time to grab a quick macchiato or chat in the stairwell of your office building. Some candidates go so far as to put on a suit to put themselves in the right frame of mind.
It’s hard to stay engaged (and sound engaging) over the phone, especially when you don’t know the person on the other end, but keep distractions at bay and stay in the moment. Print your resume out and have it in front of you for quick referral. And don’t forget to smile. Even if the interviewer can’t see you, a positive attitude comes across. A study out of the U.K.’s University of Portsmouth found that even if people can’t see a person’s facial expression they are pretty good at picking out who is smiling just by the tone of their voice.
Business etiquette 101
Regardless of whether you are working with a staffing agency or secure the interview on your own, don’t forget to send a thank-you note, letting the interviewer know you appreciated their taking time to speak with you and reiterating why you are interested in the position.
If you worked with a staffing agency, don’t forget to follow up with them, as well. Because of their client relationships, they know the company’s hiring process and can shed light on next steps and provide a timeframe of when you might expect to hear back. Even if you aren’t hired, their feedback will help you nail the next interview and possibly even land the job.