(This article is adapted from the new book, How to Stand Apart @ Work by Judith Bowman.)
Most of us know how to behave in a way that is considered fine but very few know how to truly be fabulous. Employers, however, seek out and regularly hire those who have the “it” factor.
It’s the subtle, understated nuances that separate the fabulous job candidates from ones who are simply fine. Anything you can do to stand apart can help make you fabulous at your next job interview. Here are ways to do it:
Advance Preparation for the Interview
Making yourself fabulous for an interview starts before you arrive.
Research the firm and the individual/s with whom you are meeting (and learn proper name pronunciation). Visit the company’s website, and perhaps sites of its top competitors as well. Read recent news stories to be well informed regarding current activities pertaining to their business, the competition and industry trends.
Prepare questions to ask the interviewer, such as: What do you consider some of the firm’s greatest accomplishments, future challenges and direction? How long have you worked for the firm and why do you enjoy working there?
Remember, the interview is an opportunity for you to evaluate each other. Phrase your questions as if you are already their first choice for the job. Ask the interviewer how he or she views you and your expertise benefiting the company. Then bring this answer full circle in your closing remarks.
Arriving at Your Interview
Show up early for the interview, but no more than 15 minutes early. As soon as you arrive at your destination, cell phones and other devices: off. Stand “at the ready” and wait to confidently meet your host.
Your Interview Attitude
“Assume the Sale!” Act as if you already work there, with this person, in this building. Project positive energy, enthusiasm, sincerity and style; people are attracted to positive, upbeat people. Be well rested, well prepared, and well dressed to perform at your personal best.
Remember to Connect
Initiate small talk; anything visible in the office, or even outdoors, is fair game for conversation topics: photos, plaques, artwork, books, office décor and the like.
Share personal information, but not too much.
Decline Offers of Hospitality
Graciously decline offers of coffee and croissants. You don’t want to risk crumbs landing on your lapel, food getting stuck in your teeth or coffee breath. The “spillage factor” is real and you do not want to be the person remembered for getting coffee on your résumé, your tie or dress or the interviewer’s desk.
There are exceptions, of course. If a porcelain or silver coffee or tea service appears, it would be rude to refuse such an offer.
Sitting and Seating
Think of sitting and seating as another opportunity to stand apart.
Always permit your host — the interviewer — to be seated first. If you have the option of sitting across the desk from, or angular to, your interviewer, choose angular. That way, you’ll eliminate the desk “barrier.” After all, you want nothing to interfere with the relationship you are endeavoring to forge.
It’s wise to take notes because this will help you remember what you hear and also show that you’re taking the interviewer seriously. But ask first. Asking shows that we assume nothing as we endeavor to build trust and grow the relationship.
Take personal notes about the interviewer and use this information in follow-up communication.
Attributes to Flaunt
You’ll also stand out by demonstrating how fabulous you are when it comes to your passion, adaptability and professionalism.
Be prepared to share how you feel your passion for what the interviewer wants could help make a difference in the company or even change the world, in some way.
Convince the interviewer that you are able to manage relationships and are a team player. Interviewers want to know if you are a “roll up the sleeves” type of individual and not a prima donna.
Possessing a professional presence is tantamount to making a positive first impression, but exhibiting overconfidence and self-importance can hurt you.
Make it clear that you are receptive to learning from (and working with) others and possess an element de humilité.
What you’d be paid is clearly important, but it’s certainly a delicate topic.
Wait for the interviewer to initiate the topic. Then note your current salary or your desired salary or compensation package. Let the interviewer know that you are more interested in the opportunity to work with and learn from them than the pay and that you are confident the compensation will be fair.
If you receive an offer, advocate on your own behalf and negotiate. Interviewers usually have some financial leeway.
After the Interview
Send the interviewer a quick “thank you” e-mail and then follow up with the timeless, traditional thank you note on your quality personal stationery. Since you will have taken notes during (or immediately following) the interview, mention something personal in your handwritten note.
So few people these days even bother to follow up with an email or call that anyone today who takes the time and goes to the trouble to send a handwritten personalized thank you note gets noticed, big time.