INTERVIEWING: USING ALL SEVEN SENSES

January 23, 2017
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It has been my job, over several years (and then some) to interview candidates and, better yet, coach them on the interviewing process.

There are Six Senses to life, but Seven Senses to interviewing.

SIGHT
What will you be seeing during your interview, and what will the interviewer see?  A fashionable and demure outfit is expected. Flash is out of the question: leave that Rolex or Patek Philippe home. Wear no watch or a conservative Swatch: many people get their time from their iPhone. Cufflinks? Do not be stupid. Rings or gold chains: NOT unless you are interviewing for a job of Elvis impersonator. Ladies: bling jewelry: please refrain. A single strand of pearls or nothing at all. A wedding band: yes or no. Some people wear one even if they are not or no longer married; they feel it gives them credibility. Do as you wish, but keep in mind that any sort of lie is still a lie. More on clothing: never appear to be more “prosperous” or have better taste in clothing than the interviewer. Chances are a Senior Director of Human Resources cannot afford Brioni suits: it would therefore be extremely awkward to show up wearing one month’s worth of his/her salary. Same applies to ties: Hermès is not for interviews. Ladies, that applies to that Birkin bag as well. On the other hand, if you attended an Ivy League school or other private school, proudly display the colors of your alma mater on your tie. Class rings, however, are out. I realize that multi-colored socks are all the rage, and that, in years past the “sockless” look was hot. For an interview, however, there is only ONE rule: plain black socks. As far as shoes are concerned, those yellowish numbers that have been so popular among millennials are a big No-No as well. Black again, and black only.

Smile and look at the interviewer. Do not look down or look away. Blink when you need to.

HEARING
You cannot hear unless you listen. Keep in mind that, in a great many interviews, you are in fact expected to listen a great deal more than speak. You are not there to interrupt. However, you are there to speak clearly and loudly: mumbling will get you nowhere.

SMELL
You have no idea of the power of bad breath and other poor personal hygiene in an interview. You would be amazed at the number of (mostly foreign) senior executives who have not heard about flossing or go through life with a mouthful of decayed teeth. I can usually identify them by the fact that they do not smile: trying to keep the damaged teeth and the unacceptable smell to themselves. Keep in mind that smiling is an important part of the interviewing process. Body odors can be EXTREMELY offensive. Some people claim that, when they are nervous (i.e. in a job interview) they start perspiring heavily. It is a no no, and one that can be cured, but not on this page. Regular use of an UNSCENTED antiperspirant/deodorant could be the answer: you do not want to smell like deodorant. You want to smell the same as if you were not in the room. Which brings us to the subject of perfume: the answer is NO. No for women, no for men. If you are a smoker (which in itself has become a barrier to employment in some cases), make sure nothing gives you away. Freshly dry cleaned clothing may help. I hope it goes without saying that boozy breath is unacceptable.

TOUCH
You get to “touch” the interviewer only twice: you shake hands as you arrive, and again as you leave. Some people have sweaty hands. I understand it is a relatively rare affliction and can be alleviated by rubbing a bit of talcum powder on one’s hands. I don’t discourage it if it helps.

INTUITION
A lot of it is in fact homework: all the preparation you will be doing before the interview. The research you will perform on the overall culture of the company you are attempting to join. The LinkedIn history of the interviewer: he/she may be a Human Resources specialist to perform a first evaluation: find out if possibly you attended the same school or belong to the same association. Or share similar hobbies.

TASTE
What about taste? Maybe there are after all only six senses to the interviewing process. Maybe some advice instead:
Full disclosure: Nobody hires liars or impostors. Make sure your résumé is frightfully exact and accurate. NO FUDGING. If you dropped out of college during your third year, let it be clear on your résumé. If you spent 6 weeks at Harvard for an executive program, say it as it is, and do not pretend you obtained a Two-Year MBA. NO LIE. NO EXAGGERATION. Avoid the word “I” and replace it with “We” whenever possible to come across as a team player who is not afraid to share the credit with others.

An interview is nothing but one step among many on your way to a job. These days, when it is a very senior position you are interviewing for,  you will be meeting with several individuals with various expectations. The corporate recruiter is there to qualify you for the first round. The Vice President of Human Resources is there to make sure the Chief Operating Officer will not be wasting their time. Likewise, the COO will want to make sure they only refer a fully qualified candidate to the Chief Executive Officer. Finally, if you are interviewing for a position way up the food chain, the Board of Directors will have a say. Behave accordingly, and do your homework for every step of the process.

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