Adapted from The Image of Success: Make a Great Impression and Land the Job You Want (AMACOM, 2010; $16.95 paperback) by New York executive recruiter Lizandra Vega. In her new book, Vega spells out the ABCs — Appearance, Behavior, and Communication — for getting a job. She touches of everything from lunch interview etiquette and personal space, to polite negotiation and resumé presentation.
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1. The time-warp. You often hear interviewers criticize young applicants for their unprofessional look, but did you know that an old suit also sends a message? If you’re dusting off an interview suit for the first time in years, you’ll look out of touch with the current needs and situation of your potential employer (hint: it may be the shoulder pads). New entries: dress up. Experienced candidates: update.
2. Too much flair. Yes, you want to get your unique personality and assets across, but you don’t need 10 pieces of jewelry to do it. Should the interviewer be watching your face or looking at your wrist every time that clunky watch shakes? Choose one signature piece that will inspire confidence and set you apart.
3. Sweating it. You’d be amazed how many people can put themselves together but not realize their smell enters the room before they do. Interviewers understand that you’re nervous and you sweat, but prevent that odor by being freshly scrubbed and in freshly laundered clothes. Use deodorant. Don’t try to mask the smell with perfume or cologne—imagine if your interviewer has a sensitive nose! No smell is the best smell.
4. Nervous eating. You know the interviewer doesn’t want to see crumbs on your lips or smell garlic on your breath, but there are a few other things you should know. Too nervous to eat before the interview? The interviewer can smell it on your breath. Had an extra cup of coffee? That will increase your interview jitters. And save the cigarettes until after the interview.
5. Lobbying. Your interview starts the minute you walk into the building. People notice how you treat others and the property. That security guard can mention how rude you were and that standing jog you did in the elevator can pass around the office rumor mill in no time.
6. Space Invaders. You know that you’re too close when you see a person’s molars, but there are other forms of invading space. Don’t try to make yourself look bigger by spreading out on the interview chair. Don’t come with baggage—coffee cups and shopping bags make a bad impression, especially when they take a spill on to the desk or carpet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lizandra Vega is an executive recruiter and a certified image coach with more than 15 years of experience in the staffing field. As co-founder and managing partner of Perennial Resources International (PRI), a full service employee search firm based in Manhattan, she has successfully guided thousands of candidates through the interview process during various stages of their careers. The only child of native Puerto Rican parents, she was raised in the Bronx and spent her college years in Connecticut at Wesleyan University. She now makes her home in Westchester County and describes her current image as “Execu-Mom-Chic.”