For many of us, the first time you meet with a prospective employer for a job you really want can induce the same emotions and behaviours as a first date with someone really hot. Sweaty palms, anxiety that can only be shaken off by a stiff drink (not recommended for interviews)… saying inappropriate things at inappropriate times, and generally wishing you’d just stayed home and watched American Idol auditions so you can laugh at someone else’s rejection like you’d planned.
Unfortunately for all of us, it is as true in life as it is in our careers that you simply cannot avoid meeting a potential suitor for the first time if you want the relationship to get to second base. Even if you have an amazing connection with someone inside the protective orb of the World Wide Web, there comes a point when you will need to stop tapping your keyboard, get dressed, and attend a meeting in the hopes you could be tapping something else… like your new keyboard at your awesome new job.
So, apart from having to physically attend an initial meeting, what other parallels between dating and interviewing can be drawn and utilised to improve your chances of success? When first impressions are everything and you’ve only got one chance to impress, how do you make an Employer fall in love with you?
Treat a first interview like a first date.
I won’t bore you with the basics. If you don’t know that you shouldn’t attend an interview (or a date) with bed-head, and talk about the time you went on a Contiki tour and ended up incarcerated in Mexico with the intention of sounding awesome and cool, there is no helping you. Please stop reading this and start watching Jersey Shore.
For everyone else: Based on consistent feedback we get from Hiring Managers – and from finishing the Sex and the City Box Set – we’ve identified 5 factors that can be the predictors of failure or success in both scenarios. Or, in more relevant and momentous terms: the difference between 1st base and a Home Run.
1. Dress appropriately to Impress the appropriate people
Wait a minute… this sounds like a basic! And you look bored!
Well, it’s not. You might have heard the term “dress to impress” and thought it’s pretty self-explanatory, but this concept is open to wild interpretation. Ever turned up to a date at the movies wearing a three piece suit? Result = Epic Fail. Similarly, overdressing for an interview at a company with a cool and funky culture can be just as bad for your chances as underdressing for an interview at a traditional corporate. You need to do research on the company and find out who they are so you can dress appropriately. Still no clue? Do a walk-by (without being creepy) or ask around.
In practical terms, if a company has a cool and funky feel about them…
Men, wear suit pants with a business shirt. A good guideline for the jacket vs. tie vs. both dilemma: if you don’t wear a jacket wear a tie; and if you don’t wear a tie, wear a jacket. Ladies, team business pants or a skirt with a fashionable top and understated accessories. Dresses/skirts should be mid to knee length. Minis really have no place in an interview.
If you identify a company as a bit more corporate…
Men, it’s simple. Always go a full suit and tie, clean shaven and tamed hair. No excuses. Ladies, it’s similar to the funky approach, but replace your top with a business shirt and jacket. Minimize accessories. Makeup for both scenarios should be suitable for looking nice at a funeral, not a nightclub. Less is more!
Your presentation should empower you. If you make an effort, you’ll feel great and it will show.
2. Know your Audience
Assumption is the mother of all… well, you know.
Just like talking to a diehard party girl about your standing date with your couch every Saturday night; if you want to be successful you need to know your audience and what they want. Miscommunication of experience, skills, goals, and ambition can occur if you don’t first seek to understand why an Employer is hiring and who are looking for. Don’t assume that you know what they’re looking for from their Ad or from a Recruiter. Ask!
Tip: The sooner you can gather this Intel in the interview, the sooner you can show how you fit their criteria. Additional Tip: If you can’t demonstrate something they want to see yet, focus on your awesome attitude, your willingness to learn new skills, and your ability to learn them fast.
3. Wow, I know what you mean! That was like the time when I…
Not all experience can be gained through a workplace setting. You might have additional skills and life experience you can draw on to make you a more suitable suitor/candidate. Have a think about what experience/exposure/knowledge you’ve got in common with the company and the role, even if it is outside the parameters of traditional work experience. Some areas you can draw on are:
Sport: Use to identify leadership, tenacity, dedication, determination, achieving goals
University: Great for examples of teamwork, innovation, creativity, time management, working to deadlines
Travel: Draw on to demonstrate independence, adaptability, maturity, courage, risk-taking, street smarts
What’s the link to dating? Don’t make stuff up. If the relationship gets serious, it can come back to bite you.
4. Close the Deal
Unless the night went badly, you want to see this person again. Whether it’s securing that second date or getting the green light then and there, there needs to be some agreement on the way to move forward. It is advisable to be a tad more eloquent than, “So, you and me, how ‘bout it?”, and a great question is:
“Is there any reason you wouldn’t put me forward to the next round?
Don’t be scared about asking this. Ever heard the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. If you did indeed veer off course, and you don’t ask this question, you won’t get any insight about where you went wrong and there’s every chance you’ll do it again. Worst case scenario, you’ll get some direct feedback on why you’re not the right person this time, and you can use constructive feedback to perfect your strategy and delivery next time. There might be an area of concern they have that you can address on the spot and quash their concern, and don’t discount the possibility they will say “There’s no reason I wouldn’t put you forward, you were great!” too. Either way, you’ll show you are keen and taking the process seriously. Man up and do it. You’ll live.
5. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
It’s not advisable to wait 5 days so you don’t look desperate. Employers don’t subscribe to the “treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen way of life – they love candidates who show they want to work for them. After they have conducted first round interviews, I often get asked by Employers which of the candidates have followed up with me regarding their application.
After your interview, follow up by calling the Recruiter or Hiring Manager the next business day to ask if there is any feedback from your interview and when you can expect to hear back by. If they don’t answer the first time you call, call again twice before you leave a message, and wait 24 hours after leaving the message to call again. There’s a fine balance between follow up and harassment, so make sure you respect people’s time and conflicting priorities. No one likes a stalker. Timely follow up shows you are keen and interested, not desperate. Possibly a strategy that could also save some time in the dating world too. Just saying.