They say the way to gauge the skill of a trained chef is not by their hollandaise sauce, it’s by the egg that goes with it. What am I talking about? Here’s the connection: Today’s advice is not about your hollandaise sauce. It’s about the perfectly cooked egg. So if you don’t want just a job, but a great job, it’s not just important to research the company and customize your cover letters. It’s even more important to remember the basics. So here are four obvious basic things that you should be doing in your interviews.
- Have you looked in the mirror today? The key to dressing properly is to wear something appropriate that makes you feel conﬁdant. A good rule of thumb is to always, regardless of what the dress code is, still dress above that. You want to be your best self, so ask yourself that morning, “Would my best self have on a rumpled shirt and sandals?” (The answer to that question is always a resounding “NO!”) Give yourself a once over in the mirror. Matching socks, neat hair, belt through all the loops, check off all the details.
- No matter how old your interviewer is, nor how youthful the company may seem, remember, you’re speaking to somebody on whom you want to impress that you are someone who would impress their clients and customers. You don’t have to turn on your disgraced politician voice, “well, for where I am in my life right now at the present juncture at the current time…” Just soak out some of the “hanging around the pub” vernacular and switch to the more appropriate “meeting the new girlfriend’s parents” vernacular. Avoid “ums” and “like this” and “like that” and include your “pleases” and “thank yous.” It makes a big difference.
- Come prepared with the appropriate materials. They may already have your resume, but you still need to bring a copy with you. And I mean a printed copy that is not stapled and not folded in half! This isn’t something you should pull out of the front pocket of your shoulder bag, this is something that should be neat and clean when you present it. You want it to stand out just like you. Also, don’t bring in a ﬂash drive and say, “here you go, it’s all on here.” A lot of places have policies about that and you don’t want to be caught empty-handed, so take the time and the ink to print it, along with any other reference materials or letters of recommendation. And get a folder or portfolio to make sure that there are no worries ever about dog-eared corners or random stains.
- You are not equals. This is not a quick morning meeting with your colleague. Don’t walk into your interview with your morning latte in your hand. Not only can it be seen as rude to be sipping at your coffee during a conversation, but it also presents problems like, should I put this down on this person’s desk? Should I look for the trash can when it’s empty? Maybe this person doesn’t appreciate the smell of your Caramel Macchiato in their office. Just don’t do it. However, if they offer a refreshment, it’s perfectly appropriate to partake. But let them set the tone. It’s also okay to sneak a bottle of water into your bag if you need to take a few quick sips to keep talking about all your awesome skills.
I realize that you may be thinking, “Thanks Cat, I think I can remember to dress myself and not leave coffee rings on someone’s desk, super helpful.” But remember, if I’m taking the trouble to mention it, it’s because there’s a reason I need to. You’re asking them to not only see you as special, but to remember you that way. Doesn’t matter how amazing your skills and qualiﬁcations are if they spend the whole interview distracted by your wrinkled collar and the cup you’ve balanced on the corner of their desk. Or another way to say that would be, doesn’t matter how good your hollandaise sauce is if you serve it up with a lousy egg.