Perception & the Employment Interview

Job seekers need to remember that your perception is your reality when it comes to the interview process. Many of them may have had some job interviews already and others may not have had quite as much opportunity to experience that part of the hiring process. People learn how to perceive things as they grow up by what they see, experience and hear. For instance, a person’s experiences and how they deal with them will all have an impact on that person’s individual perception. In the world of employment, there will be many opportunities and different ways to perceive a particular situation. Quite often, how a candidate perceives a situation can be completely different from how a recruiter sees them and how they answer the interview questions. Don’t let your become of one of those unprepared candidates. You cannot afford to risk having a poor interview performance in this tough economic climate and job market.

First Impressions

The initial impression you make on others certainly plays a huge determining role in how people feel about you and for quite some time. This judgment is magnified at job interviews — an activity designed to make sure you fit in, both personally and professionally. You need to make the best possible first impression at the interview. The perceptual experts tell us we have 6 seconds to make a first impression. That is the visual side of perception. Poor personal grooming and sloppy attire, such as dirty hair, wrinkled clothes and unpolished shoes all give the perception that the individual does not take good care of himself or herself. If they can’t take care of themselves when going to an interview — what will they do when they get hired? What does it say about an interviewee who does not care about personal appearance or punctuality? These can all negatively impact that all-important first meeting. It does not take a lot of time to check your overall interview presentation, and it is all definitely worth the effort.

Beyond the physical appearance, recruiters & hiring managers will get a more personal picture in the first two minutes of an interview. These are often awkward moments that begin with opening questions of – hi, how are you, thanks for coming; did you have any trouble finding our location? Etc. These initial moments are a good indicator of an individual’s behaviour when dealing with the unknown and determining a level of people and interpersonal skills. This initial chit-chat really sets the stage for the rest of the interview going forward and candidates need to take advantage of this opportunity to interact with the interviewer. The sole purpose of the interview is to find out which applicants will be the best fit and asset for the company.  Yet many applicants do not understand this simple concept. Recruiters have a very short period of time in order to determine if the candidate will be appropriate and the most suitable for the position.

Observe Interview Etiquette

During the interview process potential employers will be trying to get a perception of you and assessing your skills from the beginning. There are several   other things you can do beforehand in order to help give a positive perception of yourself to that potential employer. It is important to remember basic rules such as arriving 10 – 15 minutes early and be polite to everyone you meet for the first time, especially the receptionist. These early first impressions and your behaviour will be relayed back to the hiring manager or human resources. Have you ever been in an elevator with someone who applied too much cologne or perfume?

Here is some interview advice: Less is definitely more when it comes to applying a fragrance, particularly in the workplace now as many workplaces have become scent-free and many people have health concerns such as suffering from allergies or asthma. For people who smoke, even more restraint may be necessary. While a smoker is usually immune to the smell of nicotine in their clothes, the interviewer, who is also sharing the same small space, – like an office – may find that odour unpleasant. And if the smoker has tried to mask that smell with mints or strong perfume, the resulting atmosphere may be downright offensive. I personally have been on the wrong side of this encounter as a recruiter and it didn’t leave a lasting positive impression.

Be Prepared

Enlist the help of someone you trust to review your choices at least a day before your interview. Model your interview clothes and style your hair just as you would for the interview. Then have a friend or family member critique your appearance and give you feedback. Ask them to be brutally honest about what works and what you may need to change or fix. Better to find out now at home that an outfit is inappropriate or non-flattering than to discover this after the interview. Next, ask them for some interview advice about some of your non verbal communication cues that may hurt your chances in an interview? Do you absent-mindedly crack your knuckles, jingle loose change in your pocket, fidget in your chair, slouch or avoid eye contact? If your friend or family member finds this behaviour to be distracting, acknowledge the habit, avoid it, and channel that nervous energy toward interview preparation and focus.

Always have some questions prepared to ask the interviewer about the job or company as you never want to say “No” I don’t have any questions. This will show them a lack of preparation, initiative or ambition despite possibly having a great resume.  By making sure your interview appearance is picture perfect and that you are well-prepared, you will leave a positive and memorable first impression.

Clean Up Digital Dirt

It’s always important to watch what you say in an interview but it’s becoming also very important to pay attention to what you post on-line such as on social media sites such as your Facebook page, Twitter, blogs, etc. It’s becoming increasingly common for employers to search your online presence by simply “Googling” you to see what you are posting on-line or blogging about. Employers want to hire someone who will be a good fit within their company structure and possibly represent them within the community. Potential job offers have disappeared after employers have found inappropriate photos or messages posted online. These could come back to haunt you and prevent you from being hired or even accepted into a professional post-secondary program such as law school.

People also have been fired from a job by posting inappropriate photos of their bad behaviour like what happened to many people after their discretions were made public following the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots. Good luck trying to get a reference from your former employer after the fact. It is better to clean up your online presence now by removing inappropriate photos, comments and increasing your privacy settings on such things like your Facebook page so only friends and family may view them…not your boss!

After all, you only get one chance to make a good first impression so make it a memorable one.  To those of you going on an interview soon, good luck and hopefully this advice will help you navigate the process and obtain the position you are seeking.

When it comes to job interviews, perception is reality.

When it comes to job interviews, perception IS reality.

Greg Thomas has 3 years’ experience in Employment Services as both a Resource Information Specialist and Case Manager.  He possesses a University Honours degree from McMaster University coupled together with a HR Post-Graduate Certificate from Sheridan College. He is currently taking the Career Consultant Certificate at Mohawk and also has been employed within the field of human resources and has lots of direct experience conducting and administering the interview process.