(U-WIRE) The truth about interviewing is that most initial interviews only last about 5 minutes. Oh sure, the actual interview always takes longer than that – 30 minutes, 45 minutes. Sometimes even an hour. But the interview is typically over in just five minutes.
In that first five minutes of the interview, I will have noted many critical aspects of your background. Your dress. Your grooming. Your handshake. Your personal presence. Your eye contact. Your articulation. And, most importantly, your personality. Notice that I didn’t mention anything about your coursework, your GPA, or your work experience. That’s what got you to the interview in the first place. But it’s all of the “soft factors” that will take you to the next level.
Don’t get me wrong. Having taken the right courses, having good grades (critical!) and having related work experience are all important selection criteria. But they don’t matter one iota if you’re not a strong personal fit for our company.
The truth is that most interviewers are seeking individuals who are able to personally present themselves well in a face-to-face interview. They are seeking to recommend those who will be a good reflection upon themselves and their selectivity. So most interviewers naturally gravitate to specific “success factors” that have worked for them consistently. Although they may vary somewhat from company to company, there are threads common to all employers:
Dress and grooming – The interview is not the time to make a personal fashion statement. The best interview dress is that which is least noticed.
Personal presence – How your present yourself by your personal presence is critical to interview success. This includes all of the “non-verbals” and other body language cues we give during the course of the interview. This is an especially difficult area for self-assessment, since we are typically unaware of our own quirks.
Articulation – The ability to articulate your background is a combination of good preparation (which you have full control over) and vocabulary/enunciation (which you have little control over). Your “smartness,” “sharpness,” “quickness,” “aggressiveness” and “brightness” all are attributes typically evaluated based on your articulation. Any practiced interviewer prefers an individual who is comfortable within their vocabulary level to one always searching at the level above. And make sure you are fully prepared.
The very best thing you can do to prepare for your interview today is to participate in a mock interview. It can be intimidating to be put under the microscope. You will make errors. You will make mistakes. But how much better to make those errors with those who can help you. Check with your campus career placement center today to arrange for your mock interview.
The writer, Brian Krueger, is a hiring manager for Keane Inc. He is author of the book College Grad Job Hunter. Read related columns by Krueger on the Web at (http://www.uwire.com/jobhunter/).
This article appeared in the April 6, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.