by Jon Michail

Are you finding it hard to get a new job or even the right job? It’s pretty savage out there at the moment – just look at the current illinois unemployment levels. Even with a great CV and on-trend skills, you’re just one amongst the dozens of others who’ve applied for the job you want.

Over the last twenty five odd years I have had the honour to coach an eclectic list of clients from Fortune 500 CEO’s to elite athletes to Non-For-Profit leaders… and nothing has changed in that time that says it’s OK to be disrespectful and aloof during a job interview….that includes millennials to baby boomers and all in between.

Even if you manage to score an interview, that’s no guarantee you’ll walk away with the position. To be seen as the best of all those being interviewed other than personal recommendations, inside knowledge etc., your presentation skills are all important. Jobs change, but your dress, manners, and conduct will always be judged from the moment you walk into the interview. Why? Because human beings are highly visual and have more power than words alone.

Often you will never know just what is was that lost you the job because our over sensitive politically correct times do no encourage authentic feedback. You can’t blame HR departments or recruiters, the legal environment for getting sued is horrid in most cases …  a consequence when we face so many first world problems. It’s likely to be a series of small impressions that made your image an unfavourable ‘fit’ for the role. Do any of the following apply to you?

  1. Let’s reschedule. Your interview time is all-important. Don’t change it because ‘something else came up’. Your interview is the most important thing you have on today – this week – this month – and nothing short of death should get in its way. If you can’t keep the appointment, how reliable are you going to be in the job?
  1. Sorry I’m a bit late. As an indicator of reliability, this is the first. You should have planned, prepared, taken account of possible contingencies and arrived on time (ideally at least five minutes earlier) for this important part of your day. If you believe that you can inconvenience your interviewers so casually, what does it say about your attitude to a working day?
  1. I can’t operate without my coffee. Don’t ever bring your ‘take away’ coffee cup into the interview room. It’s thoughtless and it looks ugly. It makes you look overly casual and as though the occasion is not particularly important. Believe me, it is important. Would you want to interview someone who’s more intent on their coffee than the meeting?
  1. Seeing as I’m Skyping, I’ll wear my onesie. No, you won’t. No matter whether your interview is via Skype or a video conference, distance does not mean that you can treat the interview casually. I don’t care if you come smart casual or in a suit, just dress as you would for a face to face interview, and treat your surroundings as though they are part of the interview process. Every single aspect of an online interview should signal professionalism. Would you leave a face to face interview to go and let the dog in?
  1. I’ll just have a little something beforehand to settle my nerves. No! You won’t. Drugs are an absolute no-no, and your future employers will want nothing to do with you if you’re less than 100% on task at your interview. If you think that ‘everyone does it,’ deal with it and get help, you couldn’t be more wrong. They don’t! If you need stimulation or sedation for an interview, your subsequent job tenure is going to be a very short one.
  1. I’ll just turn on the charm. This is a straight no brainer. Anyone who saves their ‘nice side’ just for the interview room is making a big mistake. Everyone deserves to see the same pleasant and gracious personality, whether they’re receptionists, your fellow interviewees or the people you shared the lift with. Don’t forget, your interviewing panel might just ask the people in the outside office for their opinions too. After all, you could soon be working with them, couldn’t you?
  1. I’m expecting an important call. Never have your phone on during an interview, not even on silent. Ever! Nothing is so important that you have to tend to it immediately. If you answer calls, tests or Tweets during an interview, you’re saying that your phone is more important than the prospect of employment. So why are you applying for a job?
  1. I’m going to tell you everything before you ask. Being too talkative puts people off. The process of interviewing does not mean listening to every detail of your work and personal history. Interviewing is a two-way thing. How can the interviewers find out what they want to know if your never-ending stream of chatter eliminates the possibility of them posing questions or seeking considered answers? Learn to read your prospective interviewer, use your emotional intelligence and engage in a mutually beneficial conversation.
  1. They’ll want to know what makes me tick. No, they won’t. They want to know if you’ll be right for the job. How resourceful are you? Do you persevere with a task? Your ability to get over hurdles. Your attitude that excludes details of your last partner’s unfaithfulness, your knee operation and your aunt Susie’s fondness for taking in stray cats. Think before you speak. Don’t bag your last employer. Don’t witter on about your car breakdowns. These details send all the wrong signals. They make you sound like a gossip, as well as giving the impression of unreliability, general daffiness, and unprofessionalism. Is that the impression you want to give?
  1. All that counts is my past work experience, right? Wrong. You are more than your last job. How do you fit into your community? What do you do apart from your work? Your sports team, your hobby classes, your cause related activities and your extra-curricular study – they’re all important in presenting a rounded picture of you as a person. Even better, if you take good care of your health and fitness, you’re going to be a great asset to the workforce. Look unhealthy and it will most likely affect your chances. Your past work experience is only a small part of you, the whole person.

Think hard about the impression you’re going to give in that interview. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you are going for the CEO’s position or an entry trainee level, first impressions are often the last impression. It’s time to re-stack the odds in your favour, you won’t get a second chance.

What do you think? I’d love to know.

Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives and entrepreneurs to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.

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