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Interview Tips - Pre-Interview Dos and Don'ts

Here are some tips regarding pre-interview behaviour that I have utilised myself. Notice this article refers to pre-interview, but also un...

Here are some tips regarding pre-interview behaviour that I have utilised myself. Notice this article refers to pre-interview, but also understand that the interview really starts as soon as you arrive at the designated location.
Arrive 10-15 mins early - Turning up with several minutes to spare let's you cool down and relax; go to the bathroom; check your hair, teeth and nose, wipe your brow and generally de-stress. By aiming to be there early, it also means you avoid arriving flustered as a result of rushing to be on time. If need be, practice a dry run of commuting to the interview destination at the same time on a previous day.
Eat and be well hydrated - Sure these are two things you should be doing anyway, but many people forget to as a result of preparing or travelling to the interview. Nourishment will aid your concentration during the interrogation, and being hydrated will ensure your mouth isn't dry when answering those difficult questions.
Smile - Nobody likes a sourpuss so ensure you're smiling when you arrive. Smile in the elevator, smile at the receptionist and most certainly smile when greeting your interviewer. Practice your smile at home if you have to and verify that it's sincere - people can spot a fake grin a mile off. As Tyra Banks would say on America's Next Top Model, "You have to smize", that is smile with your eyes too. By the way I don't actually watch ANTM, but overheard it when switching channels the other day.
Firm handshake - Sometimes the best first impression you can make is with a firm handshake. I've interviewed hundreds of graduates and it never ceases to amaze me how many falter on this aspect. Whenever meeting anyone that doesn't shake my hand firmly, it immediately puts me off and presents the other person as weak and lacking confidence - definitely not the impression you want to make with an interviewer. There's further handshake etiquette you should be mindful of by running a search on the internet.
Initiate small talk - You know that period when your interviewer is leading you to the interview room? Well that's not meant to be awkwardly silent. In fact it's the perfect opportunity to make small talk and break the ice. If you're not an adroit conversationalist then ask/make some preconceived questions/comments. Examples I have used before:
  • "Great views from this office, I don't know how you get any work done?"
  • "Some great artwork in this building; I especially liked the mural in the lobby"
Such remarks will often spark a hearty conversation and demonstrate you're an affable human being.
Be well-dressed -
Martin Frohm: What would you say if a man walked in here with no shirt, and I hired him? What would you say?
Christopher Gardner: He must have had on some really nice pants.
I love the above dialogue from one of my favourite movies, The Pursuit of Happyness. I definitely don't recommend executing it though, unless you have a spectacular story to match. So for the rest of us that aren't Will Smith, make sure you dress appropriately for your particular industry. Law graduates can assume business formal when interviewing at a firm whereas science graduates might be required to wear less formal attire. Either way, ask the interviewer beforehand if you're unsure.
Find out name of receptionist - I especially like this one. I used this tactic before successfully when interviewing at a multinational firm some years back. When arriving at the designated offices of the company I greeted the receptionist and found out her name was Jenny. I also engaged her in some cheerful banter (but not too much as she was busy answering calls and welcoming people). Then as the interviewer lead me away to the location of the interview, I give her a wave and said "Thanks Jenny". It brought a smile to her face and I could tell by the expression of the interviewer, he was highly impressed. Also note that receptionists are asked to observe you as you wait and then report their feedback about your body language to managers.
Don't use your phone - Do not talk, text, play games or listen to music on your phone while waiting at reception for your interviewer to arrive - even if you installed the coolest iPhone app. This is an increasing problem among youth today as technology becomes more mobile and they become more technology savvy. Turn off your phone completely! Silent will not suffice. It's just as disconcerting for yourself and the interviewer if they hear the sound of vibrations in your jacket pocket during the interview. Any calls received during this time can go straight to voicemail.
Don't smoke - This is something I advocate at all times, but if you happen to be partial to a puff of the cigarette then don't do it before the interview. Personal space can sometimes be compromised in small interview rooms and the last thing an employer wants to smell on you is a waft of foul tobacco induced odour. It's such an obvious smell especially on chronic smokers so save your cancer stick for post interview. It could also indicate to your future employer that you'll be less productive at work as you take frequent breaks to support your ailing habit.
Don't overdo the perfume - Some cologne or perfume is recommended for both males and females, however it shouldn't be overpowering. When the fragrance is excessive it can be quite nauseating for people around you.
Don't bring too many bags - Avoid carrying a lot (gym bag, laptop, luggage) to the interview as it proves to be very cumbersome. Try and schedule appointments such as the gym or guitar lessons well after the interview to leave you enough time to go home first. Steer clear of shopping beforehand and save the stocktake sales for after.
Don't drink coffee - Coffee smells really nice in a cup but revolting on someone's breath. As per smoking, save your caffeine addiction for after the interview.
Don't interview if you aren't well - In such instances avoid the interview and call up the potential employer with your sincerest regrets. Ask them if it's possible to reschedule and affirm your enthusiasm for the position. In most cases this won't be a problem, even if the interview is conducted in a group setting. Just be genuine and your future hiring manager will be sympathetic to your situation; if not, then it's probably not somewhere you want to work anyway.
Well I hope these tips will help you ace the pre-interview stage.

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