Your best opportunity for snagging a job offer comes through your interview.
Here are seven things to keep in mind to make the best possible impression.
When you get the call to set up an interview appointment, use that opportunity to make a great first impression. Be polite, pleasant and professional. If at all possible, tell the caller a little about yourself and why you're interested in the job.
Your favorable impression on an assistant who called the candidates may help sway the decision in your favor.
Often the first interview is by phone. If at all possible, have this interview on a land line and not a cell phone for better reception.
Don't treat this any differently than one where you go into the office. Be prepared. Do your research before the call to find out details about the company: new projects or acquisitions, product and sales information, any news items about the company, etc.
Even though the interviewer can't see you, it's really important to use the same body language you would in a face-to-face situation. The energy comes through in your voice, so sit tall, lean forward, and project your voice into the receiver.
Don't wear anything flashy. Conservative always works, even if you're interviewing for an artsy job. You can always relax your style once you're hired. It's better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Conservative also means limited jewelry: a watch for men and a watch or simple bracelet and small earrings for women. If you have piercings, fewer adornments are better for the interview.
Planning ahead means that if your suit or dress needs to be cleaned, you'll have time to either take it or make another choice. Have polished, unscuffed shoes and carry a notepad for taking notes.
If you don't know where you're going, see if you can have a dry run to see where the building is, how long it takes to get there and, if you need parking, where a convenient parking lot is. You don't want to be rushing in at the last minute, out of breath.
Plan to arrive in time to visit the restroom to freshen up before your meet your interviewer, then take a few minutes to sit quietly and get a sense of the organization. It's amazing how much information you can pick up just by sitting and listening to what's going on around you.
Take a cue from your interviewer. If s/he offers a weak shake, mirror it back. You might be meeting someone with arthritis whose hands hurt and won't want to be squeezed too firmly. You don't want them to remember you because you gave them pain.
Smile and introduce yourself. If you have an unusual or difficult name to pronounce, acknowledge that it might be difficult to remember and repeat it.
Many people who conduct interviews don't have much experience hiring people. Be ready with some questions you want answered about both the company and the job.
Think about what's important to you about the particular job and then formulate some questions ahead of time. Write them down so you can easily refer to them when you're having the interview.
You'll probably be a little nervous, so writing them down will help you remember them. You'll also impress the interviewer when you take out a piece of paper with questions already written down. It shows you're prepared and done your homework.
If you're going on an interview for a job you really want, you can't be too prepared. Practicing asking questions and giving answers will go a long way to making you more relaxed. You'll give a better impression if you're not too tense, and practice helps take away some of the anxiety.
Be sure to write a note to anyone you met, thanking them for their time and interest - and ask for the job. This is no time to be shy. If you want the job, ask for it - politely, of course. Also, this note should be hand written and sent through the mail, not e-mail. This means you'll need to get the correct spelling and address of everyone who interviewed you. This is easy if you ask for their business cards before you leave their offices.
Make yourself different by knowing how to conduct a good interview. And good luck!
Dr. Jan Cannon, Job-Hunt's Mid-Life Career Expert, is author of Now What Do I Do? The Woman's Guide to a New Career, Find a Job: 7 Steps to Success, Finding a Job in a Slow Economy, co-author of Exceptional Accomplishment, and a career professional for 20 years. Visit her website, JobSearchDoctor.com, and circle Jan on Google+ for more career advice and help.