Thursday, May 7, 2009
Shoes, Phones and Backpacks: What They're Really Looking at During Your Job Interview
As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a real kick out of spending time recently with college students about to enter the job market. But it got me to thinking that no matter how many "rules" I provide about networking and resumes and other stuff, there are always those tricky little things that can trip you up if no one tells you. And believe me, the stuff I'm about to reveal often isn't discussed out loud. It's not that it's some dark, little secret, but it is so subtle that it's often not talked about as much.
So, here are the 10 things you should know when you're entering the job market:
1.They look at your shoes. You need professional-looking shoes. Not the 4-inch stilettos. Not the pseudo-dress shoes that are a cross between a sneaker and a loafer. Not shoes that have a broken shoelace that you've knotted back together. Real shoes that you've practiced walking in so that you don't resemble a giraffe on stilts.
2. Your hair is a problem. If you have Zac Efron hair, get it cut or at least use some kind of super glue to keep it out of your face. If you are female and wear it deeply parted on one side so that you're constantly doing this weird side head sweep to keep it out of your eyes, get the same super glue. If any part of your hair is the color of Kool-Aid, get rid of it.
3. Sit up straight. Slouching when sitting in a chair makes you look like a sullen teenager. Always sit up straight with your feet on the floor. Slumping makes you look bored -- and a possibly even a little stupid.
4. Ditch the backpack. If you're carrying the backpack you schlepped to school, it probably is not only dirty, but smells. Plus, it makes you look like you're headed to class. You want to look like you're headed to a job. You don't have to have an expensive satchel, but get one that is clean and streamlined. And don't put any buttons or stickers on it.
5. Don't play with your phone. While you may know enough to mute your phone during an interview, you also can't even look at it. Don't try to discreetly check it when someone texts you and don't hold onto it like it's your binky. Put it away so you're not even tempted.
6. Put on a watch. A huge pet peeve for many employers is employees who are late or who otherwise can't adhere to a schedule. Even if you don't look at it, wearing a watch shows that you're at least aware of the time. (Make sure it's professional looking -- no Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse watches.)
7. Use formal forms of address. When meeting someone for the first time, always say "Ms." or "Mr." unless invited to do otherwise. This includes the receptionist, the office manager and the person who sorts the mail. These people often are asked for their impression of you, so if the only thing they can say about you is that you were respectful -- that's a big plus for you.
8. Know you're always being watched. Don't litter in the parking lot, fail to hold the door open for someone else when you enter the building or throw paper towels on the floor in the bathroom. Read industry materials while waiting.
9. Avoid eating and drinking. If you carry coffee or a drink with you into an interview, it's a distraction and can make you appear too casual. Don't eat something while waiting for your interview -- it can give you bad breath and you risk getting something stuck between your teeth or crumbs on your clothes. (And the receptionist will notice if you're a sloppy eater.) When you're further into the interviewing process, you may be invited to have a meal, but in the beginning stages just focus on the questions, not your latte.
10. They pay attention when you leave. Did you say "thank you"? Did you shake hands? Did you smile, make eye contact and tell the receptionist goodbye or hurry away? Were you on the phone or texting or taking off your jacket and loosening your tie before your feet hit the exit? Did you pick up some company brochures on your way out? Remember, your last impression is often the most lasting. Make sure it's one that they will recall as professional and positive.
What are some other subtle tips to make a good impression?