Everyone has been on the receiving end of an interview and some situations can be tricky, but no interview is straight forward. Beginning when you enter the lobby and ending when you exit the building, prepare to be analyzed! There is no need to look over your shoulder – but know that everything you say and don’t say is part of your evaluation as a potential fit.
Here are my Top 5 Ways Interviewers Read between the Lines and how you can finish on top:
Anticipate and Prepare – Before arriving at the office, make sure you have several clean copies of your resume, a pen (or two) and a copy of the company overview and job description (if possible). If you know the names of the people you will meet with, try to access their bios on the internet. Anticipating these things will show the interviewer you take the opportunity seriously, you are motivated, and you respect your time as well as theirs.
TIP: LinkedIn is a great tool for accessing a potential manager’s business bio and to get more information about the company you are interviewing with.
Don’t Underestimate the Lobby - From the receptionist to a passing employee, all interactions are valuable opportunities to interact with and also make positive impressions on company employees. Receptionists and office personnel can be very perceptive in the 5 minutes you wait in the lobby. Be friendly and professional; try to make conversation if the employee is receptive to it.
TIP: If you arrive more than 10 minutes early to your interview, grab a coffee if available or run to the rest room for a last minute appearance check. There is nothing worse than having something stuck in your teeth from breakfast or lunch. First impressions can be based on your appearance before you get a chance to speak, make sure you are dressed for success.
Body Language & Non-Verbal Communication - Body language and other forms of non-verbal communication are an important part of an interview. You could be saying one thing but your body is telling a different story. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and connection. As interviewers dive into your professional background and experience, maintain a good posture, eye contact, have professional etiquette and try to minimize the fidgeting. There is nothing worse than a candidate who slouches, taps their feet or is easily distracted.
TIP: Practice having an interview. Have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview. Have them give you an honest critique of your body language. You could also record yourself to see what you need work on. Most people do not notice their own body language and what kind of message it sends. Lastly, studies show that effective non-verbal communication is best when you are mirroring the other person’s non-verbal cues.
Talking Badly about Past Employers – Everyone has had a negative work experience and what you say about it counts. Don’t offer up information but if asked, be prepared. An interviewer wants to hear real world reasons for leaving a job. No matter how negative it was for you, it is important that you turn the negative experience into a positive one. Interviewers assume if you speak negatively about your past employer, you will likely do the same in the future. When you are asked about previous jobs, instead of saying, “It didn’t work out because my boss was a control freak.” Try saying, “I realized that the leadership in my division was going in a different direction, and I enjoy working in a more collaborative environment.”
TIP: Practice your response to questions about your previous employment. I would start with the last three jobs you had. If you have an answer prepared, it will show the interviewer that you care about your past relationship with your previous employers.
End of the Interview and Beyond – Getting towards the end of the interview most candidates are asked if they have any questions. Even if the interviewer answered all your questions, it is still important to have a couple in your back pocket. It shows you are really intrigued by the opportunity and enjoy the conversation. After you leave the interview, follow up with a thank you note in some form (email or handwritten). Handwritten notes offer a personal touch but email offers speed. It really is your personal preference.
TIP: Some questions to ask if your interviewer has been great at explaining the position in detail would be, “What do you like best about working here?” or “What can I expect in reference to the next steps in the hiring process? Is there a time table on making a final decision?”