July 25, 2013

Sit Up Straight: Mom’s Guide to a Good Interview

By: Todd Noebel

Your mom may have been the best interview coach you never knew you had. While she was imparting that old school etiquette that will serve you well as you make your way in the world, she also taught you how to conduct yourself in an interview. Like it or not, a job interview is an etiquette test of epic proportions.

Following these rules for good behavior won’t guarantee you a job offer. However, failing to follow them will
guarantee that you won’t get the job offer.

I bet you’ll even hear your mom’s voice when you read some of these.

Good posture“Sit up straight.” That’s right, you need to sit up straight, face forward and not slouch in the chair. You’re in a place of business not chilling on the couch. No matter how casual the atmosphere, exhibiting good posture sends a signal that you are interested, engaged and paying attention. Employers look for people who bring those three things to work with them every day.

Eye contact“Look at me when I’m talking to you.” You need to look the interviewer in the eye. No, don’t stare. If you can’t look them in the eye it makes them question your confidence and competence. Making good eye contact during a conversation exhibits confidence and can signal whether or not you are trustworthy.

Smile“You look so much nicer when you smile.” It puts the interviewer at ease. It puts you at ease. It shows confidence and a positive disposition. Smiling also makes the simple statement that you are glad to be where you are.

Speak clearly“Don’t mumble.” If the interviewer can’t understand you, it doesn’t matter what you have to say. Good grammar and annunciation speak volumes. EVERY job requires you to be able to communicate clearly.

Dress appropriately
“Is that what you’re wearing?” You need to know the expectations for work attire. When the interview is being scheduled, simply ask what the office attire is. That said, the best bet is to dress formally for the interview. It doesn’t matter if the interviewer shows up in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops. They already work there – you don’t.

Be on time“Do you have any idea what time it is?” Showing up on time is critical. It means you value not only the time of the interviewers, but your own time as well. Trust me; you’ll need to be on time for a lot of things at work – meetings, projects, presentations, etc.

No phone – “Put that phone away and pay attention.” Let’s be honest, you don’t need to text, tweet , instagram, vine or otherwise document your interview in the moment. And unless you have a family member in the hospital there is absolutely NO reason you should even consider taking a call. So turn it off and put it away for the duration of the interview.

These are just a few of the basics but they will have a substantial impact on the outcome of your interview. Rest assured, the people you are meeting with are making an investment of their time and have prepared themselves and they expect that you will as well.

So when you get back from that next interview be sure to call your mom and thank her. In fact, do yourself a favor and go ahead and tell her she was right. And sit up straight when you’re talking to her. She can hear it.

Todd Noebel is the Director of Hiring and Professional Development with the Institute for Humane Studies and Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He has over 20 years of experience in human resources and recruiting in executive search as well as corporate settings.