Whether you're looking for a job or know someone who is, the rules of engagement are crucial in the job market. But long-held assumptions about the interview may no longer hold true in this age of dramatic cultural shifts, increased informality, and a market where employers and employees are less wedded to long-term commitments.
This doesn't mean you flaunt the tattoo on your arm, or show up for your interview with a septum piercing. But it’s less important that you look like Don Draper than to have his ability to close the sale. And to do that, you have to re-evaluate all the things you think you know about how an interview works.
Resumes should fit on one page. An applicant with your talent, experience and achievements may need to convey that on more than one page. Don't sell yourself short because of some outdated rule.
Every interview requires your Sunday-best attire. In our work-casual times, what you wear to the interview depends on the job you’re applying for. The dark suit and tie you’d wear to an interview at a brokerage firm can make you stick out—and not in a good way—during a sit-down at a more casual workplace. If you're seeking a job in a creative field where tattoos outnumber ties, a sport coat, collared shirt and dress slacks should do. And generally, save the trendy-fashion statements for the nightclub.
The job is yours to win. Actually, it’s yours to lose. Managers don't relish the decision-making that goes into hiring. If you've made it into their office, chances are they're rooting for you to succeed so they can return to the more familiar terrain of managing. To a large extent, you have them at "hello." Avoid gaffes that make it easy for them to say goodbye.
The job goes to the most qualified person. A host of factors go into a hire that have nothing to do with whether or not you can do the job. Do you fit in? Will you work well with others? Do you make your prospective boss feel comfortable? He or she needs to be able to envision you as part of their team. To convince them, you need to do your homework about the workplace culture you seek to inhabit.
The interviewer has done his homework. Managers are busy. Chances are, they know less about you than you think. Something about your resume attracted their attention. Remind them why they brought you to the interview in the first place.
There are "right" and "wrong" answers. Don't think of the interview as a quiz in which you're graded on such vapid questions as "What are your weaknesses," and "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?" Think of your interview as an audition, with the workplace as your future stage. Your future boss already suspects you can build the sandcastle; he mainly wants to know how well you’ll share the sandbox with others.
Still, some interview truths will always apply. Avoid being overly familiar, informal or late. Be clear about your skillset. You are most likely to win at the interview if you show your prospective employee your best self.