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Little Known Interview Tips That Put You Over The Top

William Mitchell -- What little details can set you apart from the competition? This two-part article on non-conventional interview tips reviews little strategies that get you to the interviewer's door and, once through, to the interview's conclusion.

If you have been in the job market for any more than two weeks, there is an excellent chance you have read dozens of articles offering loads of general interviewing tips. As such, it is likely you already understand the importance of arriving 15 minutes early, giving a firm handshake, establishing eye contact, and wearing clean shoes (doesn't it sound like a broken record?)

But what can you employ to set yourself apart from the competition? What important, little used details can you integrate into your interview strategy that can turn the interviewer into your advocate? In this first of two articles on non-conventional interview tips, we'll cover the time leading up to the interview itself.

Part I

Case The Joint

While you may not be planning a daring bank robbery, you still won't want unexpected logistics issues getting you off to the wrong start. If you haven't been to the interview location before, drive past it the day before to make certain you know the best route to avoid traffic delays.

Check the parking situation. Does the building have its own lot? Will you have to park on the street or in a lot a few blocks away? The last thing you want is to spend 10 minutes looking for a parking space. This will add to your stress level and make the interview process that much more difficult.

When Not To Accessorize

You already know about keeping it professional and understated when it comes to your interview ensemble. (You did read the other articles, right?) But let's take a deeper look.

A common nervous habit in the interview setting is the twirling of rings. It is the first cousin to wringing your hands. Unless you have gone through practice interviews before where your technique has been critiqued, you may be doing this and not be aware of it. If you are not sure, remove any rings prior to the interview and the problem is solved.

How about those bracelets? Yes, there are many tasteful selections out there to make you look professional, but you want to be certain they aren't clanging together and making noise during the interview. You will be shaking hands, gesturing during conversation (at least you should be), and taking notes. If you have on more than one bracelet, the noise may distract, or even annoy your interviewer. It is best to play it safe and keep it to one bracelet.

When Accessories Can Help

Standard interview protocol calls for the dark "power suit." But it just so happens that the day of your interview is supposed to be rainy and dreary. These types of days have a depressing effect on people, including your interviewer. Remember that your job is to stand out. This is when you make use of your accessories to affect the interviewer's mood.

Guys, try a brighter tie than usual. You don't want anything over the top, but it should be bright enough to add color to a dreary day. Ladies, you can afford to have a little more fun with it. How about a gold broach (perhaps of the sun) or neck pendant? While the other candidates will blend in with the dark theme of the day, you will have made a memorable impact that gets you noticed.

Arrive Early For Your Early Arrival

Every book and article that you have read mentions arriving to the interview 10 to 15 minutes early. But you don't want to use the 15 minutes to decompress from traffic jams or phone calls you took in the car from your family.

You should park your car 30 minutes prior to the interview (or 15 minutes before your standard 15 minute arrival time). If interviewing at a small office where they may see you outside, park down the street or around the corner.

The security of knowing that you've safely arrived on time can allow you to relax and take some time to review your notes, practice your interview responses, or even mediate. Now when you enter that office 15 minutes early, all of your prep work is complete.

It's game time!

Part II

In part one of this series, we reviewed several uncommon interview preparation strategies that got us safely to the interviewer's door, well prepared to tackle the challenges that lay ahead. This article addresses small but effective strategies to employ from the point of office entry to the interview's conclusion.

Waiting Room Reading

Now that you've arrived 15 minutes early, you have some time to kill. How do we normally spend this time? We usually read from the available periodicals on the waiting room table. But remember that we're covering the little details here. You should pay a little attention to the types of magazines you pick up in the waiting room. What if our magazines were placed out there to see which one you would pick up, perhaps trying to get a gauge on your interests? Many companies use a variety of personality assessment tactics to assist with their decision making processes.

If you notice any material on the table on the company itself, then select that one to skim through. If not, try to stick to business or industry related periodicals. Your safest option is to bring your own reading material on the company for additional interview preparation. But you want to avoid handling numerous and separate documents that can be dropped when the interviewer comes out to get you, which can be quite embarrassing.

Deadly Small Talk

A not-so-common technique used by interviewers to acquire information from you through the back door is by using the technique of pre-interview small talk. A simple question such as "How was your Christmas?" can tell an interviewer your marital status, whether or not you have children, and details about your religious beliefs, all of which are illegal for them to inquire about directly ... and the interview hasn't even begun!

Be mindful of your conversation subject matter and try not to give away every parameter of your life before the interview starts. But don't take it the other way and become overly guarded.

Eye Contact (well, sort of)

There isn't a single writing on interview advice that doesn't address maintaining eye contact with the interviewer. This communicates that you are attentive and confident. But has anyone ever stared into your eyes (other than your significant other) for any significant period of time without it being a little uncomfortable?

Instead of taking a chance on staring a hole through the person who holds your career in their hands, use the "four corners technique" which entails rotating your glance every few seconds in a diamond pattern from the lower forehead, to the outside corner of one eye, to the nose, to the outside of the other eye, and back to the lower forehead.

The attentive effect remains while the stare-down effect disappears, reducing the occurrence of interviewer discomfort. It may be what makes your interviewer communicate to the other decision-makers "I just felt more comfortable with this candidate than I did for the others."

Sell It!

Let's bypass the tips about the rest of the interview process, namely taking notes, preparing questions for the interviewer, and avoiding long-winded answers, all subjects you've read about in the other numerous interview articles you've read. So, let's skip right to the end of the interview.

Perhaps the most important strategy you can employ in you interview is to close strong with an excellent summary of what you can do for the interviewer's team or the company in general. As part of your interview preparation process, you should consider the strengths and attributes you possess that best fit the job description, and develop a closing that delivers a convincing argument for giving you the position. The idea is to leave a memorable impression on the interviewer that lasts through the evaluation process.

Remember: preparation, contingency planning, and confidence. Now, make it happen!

William Mitchell is a certified professional resume writer and Owner/General Manager of the Resume Clinic (, serving clients in the United States and Canada with highly targeted and effective resume and cover letter packages since 1995. You can email William at for more information.

© 2007 William Mitchell

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