Dress, impress, success

May 072010
Authors: College Avenue Staff writer Kate Wilson

You’ve polished your resume to perfection, anxiously awaited the phone call and now you’re invited to an interview.

With fierce competition in the job market, it is essential as ever to make an outstanding impression. Whether you are looking for the right job or the right job for now, interview preparation and presentation are vital.

Renée Welch, assistant director of the Career Center at CSU, recommends learning as much as possible before the interview about the company, department and position to which you have applied. Read the company website, ask networking contacts for info and check out news headlines involving the company.

At interview time, an elemental interview rule is to dress for success.

Wear clothes to be taken seriously. If the position you seek is with a construction company, khakis and a polo shirt may be appropriate. An office may require more formal professional dress.

Welch said that it is better to overdress and then “undress in the moment” by removing your jacket if necessary than to be perceived as unprofessional.

That the first impression in an interview, Welch said, takes place within the first “twelve feet, twelve inches, twelve words.”

In the first “twelve feet,” an interviewer assesses your attire, smile, posture and confidence. Within “twelve inches,” sight and smell become more acute. If you smell like cigarettes, have bad breath or have food in your teeth, it will be noticed.

Be prepared to introduce yourself and make small talk. You may be asked about the weather or traffic. “Twelve words” are enough to help an interviewer determine your level of confidence and composure.

“Preparedness can compensate for nervousness,” Welch said. Bring written questions to ask the interviewer, a portfolio pad to take notes and extra copies of your resume. Turn your cell phone completely off or leave it in the car.

Questions not to ask during the interview are ones concerning salary, benefits and a start date.

“You want them to want you first, before you start to negotiate,” Welch said. The appropriate time to ask salary-related questions is after the job has been offered.

Most importantly, be genuine and sincere in the interview.

Stephanie Grosskopf, the assistant vice president for electronic banking at First National Bank, said she appreciates honesty above all. If you are unsure about the answer to a question, “I don’t know,” or, “Can I have a few minutes to think about it?” are appropriate answers.

The follow-up to an interview can make a profound impact by keeping you fresh in the employer’s mind.

Both Welch and Grosskopf said that mailing a thank-you letter or card is the most effective way to follow up. E-mails may be ignored and phone calls may be unnecessary, Welch said. Taking time to write a letter sends the message that you value the time the employer took for the interview.

Whatever the turnout, don’t burn bridges. If you aren’t hired for one position, you may be considered for another. Expressing continued interest and cordiality can lead to networking and other opportunities.

College Avenue staff writer Kate Wilson can be reached at csumag@colostate.edu.

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