A Couple Tips for a Successful Interview!

by Krantcents · 16 comments

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A good first impression makes a winning interview!  I interviewed thousands of candidates for various careers during my business career.  I make decisions about candidates when I meet them before I ask the first question.  Before you pillory me for my quick judgment, you do the same thing, but don’t realize it.  How long do you spend thinking about what to wear or how to present yourself?

An interview is a test!  It may be the biggest or most important test you will take.  Why do people treat it so lightly?  There is so much advice, but very little, if any stresses the first few seconds of the interview.  It is that short few seconds when you meet which sets the stage for success or failure.  How you look, act and speak will set the stage for the interview.  That is right, it only takes a few seconds to create or destroy an interview.

What to Wear

I have seen literally thousands of job candidates who do not know what to wear to interviews.  Whether you are applying for a minimum wage job or executive position, you should always dress well for the interview.  It sends a clear message to the interviewer that you are serious about the interview and you are sincerely interested.  Remember, the employer expects you to be your best which includes how you dress for the interview.  Don’t forget grooming which includes hair, face, clothing and hygiene.

Men and women should wear conservative clothes.  The employer should not think about the annoying perfume, dirty fingernails or purple suit.  You may interview with a man or woman and each will notice and remember different things about what you wear or look like.  Men who have Mohawks may be acceptable in certain industries, but probably not banking, legal or a high end store.  Women in tight clothes or too revealing may be memorable for a male interviewer will definitely be unacceptable with a woman interviewer.  Too much make up will send the wrong message particularly to a woman.

What should you wear?  Men and women should wear a dark conservative suit.  Women can wear a dress, but be very careful to make a conservative choice.  Style may be important to you, but it will only impress an employer in the fashion industry.  Shirts/blouses, shoes etc should match the conservative image you are trying to present.  When I interviewed for executive positions, I wore a navy blue pinstripe suit, white/blue shirt and a burgundy or red tie.  I remember interviewing a female candidate that wore a navy blue suit (jacket & skirt) with a pink blouse and navy shoes.  Two (2) examples of what you should wear.

Grooming choices can destroy your image!  Does your hair look neat or will I remember you because of your hairstyle?  Good hygiene should be a given and pay attention to the little things such as fingernails, haircut, perfume or jewelry.  As far as perfume make up or jewelry, less is better!  Are your shoes shined and in decent condition?  Be careful with your accessories such as a tie for men or scarves for women.  It is an opportunity to show your personality, but don’t go too far.

Soft (social) Skills

Remember, you have not even started the interview and you are being judged!  Your work skills and experience may get your job, but soft skills will get you fired!  Soft skills can prevent you from getting the job as well.  Good soft skills stand out as a candidate.  Little things like good/positive attitude, manners, etiquette, language skills, courtesy, reliability/dependability, eye contact, writing/math skills, good references and personal chemistry.  Wow!  It is quite a laundry list of soft skills that may be revealed before you even interview!

You arrived for the interview and probably talked to the receptionist. She/he may have handed you an application and you filled it out before the interview.  The interviewer saw the application before he/she interviewed you.  Did you arrive early enough to fill out the application or did you pick it up in advance?  Is it neat, completely filled out and is the information relevant?  Are you a good fit?  Did you match your skills to the job description?  How are your writing and reading skills?  What kind of impression do you make?

Now you are ready for the interview!  Either the interviewer will come out to meet you or someone will take you to him/her.  Either way, you have an opportunity to show you fit into the organization.  You had an opportunity when you talked with the receptionist.  Trust me, the receptionist is watching you.  Don’t use and turn off your cellular phone.  Don’t underestimate that person in the organization, I routinely asked the receptionist about the candidate.  Were you smiling, on time, organized, polite, pleasant or what was your first impression are just some of my questions?

Final Thoughts

First impressions are important!  So much is decided before you actually had the interview.  You were probably selected for the interview based on your resume.  Now people you do not know will make judgments about you before you actually interview.  It will be based on your image and how you speak and act.  Is it fair?  Yes, because you will represent the employer over the phone or in person.  Someone cannot monitor you all the time and that would be very ineffective if they did.  A good first impression makes a winning interview!

Photo by:  bpsusf


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A good first impression makes a winning interview!

