Your resume is stellar, and you’ve written what has to be the best cover letter ever. You’re ecstatic—but not surprised—when the phone rings and you’re asked to come in for an interview.
But not so fast. After checking all of those big things off your list, it's important to think about the little ones. Truth is, interviewers pay attention to everything from the words you say to the shoes on your feet, and the tiniest of details could take you out of the running, without you even realizing it.
Obviously, you can never know exactly what little things your interviewer will notice or care about, but there are a few “big” little things that you can easily address to help your interviewer focus more on you and your capabilities (and less on nitpicking details).
Here are a few things you shouldn’t overlook—because your interviewer won’t!
1. Appearance—Head to Toe
You already know to dress sharp for the interview, but don’t stop there: Looking the part isn’t just about a great suit and killer shoes.
When you’re preparing for an interview, make sure you give yourself an extra-close look while you’re getting ready. If you look like you might need a shave in a day, do it now. If your manicure is even a tiny bit chipped, get it fixed. Every hair out of place, scuff on your shoe, or stain on your tie are details that can distract your interviewer from what’s really important—not to mention make you look unprofessional.
Take a look in the mirror, head to toe, as you’re getting ready and before you head out the door. If anything looks out of place or makes you do a double take, address it before you leave.
2. Um’s the Word—To Avoid
We all say it. So much so, in fact, that most of us probably don’t even realize how much we do it in typical conversation. But constantly saying “um” can make you look nervous or unprepared—and buy your resume an express ticket to the circular file.
The first step to avoiding using this non-word is understanding why it’s on the tip of your tongue in the first place. Before your interview, start paying attention to how often you use the word and what’s happening when you do. Oftentimes, people insert “um” into a conversation to fill what they perceive as an awkward silence, usually while they’re searching for the right word or trying to finish a thought.
Here’s a pro tip: Silence can be golden, so don’t be afraid to use it. If you’re unsure of how to answer a question, or searching for the right word, it’s OK to pause for a bit before speaking. “Let me think,” or “That’s a great question” are also great phrases that can buy you time.
3. The Write Stuff
Taking notes in an interview is a great way to show you're interested in a position (not to mention give yourself talking points for your thank-you notes!).
That said, showing up with a beat-up notebook and a pen you swiped from the dentist's office isn’t going to cut it (and yes, I've seen it). Just like your attire, how you take notes should be presented in a professional manner.
You don’t need the latest Moleskine notebook and a Montblanc pen, but a nice padfolio (to hold your resumes) with a pad of paper or a notebook that’s in good shape will do the trick. And a pen without a random corporate logo would be best. Also, don’t forget to bring a spare. Nothing says you’re not prepared like asking to borrow a pen in the middle of your interview.
(Oh, and it should go without saying, but whatever you do write, make sure it’s relevant to your discussion. Your interviewer doesn’t need Superman vision to see you’re doodling in your notebook while she’s talking.)
I know these things may sound insignificant compared to how you’ll need to perform in the interview itself, but trust me when I tell you that hiring managers notice these kinds of details. Make sure you’ve got these “little” things covered, and all your interviewer will have left to focus on is your resume and stellar personality.