By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA
IN TODAY’S HIGHLY COMPETITIVE JOB MARKET, you’ve got to be one of the best, if not “The Best,” candidate for any job you go after. There’s no room for mediocrity here. So, how can you position yourself ahead of the competition on your next interview? Follow these tried-and-true techniques, and move forward for career success.
What to Wear
You’ve heard it before: “First impressions matter.” So your appearance on a job interview is critical. What you wear makes a loud statement about who you are. Both men and women should wear a business suit to make the best possible impression. The traditional, conservative view is that women should wear a skirted suit. However, if you are a woman who doesn’t wear skirts, then a pants suit is the next best thing. If you belong to a religious or cultural group that requires certain attire, then that attire would be appropriate.
Wearing a business suit to a job interview shows a seriousness of purpose on your part and shows respect for the person who is interviewing you. Does this mean you won’t get hired if you don’t wear a suit? Of course not, but wearing a suit will help you make your best possible impression and will give you a competitive edge. It’s always safe to stick with conservative colors like navy or gray. Women have a little more leeway with color, but don’t stray too far from this. Remember, this is a formal business situation, not a social event.
Keep your jewelry and accessories simple and tasteful. Your grooming should be impeccable. You’re better off avoiding perfume or cologne or strong aftershave. You don’t want the interviewer to continue to “smell” you after you’re gone. Besides, some people are allergic to certain scents.
Your posture says a lot about you, too. Because you want to give the impression of being confident and in control, stand and sit erect, with your shoulders back and your head up. Make good eye contact and use appropriate hand gestures.
The handshake is a critical part of a successful interview. A person will judge you not only on whether you shake their hand, but also on the quality of that shake. Be sure to use a full, firm handshake accompanied by direct eye contact and a smile. Start and end the interview with a hand shake. It doesn’t really matter who extends the hand first. What matters is that you shake hands.
Do Your Homework
Research the company for whose position you are applying before going on an interview. Fortunately, the Internet has made this more convenient than ever. Most organizations and healthcare facilities and agencies have websites today. Look for online press releases, names of officers and administrators, services and products, financial reports, and so forth. When doing your search, look for news stories, too. It will sound impressive if you say, “I saw the recent article in the Herald about the new mammography center that will be opening in June.” If you know anyone who currently works for or has worked for the organization in the past, give the person a call and get some inside information. You’ll be better prepared, and it will show. When leaving the interview, ask the interviewer for some corporate literature to take with you.
Bring a few extra copies of your resume with you in a folder or portfolio. This way, you’ll be prepared if you’re interviewed by more than one person, or if the interviewer has misplaced your resume.
Remember, the interview is a two-way street, and you should be an active participant without dominating. Be prepared with any specific questions you may have about the organization and the job responsibilities. If applying for a supervisory or managerial position, you might ask, “What problems exist in the department that would need addressing immediately?” You might also ask the interviewer how long she or he has worked there, and what she or he sees as benefits and drawbacks to the company. It’s also appropriate to ask, “Why is this position open?” and, “What are the most important traits you look for in an employee?”
You should not bring up salary or benefits at a preliminary interview. The time to discuss salary is when you’re offered a job. If the employer asks what your salary requirements are, answer simply, “At this point, my salary requirements are negotiable. I want to see if the job is right for me and if I’m right for the job.” You could stop by the Human Resources department on your way out and ask for a benefits sheet.
When all is said and done, people are looking to hire a personality, not just a body to fill a slot. So, be yourself and act as natural and relaxed as you can. Be somewhat animated and project a positive, upbeat, can-do attitude.
Try to appear confident, even if you don’t feel that way. Research has shown that your attitude accounts for as much as 80% of your success in a job interview. This means that when a decision is being made to hire, a winning personality and a good attitude will win out over any experience or credentials you do or don’t have.
Before and during the interview, focus on your strengths. Rather than think about all the experience you believe you lack, concentrate on what you have done. If someone asks you if you have ever done something, don’t be so quick to say “no.” Think of some way you have done something similar in your work or student experience, and convey that. For example, if someone asks if you have any teaching experience, you might say, “Actually, I do patient and family teaching all the time.” Think in terms of what you can do, not what you can’t do. Of course, don’t ever lie.
End the interview on a positive, upbeat note. Say something like, “I really enjoyed our meeting. This opportunity is right up my alley. I look forward to hearing from you.” Don’t leave the interview without knowing what the time-frame for decision–making is. Ask, “When do you anticipate making a decision?” or, “When can I expect to hear from you?” Upon leaving, shake hands, make eye contact, and smile.
Send a thank–you note within 24 hours after the interview. The note should be short and to the point. Thank the interviewer for the time spent, express your continued interest in the position, and briefly summarize what you would bring to the job. This note should be word-processed on good quality stationery. It’s best to avoid e-mail for this particular correspondence.
While a handwritten thank–you note is considered acceptable by some, in many arenas it is considered too informal for a job interview.
If you haven’t heard from the interviewer within the specified decision–making time frame, make a follow-up phone call to see if a decision has been made. If not, ask if there is any additional information you can provide to convince the decision–makers that you are right for the job. This demonstrates that you follow up on things and that you have a sincere interest in the position. It also helps to keep you fresh in the interviewer’s mind.
In summary, dress your professional best, research the company, walk and talk like a winner, shake hands and make good eye contact, ask questions, be positive and upbeat, end on a positive note, send a thank-you note, and follow up. With this winning formula, you can’t lose. Now, get out there and knock some socks off!
Copyright Nursing Spectrum Magazine, Greater New York/New Jersey Metro Edition, All rights reserved. Used with permission.