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Money Beagle November 8, 2012 at 6:13 am

I agree with all this and will add a couple of things. One, thank the person interviewing, both at the beginning and the end of the interview. Even if it’s their job to interview people all day, they are dedicating the time of the interview for you. Second, be confident but not cocky. Third, ask questions and make sure they’re the right ones. When it is time to ask questions, don’t dive right into things like salary, benefits, time off. Have some questions in mind going into the interview, as well as jotting down notes of things that may come up during the interview. And, get a sense of the right number of questions to ask. Ask too few and they’ll question if you are truly interested. Ask too many and it gives off the vibe that you will be constantly asking questions if they hire you.

Krantcents November 8, 2012 at 7:00 am

Questions are always important, but the interviewer made a decision about you right after you said hello! I made judgments about candidates in the first 30 seconds of meeting the candidate. The interview either reinforced hat I thought or countered some of the negatives.

Brent Pittman November 9, 2012 at 9:20 am


I agree. I was a recruiter and knew within the first few seconds also. The rest of the time I was just affirming my hunch or looking for reasons to second guess my gut.

Krantcents November 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

It is sort of funny not much is written about the first few seconds of the interview process. It will make or break a candidate!

Veronica @ Pelican on Money November 9, 2012 at 9:35 am

Too much perfume always drives me nuts. Have to be careful to put just a little bit to not overwhelm anyone. Who wants to work with someone who “stinks” ?!

Krantcents November 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I have been stuck with a few of those people in an elevator over the years. I also notice some of my students could use a little help with hygiene or too much perfume/cologne.

Buck Inspire November 10, 2012 at 12:54 am

Solid advice KC! I agree with Money Beagle’s point about questions. You are seeing if the company is a good fit for you as well. Great reminder that the first few seconds could make or break you. Maybe people glaze this point over because there might be even more pressure to perform?

Krantcents November 10, 2012 at 7:36 am

I think most people prepare for the interview and do not realize they are judged before they interview. It is the little things that are taken for granted.

101 Centavos November 10, 2012 at 3:52 am

Dressing well and conservatively is becoming less and less common. I recently interviewed a candidate for a high-level position who showed up with no tie, no suit jacket, a frayed shirt collar and a two day’s growth of whiskers. Short interview.

Krantcents November 10, 2012 at 7:39 am

When I interviewed people to work in my restaurant, I expected clean, neat and well groomed candidates. I could never expect anything less to work in a restaurant. Candidates are supposed to be their best at an interview.

Bichon Frise November 10, 2012 at 6:06 am

I think dress and appearance should be a no-brainer. Go get a suit or a dress suit and wear it to the interview. Look well groomed, skip the foo-foo, but don’t have BO. Connect with people on the personal side (admittedly, much harder for some than others).

But, as someone who has interviewed people (and interview with other companies far too often), I think the lack of content is the most appalling thing if they are able to pass the sniff test. Everyone should have 10 or so examples of success in their workrecord, ready to go. For example, do NOT say, “I successfully installed the new server system.” So what, I had a hot dog for lunch? Bernie Madoff can claim he’s billions of dollars of assets under management. All true statement.

What we look for is the Situation/Task, action and results (aka STAR). These are rehearsed and laid out on the resume in a similar fashion. For example, “In April, I successfully installed a new server system for our ops group. I led a team of 2 other co-workers. And while we may have gone over budget 3-4%, we delivered the new server a week and half early, ultimately saving the company money because our ops group was able to proceed with their projects. It was a lot of hard work, including some weekends, but my project management skills helped us to schedule and plan out the next steps to make sure the right person with the right skills were available for a little weekend work and all the hardware was there when we needed it.”

You just told them eons more about yourself in the last example. And it makes the interviewer’s job much, much easier. Trust me, having these 2-3 min blurbs about your work record is the only want to go for communicating content during an interview.

Krantcents November 10, 2012 at 7:43 am

You never know what might resonate with a particular interviewer, but there is a minimum effort everyone can do to present yourself well. If you can meet those standards, no one wants to learn more about you. Being able to present your accomplishments to market yourself is a learned skill.

Savvy Scot November 12, 2012 at 2:10 am

Some decent tips… I think it is important that people understand your point that a lot is already pre-decided. You have ticked the boxes by getting called in…. now you need to impress them with other things!

Krantcents November 12, 2012 at 7:38 am

The interview starts when you arrive at the location and little things such as how you dress or present yourself can determine success or failure.

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