The day of the interview:
1. Look (and smell) your best. Dress professionally (rarely will a candidate go wrong in a well-tailored black or navy suit), don’t wear any cologne or perfume or smoke something that might make you smell disgusting to someone whose nose works differently than yours does, and turn your cell phone off.
2. Be early, but not annoyingly so. Arrive 15 minutes early, not 30 minutes early or 2 hours early. Arriving more than 15 minutes early is a huge pet peeve of a lot of my clients who feel pressured into re-arranging their schedules when they hear a candidate is waiting for them in the lobby.
3. Calm yourself. If you start to feel anxious in the car or in the elevator on your way up to the interview, force yourself to yawn a few times to regulate your breathing. Another tip for alleviating anxiety: when you’re seated in the lobby, keep both of your feet firmly planted on the floor. Keep them that way throughout your interview if you can. And try to remember that anxiety is just the evil twin of exuberance; give yourself permission to feel excited!
4. Be friendly. As you walk in the door, remember that your main goal is to go in there and make some new friends. Every single person you meet with (and this absolutely includes the receptionist) is wondering if they’re going to like you. And you should be wondering if you’re going to enjoy their company too. So be genuine, polite, warm, and open with everyone you meet. And think about your body language: don’t cross your legs, do not cross your arms under any circumstances, and maintain healthy eye contact.
5. Mirror. Be acutely aware of your interviewer’s energy and body language so that you can practice something I call mirroring. Here are some examples from previous experiences: If your interviewer greets you with, “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry if I’ve kept you waiting! My baby barfed on my blouse this morning and it took me forever to change and get out the door. What a crazy morning!” you want to match her energy, but in a genuine way. Feel free to share a similar story about your cat spitting up on your sofa just before a dinner party was about to begin (for example). Note that you always want your story to be shorter. And pay attention to your interviewer’s body language as you’re speaking. If her eyes drift away from you, if she keeps glancing at her clock or her computer… wrap it up!
If, however, you meet with someone who is incredibly formal and starts the conversation with a terse “Why do you want to work here?” you will want to stay on your toes and refrain from telling any cat-vomit stories. Pause before answering each question to gather your thoughts—which should be easy, because you’ve already practiced what you’re going to say!
6. Keep it conversational. If at any point your interviewer sighs deeply and says, “So, do you have any questions for me?” know that you have not done your job. You’ve bored your interviewer and haven’t been engaged throughout the meeting. To avoid this deadly situation, do your best to treat the interview as a conversation, asking your thoughtful questions along the way rather than saving them until the end. This means that after your you’ve answered your interviewer’s question about why you want to work at their company, you can ask what drew them to the company and what they like best about working there.
After the interview:
1. Email your thanks. Email personalized and thoroughly proofread thank-you notes to every single person you met with if you were able to get their business cards (yes, separate emails for each person). Email is preferable because the recipients can immediately reply and give you a sense of where you stand. Also—I have to mention this because it’s happened to so many of my candidates in the past—do not use an email address that is overly creative or even vaguely inappropriate.
2. Be patient. Companies can, and often do, take up to a month to extend offers. (Yet once you receive an offer, most employers will require a decision from you within 72 hours.) If you don’t get the position you were hoping for, know that something better is waiting for you. The more interviews you do, the sharper your interviewing skills will get. And the more interviews you go on, the more likely you will be to find a place that is truly a good fit for you. Best of luck!