There will be times when you can’t avoid the unpleasant reality of needing an office gig to pay the bills. There will also be times when you will need to bail on an irritating boss, annoying coworkers, mundane projects, nonexistent career advancement prospects, or a company so unethical that you start worrying about the impending FBI raid.
Some of the tips below are more in the common sense category, but we all know that common sense is not that common―especially not in this day and age.
The Day Before
Select your outfit for the interview. This is not the time to shock and awe with a bold fashion statement. Keep it as conservative as possible. A navy or grey suit will do nicely with an ironed, white dress shirt. Stay away from red ties as this can be seen as an aggressive color selection as well as a power move against your interviewers. Polish your dress shoes. Make sure your fingernails are trimmed and hair is not too shaggy.
Ladies: all of the above applies for you except for the tie and shoe polishing advice. Longer skirts are fine, but beware of showing too much skin.
Look up the directions and figure out the best way of getting to the interview location. Have the bogus text to your current boss prepped on your phone to send first thing the next morning calling out sick or whatever excuse you devise.
Print extra copies of your resume and place them in a leather-bound portfolio instead of folded into the pocket of your pants. In your mind you should have answers already prepared for the generic interview questions about your strengths and weaknesses, dream job, why you are looking for new opportunities, and where you see yourself in five years. Research the company and get a sense for the industry, competition, financial situation, company culture, and what you would bring to the table were you to be hired.
Last, but not least, be sure to get a good night of sleep.
The Day Of
Aim to arrive half an hour before your interview. I’m not a morning person, so I usually schedule interviews early afternoon after my post-lunch coffee or late morning after a solid breakfast. Whatever time you choose, you need to have a good meal in you.
Men need to shave unless you are sporting a fully grown beard or have a nicely maintained moustache or goatee. I hope I don’t have to mention that showering is usually an appreciated touch. Go easy on the cologne or perfume. Very easy, as in probably pass.
A reminder for your suit buttons: top button optional to button, second button generally recommended to button when not sitting, third button is never buttoned.
Treat everyone you meet―including the security guard at the front desk―with respect and good manners. Smile, be genuinely enthusiastic, and make steady eye contact. Project―and ideally actually possess―confidence, trustworthiness, competence, and approachability.
I would hope that your handshake has been perfected by now, but always rise to greet your interviewer and make eye contact during the handshake for a few seconds. As an old-school gentleman, I always defer to women and any man noticeably older to offer their hand first before extending mine. If you walk into an office with your interviewer, wait to be offered a seat before lunging for the nearest chair.
Ask a couple of penetrating questions to the interviewer(s). I like putting them on the spot for a change and asking “Why should I work for you?” It is worth remembering that the fit has to work well for both parties. At the end of each interview, thank the person and express your desire for the position―if you are actually interested.
The Day After
Send everyone who took time out of their day to meet with you ‘thank you’ emails within 24 hours. I have interviewed candidates who neglected to perform this most basic courtesy and were rightfully unceremoniously dropped from consideration.
You need to really ponder whether the position and company would be a better fit for you than your current predicament. The grass may appear greener in another pasture, but you could be moving out of the fire and into the frying pan. There are times when it is better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. All right, I will ease up on the trite aphorisms, but I think you get the picture.
Interviewing at least once a year is an effective way of testing what your true marketplace value is. Even if you are not completely sold on this new opportunity, you may be able to utilize a job offer as leverage with your current boss for a promotion or raise, or as a warning to him. However, this card can only be played at most once with each of your managers.
I can guarantee you that you will have a firm grasp on where you stand with your current employer after you announce that you are considering a move elsewhere and he pats you on the shoulder and wishes you Godspeed.
Now, go forth and conquer, corporate warrior.