From first impression to follow-up: Hiring manager shares her perspective on every step of a job interview
I recently sat down with Human Resources Consultant Lorna Hegarty of LCH Resources, to talk about job interviewing. She gave me the inside scoop on how most encounters look from the hiring manager’s side of the desk. Here’s what that can mean for candidates.
Visuals are the first point of contact. Employers assess your look before you even speak, so what you are wearing, how you carry yourself and the energy you exude are noticed and weighed first and foremost.
- Dress appropriately for the company environment and the position you are applying for. Wearing a suit to a Tim Horton’s interview might be over the top, but wearing jeans would be going too far the other way. Dress up.
- Carry a neat and attractive brief case, portfolio case or purse. Do not put it on the desk. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to look nice. Don’t bring plastic bags.
- Use a pen that you know writes and doesn’t have the Holiday Inn or some such company name written on it.
- Ensure your shoes are polished and the heels are not scuffed or worn down. Ladies either have fully polished matching nails – or no nail polish at all. No chips or anything in between. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed.
The initial greeting
How you behave in reception may be noted and the receptionist may be stage one of the interview. Treat all gate keepers with kindness and respect. (That’s just good manners anyway.)
The host, hiring manager or HR recruiter, will greet you and make small talk. Be prepared to talk about local news and current events comfortably. Be (or act) genuinely interested in engaging conversations. You should be trying to make a connection here.
Lorna says that a polite interviewer would not call you on poor grammar use or saying “like” multiple times in a sentence, (“So, like, I went to the store, right, and there was, like, no milk at all left in the fridge”) but that it will be noted and held against you. Proper communication is considered a job asset for most roles.
Getting the interview started
If you are perceived as being nervous, a gracious interviewer will continue with the small talk or may offer you water or coffee until they feel you have calmed down and are ready to go. Accept water, not a hot drink.
Once the hiring manager sits down, the formal interview will begin. Make regular eye contact, but remember, it’s not a staring contest. Weaker candidates avoid eye-contact out of nervousness or over-stare to compensate.
You can almost set your clock by the opening question being some version of, ‘Tell me about yourself!’
- The answer is about how you would be able to work in the role being interviewed for. They are looking for an organized response. They want to know you can do the job and that you possess the skills the ad requires. The number of children in your family and the fact you like to snow board is not relevant at this juncture.
The heart of the job interview
- Never interrupt when a question is being asked. Demonstrate that you know how to listen. Pause after the question is asked and answer with a Situation/Action/Result story. People don’t remember words so much as they remember stories.
- You may be asked WHY you majored in math or why engineering appealed to you as a faculty of choice. Prepare an intelligent, truthful response that mentions skills you are good at and enjoy doing. Also be prepared for the answer to ‘Why do you want to work at our company?’ This is to test what you know about the company and the contributions you are prepared to make.
- Ask intelligent questions throughout the interview.
- When asked a weakness or development question never mention a skill or strength that is required in the job as being one of your weaknesses.
The wrap up
- The interviewer will wrap up the interview. It looks bad if the candidate cuts it short. Try to have a question or two at the end unless the interview has been three hours long and absolutely everything has been covered. You may even ask the interviewer, ‘what do you like most about working for this organization?’ or ‘what changes have occurred within the company (or your industry) that has affected the company in the last year?’
- Thank the hiring manager for their time and for selecting you to be a candidate. Tell them you are excited about the position, if you are, and what a great opportunity it would be for you.
- Pack up at a moderate pace. There’s no need to rush out or dawdle about either.
Email a thank you note to the interviewer within a day or two reiterating your interest in the position and showing appreciation for their time.
It’s okay to follow-up again, but don’t stalk the employer. Repeated follow-ups won’t increase your chances of being hired and can end up making you look desperate.
Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It
Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group