A job interview can be nerve-racking. Hiring managers, after all, are known for their poker faces; you can never really know what one is thinking about you, sweaty palms and all. Or can you? Here are six things that an human resources manager might be thinking, and how you can present your best self in an interview.
1. Will she always be late like this? Even if you're normally punctual, showing up late to an interview can cause the hiring manager to wonder if this is a regular occurrence. She may reason that if you were serious about this job you would have taken measures to circumvent the traffic/getting lost/not knowing what to wear excuse you used upon coming in the door.
What to do: Give yourself twice as long as you think you need to get ready and drive to your interview. It's better to be early than late and have her questioning your level of commitment. If you arrive early, stay in the car and practice your interview answers.
2. Is this how he'll dress at work? Come to an interview in less than professional dress, and you might get a raised eyebrow from the person interviewing you. They say "dress for the job you want," so if you come in wearing flip-flops or a mini-skirt, the hiring manager might assume you're not professional enough for the job.
What to do: Even if you wear more casual clothing for the position you're interviewing for, it's better to dress up than to dress down.
3. Did he lie on his résumé? If you stumble when asked questions you should be able to answer, the employer may think you fibbed on your résumé. You might chalk it up to nervousness, but she may not see it that way. That's why practicing how you'll respond to certain questions, like those about your past work duties and accomplishments, can help you speak confidently in an interview.
What to do: Always, always be completely honest on your résumé, and prepare to back up and elaborate on anything an employer might have questions about.
4. Will he jump ship? If you have a short stint at a company (for less than a year), a hiring manager may wonder about your ability to commit to a job long-term. And it is, of course, her goal to find the right person for the job and avoid a difficult and costly replacement.
What to do: Prepare to overcome that obstacle immediately. While you don't need to draw attention to it, you do need to be able to quickly explain those jumps and set the hiring manager's mind at ease. You know what you're looking for in your next move and can ask the right questions during the interviews to determine if the opportunity fits your needs and long-term career goals.
5. Is he this sloppy in his work? If your résumé is riddled with grammatical errors, you probably won't even get a call for an interview. Even if your day-to-day job doesn't involve a lot of writing, a hiring manager wants to know that you pay attention to your work and can catch mistakes without correction from a superior.
What to do: Proofread your résumé repeatedly. Use spell check. Proofread it again. Then have at least two friends proofread it. This is the one document you can't send out with mistakes. Employers at this stage in the evaluation process can be unforgiving.
6. His personality isn't a good fit. Your skills and experience plays a large role in a hiring manager's decision of whether you're the ideal candidate or not, but your personality and "culture fit" are equally important. This may be difficult to master, since you never know what she's looking for in terms of what will mesh well with the existing team.
What to do: If you're known for being outspoken, dial it down a little. If you're normally shy and soft-spoken, ratchet it up. You want to be yourself and let your personality shine, but don't allow your nerves to overemphasize some of your personality traits.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.
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