When preparing for an interview there’s a lot to consider. It can be an exciting time full of hope and anticipation, and also a nerve wracking time full of anxiety and stress. Whether you’ve already secured a second round of interviews, or are just thinking about applying for a new job, here are some ways to prepare and ease your inner and outer self for what’s in store.
There are two main components to how you present yourself to the world, and in this case, to your potential employer. There’s how you look (your clothing, hygiene, neatness), and how you appear.
1. Preparing How you Look
Addressing how you look is the simpler of these two components. It’s is the concrete way you physically present yourself, and is defined by exterior characteristics such as your clothing, hair, nails, shoes, makeup, etc. Although work environments can vary setting to setting, what’s important to keep in mind is to err on the side of conservative and professional. This does not mean sticking only with black pants suits, and it certainly does not mean following outdated gender-specific guidelines. If you feel more comfortable wearing a suit, wear that suit. If you feel more confident and assured wearing a pencil skirt, go for it. Use the below guidelines to help you navigate your specific wardrobe choices.
First and foremost, the interview setting is not a natural one. This is one of the only scenarios where it’s socially acceptable for you to be judged and assessed based on any and all aspects of how you present yourself. That being said, you don’t have to hide who you are, but it’s best to keep your physical attire simple, neutral, and professional, and let your accomplishments do the talking.
When preparing your outfit, there are some professional pieces that never go out of style. The simple tailored suit, blazer and slacks, a knee-length pencil skirt and button up, “kitten heel” pumps. Think neutral and professional. Color choices can vary person to person, but now is not the time to break out the neon colors or flashy prints. And, unless you’re interviewing for a fashion blog, don’t worry about being “on trend.”
When in doubt, cut it out. If you think the skirt might be too tight or the earrings too bold, opt for something else. This same guideline can be applied to makeup and jewelry; simple, professional, neutral, and (when in doubt) erring on the side of conservative.
Attention to detail
Although your shirt and bottoms may come to mind first when preparing your outfit, very often it’s the little things that can speak the most about you. This is where attention to detail in your shoes, nails, hair, and even perfume come into play. Ensure that your hair and nails are neat and clean. Chipped polish can signal lack of attention to detail, and visibly messy hair can signal poor time management. Planning ahead (using the timeframe and checklist below) can help you avoid that last minute rush, and avoid throwing on mascara and polish en route.
Shoes are another area where attention to detail is key. Choose your shoes carefully, and ensure they are clean, without visible wear or scuff marks. In addition, make sure they are appropriate for work. Some good shoe options are standard pumps, “power flats”, kitten heels, and even simple boots. Keep in mind that many work environments don’t allow employees to wear open-toed shoes (including peep toe) or wedges. Because of this, it’s best to avoid these in the interview.
Other details to keep in mind are the scent and sound that follow you (or lead you) into the room. During an interview, it’s best to avoid strong smelling perfume and clanging jewelry. Remember, your accomplishments and verbal communication should be standing out the most. Don’t let trivial things like clanging jewelry or stifling perfume to compromise that. Especially in the summer months, it’s vital to tone down your scent; often times avoiding perfume altogether. There’s always the chance that your employer has allergies, or that the room may be stuffy. More often than not, your scent is not going to help you get that job. If anything, it’s an unnecessary distraction.
A close friend who has worked 10 years in HR and Recruitment once told me; “if you leave the interview, and what you were wearing stood out the most, that’s not a good sign.” Remember, you’re there at that interview to talk about yourself. Let your wardrobe and accessories take the back burner on this one. If you’re still unsure, don’t be afraid to use reliable, professional friends for a second opinion (and put those selfies to good use!)
2. Preparing How you Appear
How you appear is more complex (and often more important) than how you look. How you appear has to do with how you’re presenting what’s in front of you. From being able to clearly answer questions to how you’re sitting in the chair; it’s all part of your first impression. Now that you’ll have your outer self ready and prepared, it’s time to focus on preparing your inner self for the big day.
When we are feeling confident, self assured, and relaxed it shows. This is reflected in how we communicate verbally, and how we physically display our bodies. Very often these things are not conscious, and can communicate a great deal about ourselves (how comfortable we are, if something has offended us, etc.) The good news is that it’s not likely your interviewee is a body language expert, and (unless you have loads of time on your hands) it’s not necessary to study this science. Even more effective than practicing hand movements and posture, is practicing managing your stress. Practicing stress management techniques before and during an interview will have the most significant impact on how you present yourself to your future employer. This will be reflected in everything from the clarity of your speech to your posture and movements.
Two primary methods of managing stress are planning ahead, and implementing a relaxation plan.
Before the interview is not the time to review what the business is about or read over your questions. When possible, plan ahead and do this the days and weeks leading up to the interview, leaving the evening before and day of to ease your thoughts and practice relaxation techniques. Use this checklist as a general guide to help prepare, and in effect ease some of the pressure associated with the interview day.
Interview Checklist and Timeframe
Starting NOW (at Least 1 Week Before the Interview, when possible):
❏ Start planning your outfit. Take out any items you may potentially wear, and carefully inspect for stains or deep set wrinkles that may require dry cleaning or pressing. Doing this ahead of time allows you to get anything repaired or cleaned as needed, and enough time should you need to purchase something new.
❏ Implement and practice your daily relaxation & stress management tools. These tools are the most effective when we build them into our daily lives, especially before we’re in a high stress environment. Just as common sense dictates that we need to start building our immunity before being exposed to the flu, we need to start building stress management skills before we’re exposed to the most stressful situations. Plus, a little self care goes a long way. For more information about classes and help with stress management, including Simple Techniques you can use now, click here.
1-2 Days Before:
❏ Do your research. Whether at home or the library, read up about the business, generate some basic questions, and complete any general preparation needed before you sit down with your potential employer. A simple google search of “questions to ask interviewer” can be very helpful.
❏ Prepare your outfit and outward presentation. Try on what you’ve planned to wear and take care of any last minute glitches (pulled threads, wrinkles you missed, etc.) If you’re planning on wearing jewelry, now’s the time to try this on in front of your mirror with your outfit.
❏ Look over the details. Having prepared your outfit ahead of time allows you time to care for the little things such as which shoes to wear, and ensuring your nails are well groomed. Make sure you’re doing this at least a day before the interview to ensure you’re not scrambling to remove that chipped polish or fighting with you tweezer at 6am.
Evening Before and Day Of:
❏ Relax. You’ve done the work and are prepared. Know that it’s natural to feel like you have to go over everything in your head, but remember that the most important thing from now until you leave the interview is to implement your Relaxation Plan. Entering that interview well put together, with confidence and ease will allow you to present your best self to your potential employer.
For help creating your personalized Relaxation Plan, check out: Creating a Relaxation Plan and Why Your Brain Needs One.
Being aware of how you look and how you appear are two vital pieces in readying your inner and outer self for the big day. Use these tips as a guide, and as always listening to your inner judgment and insight to help make the final calls. Wishing you the best!
For more helpful tips, including information about Enodia Center’s classes for Relaxation & Stress Management, visit www.enodiacenter.com.
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