Your Job Interview: The Two Impressions That Really Count!

Your Job Interview: The Two Impressions That Really Count!
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You are gearing up for a much anticipated job interview. In order to do your best, you want to be well prepared and are going through a list of questions in your head...

  • Which aspects of my background make me the right person for the job?
  • How can I best relate my skills and experience to illustrate my strength as a candidate?
  • Which holds the greatest value? The people in my network? The companies where I've worked? The challenges I have faced and overcome? Or... any of the vast array of other variables that might put me at the top of the list?

Although each of these career-related elements is important to your chances for getting hired, many job search experts believe that the ultimate selection process is based on far less tangible criteria. Much of what goes into choosing new hires--especially in a face-to-face interview--comes down to the unquantifiable attributes of personality and fit. Undeniably, these can't be measured. Yet both are vitally important to your odds for success.

Consequently, to maximize your potential for becoming candidate #1, you want to ensure that you are exuding an air of professionalism, energy, enthusiasm and personal warmth. Such impressions are even more important for older applicants; they need to combat the negative stereotypes of ageism.

The two most critical times to do this are at the beginning and at the end of your interview. People tend to remember both the first and final impressions they hold of someone whom they meet for the first time. So make certain you are well aware of how you are coming across during these two critical periods of your meeting. Your ultimate success may well ride on a smile and a handshake.

First Impression

Nonverbal cues reflect your strength as a candidate, so be certain you:
Project energy and confidence through your posture, handshake, open body language (no crossed arms) and eye contact. The last is particularly important as the majority of interviewers rank eye contact as their #1 nonverbal determinate as to how they judge a candidate's honesty.

Dress the part: Your clothing is a silent but decisive message reflecting your suitability and fit for the position.
Dress for the job you are going for, but take it up a notch or two. Even if your position is very casual and you will be wearing jeans for the most part, wear a pair of cotton or wool slacks. If the position requires business attire, be sure your outfit reflects this and is both well tailored and flattering. Wearing some type of jacket is generally a good idea as the lines and cut of the shoulders provide an extra air of professionalism.

Display your verbal confidence and enthusiasm during the first few minutes of your interview:
Interviewers commonly begin the formal part of the interview with an open-ended question to get you talking about yourself and your background. When prompted to, "Tell me about yourself," your response should include particulars about your experience level, key skills relating to the job, any required education and some key accomplishments that will interest your interviewer. It is important that your initial statement and supporting examples are targeted to the position for which you are applying.

Gain immediate rapport by continuing to underscore your enthusiasm for the position and the company. State something like, "The experience I bring is the reason I am particularly interested in finding out more about this position. Can you tell me from your perspective, as manager, what you believe to be the most critical aspects of the job?" By getting your interviewer to open up with his or her true requirements at the beginning of the conversation, you can directly support your fit by highlighting relevant examples of you successes.

Last Impression

End on a high note:
Many times interviewers will conclude the session by saying something like, "Thank you for coming in. We will be making our decision soon and we'll let you know shortly." This is your cue to, once again, make sure that the interviewer is aware of your enthusiasm for the position.

Respond with something along the lines of: "Now that we've had this conversation, I am even more interested in the job. Can you tell me where you are in the hiring process?" Or, " Can you give me the next steps?" And, if you're feeling especially assertive and the interview has warranted it, you might even end with: "If I have any additional questions, might I contact you?" This leaves the door open to a follow-up phone call or an E-mail. That way, you will leave your interviewer with the knowledge that you care about the position and want to do all you can to be viewed as a strong candidate.

Don't forget to wear your strongest asset -- a warm, friendly smile!

Above all, be aware that managers want people on their team who wish to be there. They want someone to be skilled enough to solve their problems, but they especially want someone who will be a problem solver with a smile on their face. So don't be shy about letting them know that you would love to become a part of their team.

A show of enthusiasm, a confident first impression and an strong, upbeat final impression will go a long, long way to leave your mark as THE candidate of choice!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of and celebrate your sassy side!

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