You’ve caught their attention. The version of you on your CV has convinced a prospective employer to meet you in person. Now it’s time to seal the deal; now it’s time to progress to yes.
You are meeting employer face-to-face so you will need to research them. In the preceding days, see if you can ‘leverage’ – or if you’re a human, ‘use’ – any existing networks you have. Do you have any friends in the company? It’s always useful to get a name and try and make contact. Once you have a name, send them a Facebook Friend request. If they refuse they’re ‘not sound’ and therefore you at least know who to avoid in the company. If they accept, post a link on their Wall to a Youtube video of a bear juggling with a stick.
Is the company a good corporate citizen? – if they sponsor some good sporting events there might be tickets knocking around. Now that you’ve prepared your mind, prepare your body. A recently fabricated statistic suggests that bathroom mishaps are 40% more likely on interview mornings. Everyday tasks become risky and full concentration is required. For men, be very, very careful with your shave. Especially the corner of the chin. It’s a well-known valley of tears where over-confident shaving can lead to a Dexter-like display on your white shirt.
By all means brush your teeth but treat your toothpaste with respect. It can be a good friend or a cruel enemy – a bit like the sea. Especially cheap toothpaste. It’s cheaper because it’s watered down and it will escape from the tube like a ferret from a packet of Pringles. A ferret which lands on your suit.
Toothpaste is the fifth hardest element in the Periodic Table (12Tp6 ). It’s used as lining on the walls of the Hadron Collider in Cern to prevent the black hole from getting out. So if you get it on your clothes then it’s curtains, I’m afraid. And if you get it on the curtains… well, it’s curtains for them too.
Which brings us neatly to neat dress. For most jobs, men should wear a suit, however variations are recommended depending on the field you are going into. If you are looking for work in media you will need some dark rimmed glasses and a little beard. Women should wear whatever they’re wearing on the Apprentice when they do the angry suitcase walk across the river and talk about their unwillingness to accept anything less than the best.
When making your way to your prospective new employer’s offices, make the following basic assumption: The office is not where you thought it was. And it’s not the main office. It’s the other one. Either way allow four hours to get there. Then grow new stubble while you wait. This applies to both men and women.
First impressions count. Your interviewer may greet you at the door and there may be a rather uncomfortable walk from the entrance to the interview room. The interview has already technically started. Any small talk you engage in could be taken and used against you. So avoid phrases like “just about made it on time… langerated out of my skull”. There will be plenty of time to say this with impunity on Friday and Monday mornings, once you are hired.
The interviewer will see you but it is through the handshake they will touch you. A firm handshake is important. But how firm? And how long? Consider taking your cue from those films where the villain shakes the heroes hand and tries to outsqueeze him. Take the interviewer’s hand and don’t let go until they are bent over double in pain. As they recover, throw in a wise-crack like “Maybe you should get a grip”. You are now in control of the interview.
A lot of nonsense is written about the need to maintain eye contact with the other person. This is a fallacy. If you maintain constant eye contact all the time, they will know when you start lying. Most lies are located just inside the forehead and when you look up to find it, it will be obvious straight away. Therefore it’s important to look a little shifty right from the beginning. Then when you describe your previous role in organising the tea and toast club as being “Knowledge Leader in the strategic transformation of the company”, it won’t be so obvious you are telling porkies.
With any luck you may not have to use your interviewer’s name. Life has become more informal now. The barriers of hierarchy, age and status are clouded. But that is no reason to ever call your interviewer ‘man’ unless the job is in Galway. Or the interview is for a job as a bicycle courier. In which case please review the dress code section as you will need dreadlocks, rolled-y up trousers and a bike made of smug.
The interviewer will talk about what the company does. At this point, it may dawn on you that this is not the company you thought it was. Try to hide your surprise as he/she outlines the cattle slaughtering process and your precise role in the boning hall. They may have some admin work.
Any interview is just a conversation between two people, but with a few body-language tricks you can take control. As part of your preparation, watch some episodes of Dallas. When you are asked the first question, say nothing for a while. Then get up and walk over to the window, resting your elbow on the sill and looking out. Then look back at the interviewer and smile. Then say: “You and I both know that I can’t tell you the answer to that. But if you’re a smart guy, and I know you are, you’ll hire me. Why? Because I’ll be the best goddam customer service representative you’ll ever have.”
The interviewer will constantly refer to your CV during the meeting. Make sure you know what’s on it. Avoid sentences like “Oh did I say that?”. Tone should be consistent also. If you have described your work experience in the form of mythical epic, the interviewer will expect something similarly outré when you speak. Try answering some of the questions in riddle form. “So Colm, you have team lead experience – tell me about that” “Well my first is in table but never in chair, my second is in wig but not in my hair….”
Most people don’t know how to interview and are uncomfortable being alone in a room with a hand-squeezing, sill-leaning, riddling stranger so they will rely on standard questions which you can prepare for. “Tell me about a time when you took some extra responsibility” is an invitation to show where you worked extra hours to deliver a project on time. Taking the rap for a broken window in school even though it was actually “Tony Carroll who done it” does not count.
If you’ve survived their questions they may ask if you have ones of your own. These questions are another window into the Real You. Keep that window closed. Your questions should say “I like this company and I want a career here. They should not say “What’s the story with the All Ireland tickets?
You’ve asked your questions, and the interview is over. As you get up to leave, the adrenalin leaves your body, you may become a little emotional. It’s not X-Factor and they won’t be impressed by one last “Aw Simon, please give us a chance. You’ve no idea ‘ow much this would mean to me and me mum”
Keep your cool until outside the building. Now relax. Finally, you can be yourself.