Last week I reviewed Narinder K. Mehta’s recent publication, Five Steps to Your Next Job, a valuable resource for anyone on the job hunt. In my previous post, I featured the book’s insight on the latest trends in the contemporary job market, notably building your resume and making professional connections via social networking and establishing your “online presence.” This week, I would like to continue the discussion by focusing on one aspect of the job search that always has been and will continue to be decisive in the hiring process: the job interview. Mehta offers many tips on interview preparation from the moment you receive the call to the post-interview follow-up. He also provides breakdowns of types of interviews – and the accompanying business etiquette that you need for these various contexts, which I will discuss further in this review. Whether the interview is traditional, over the phone, or during a meal – preparation for the appropriate context is essential.
No matter what the type, Mehta stresses two aspects of a successful interview: adequate preparation and a good first impression. On the first point, Mehta highlights central factors to consider in order to prepare sufficiently for an interview; namely, thoroughly researching the position and the employer, devising potential interview questions and rehearsing answers, compiling your own list of questions to ask, and organizing the appropriate documents (your resume, cover letter, list of references) to bring to the interview.
The second point is important in many professional contexts but is indispensable during a job interview: a positive and lasting first impression. Mehta narrows down the key facets of professional image, which include appropriate dress, body language and eye contact, a good handshake, and general good manners. I suggest that, in choosing interview attire, dress more formally even than the position requires. For example, if the dress code is business casual or the office culture relaxed, you should still don a tailored suit and formal shoes on the interview day. Also, avoid flashy accessories and strong perfumes: the idea is not for the interviewer to be distracted by your attire, but to recognize immediately that you are a serious and professional individual. A basic but elegant outfit will achieve that impression.
This section of the book then proceeds to discuss different types and formats of interviews. One context frequently used by employers and during which your business etiquette must be at its finest is an interview over a meal. According to Mehta, employers will use this format in order to “observe your table manners and social conduct while you answer and ask questions,” often for a position that requires frequent interaction with clients or which will include business social events. In addition to preparing generally for an interview, then, you must also brush up on your dining etiquette skills.
As Mehta suggests, a good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the interviewer. Take your seat once the interviewer sits; choose a meal that is close to the price range (or less than) the interviewer’s order. One exception to this rule, however, is ordering alcohol – do not drink an alcoholic beverage at the interview, even if the interviewer orders one. Throughout the meal, continue to employ executive dining manners. Place your napkin on your lap immediately after sitting down, and leave it to the left of your plate at the end of the meal or if you must excuse yourself from the table. When ordering, avoid foods that are hard to handle: the last thing you want to worry about is twirling messy spaghetti while you are trying to answer an interview question. When the interview is over, send a thank you note as you normally would, but be sure to thank for the meal as well. For further tips, click here to view my informational video on the highlights of business dining etiquette.
The opportunity to interview with a company is exciting, as you have already proven yourself qualified for a position and your application has made it through one part of the selection process. Yet it can be daunting as well, as the pressure builds to perform well and to impress the interviewer. However, preparation for interview and its context, as we have discussed here, can alleviate some of that stress. After brushing up on your professional skills and thoroughly researching the position and the company, you will interview with confidence.