As an executive recruiter, it’s my job to facilitate advantageous hiring practices. This means not only finding the best candidates for the job, but also ensuring that prospective hires present themselves to their best advantage during the interview process. I’ve noticed that many talented job seekers – even those who take seriously the demands of interviewing – neglect small details that are both important and revealing to employers, and thereby hurt their chances of success.
To make the best impression on hiring managers, take these eight details seriously.
Be on alert mode
Once you have started your job hunt and your resume is in the hands of potential employers or executive recruiters, you should be easily accessible. Imagine this: A busy Human Resources associate emails five people to set up interviews. Four of them respond right away, but one is “on vacation,” or rarely checks his or her email. Most likely, by the time the fifth person responds, HR has already arranged the four interviews and left the slow-poke in the trash pile.
Here are some specific “alert” ideas to consider:
• You may be of the “text me, don’t e-mail me” generation. However, your employer is, most likely, not from that generation. The email address listed on your resume should be checked often throughout the day.
• Provide only your cellphone number on your resume. You don’t want a hiring manager or recruiter leaving a message for you at 9:00 a.m. at home if you won’t get the message until the end of the day.
Record a businesslike voicemail greeting
If you sound un-businesslike in your voicemail greeting – yes, this includes “hey guys, you know the drill” – employers will think twice before leaving a message. Your greeting should state your first and last name and invite the caller to record a message in a clear, assertive, and warm tone.
Choose a professional email address
Similar to voicemail greetings, your email address is often an employer’s first impression of you. If your email address is a holdover from your youth, like glittergrrrrrl1234, it’s time to update to an address that features your full name as clearly as possible.
Proofread your resume
Nothing condemns your application to the reject pile faster than a sloppy resume. Typos, spelling errors, and verb tense mistakes show hiring managers that you’re not detail-oriented and don’t care about how you present yourself at work. While “spell-check” will catch most errors, sometimes even correctly spelled words are grammatically incorrect. Solution: Proofread your resume twice, and ask a friend to do so also.
Don’t take advantage
If you are lucky enough to be invited to an on-site interview, your visit might include a hotel stay. Stay away from the mini-bar, the in-room phone, and room service billed to the room. If prospective employers feel that you’ve taken advantage of their hospitality, they will be less than impressed.
Be polite to everyone
Many employers have told me that they judge whether a new hire would be a good cultural fit by the way he or she treats the receptionist. Hotel front desk staff, receptionists, and other administrative employees often have a direct line to the hiring manager, and will report unbecoming behavior.
Perfect a firm handshake
A limp, non-committal handshake makes a terrible impression. It’s as simple as that. Female hiring managers in particular have told me that weak handshakes are alienating: it gives the impression that either you are overly intimidated, or don’t respect the other person as an equal. Shake hands warmly and confidently, with a big smile.
Practice eye contact
Your interviewer is evaluating the level of eye contact you maintain. Poor eye contact suggests that you are not listening, or that you are so nervous that you can’t engage with others in the room. The day you send out your first resume should be the day you start practicing eye contact. Make eye contact with everyone you encounter. Ask your spouse or friend to have a 30-minute conversation with you about any subject, and practice maintaining eye contact. Once this has become a habit, then you will be able to focus much better on the interview questions themselves.
These details may seem trivial, but they are far more consequential than most people think. Refining these aspects of your self-presentation can help you make a strong impression throughout the interview process.
What neglected details do you notice among potential hires? What self-presentation tips can you share?