Now that you know how to research companies before an interview, the next step in the process is to present the proper image and be fully prepared for the face-to-face meeting.
Based on your winning resume, the people you’re scheduled to meet have a mental image of how great and professional you are – so don’t disappoint them. In my years of interviewing men and women for all types of jobs, if a candidate’s appearance showed me they did not take themselves seriously, I would interview them more stringently and never give them the benefit of the doubt. Most interviewers I know feel the same way.
I am a firm believer in the adage, “dress for success.” For some frum people (especially men) this is a new concept that needs to be taken seriously, especially if you are interviewing with a company in the outside world. Therefore I suggest you ask the person who set up the interview (your recruiter, the person in your network who referred you, or a company HR contact) what the appropriate dress for an interview is, and if they know how the people who will interview you will be dressed.
No matter what the job is, and whatever they tell you, I suggest that you dress like a professional. People will not lose respect for you if you overdress for the occasion, but they will if you are sloppy, dress too casually, or too ethnically.
If you don’t have an outfit that creates a professional image, buy some new clothes and look at it as an investment for your future. Or you can borrow clothes from someone who is your size.
For men this would be a dark suit or a coordinated sports jacket and slacks, with a solid-colored white or blue shirt and matching tie that is not too dull or too loud. This holds true even if the company dress code is business casual, unless you are specifically told what to wear. I stress wearing a tie even if you’re unaccustomed to wearing one.
For women this advice is even more important, since there is a perceived inequality between you and a man applying for the same job. It is important that you wear an outfit that fits well, looks good on you, and makes you feel good about yourself. Avoid open-toe shoes and high heels (even if you are short) and do not over-accessorize your outfit. Also tone down the use of makeup, hair spray and jewelry.
Men should get a haircut if needed, and take a clean shave or beard trim the morning of the interview. Women should make sure their hair or sheitel is cleaned, cut and styled for the interview. This should be done one or two days in advance, as grooming should not be left for the last minute.
I suggest caution for both men and women when it comes to perfume or cologne. Remember that quite a number of people are allergic to perfume, so I suggest not wearing any or putting it on a few hours before the interview. Whatever you do, don’t apply it right before the interview.
Here’s an image checklist for the night before your interview:
1: Check that your outfit still fits you and that it is clean, freshly pressed, and has no rips, stains or frays.
2: Make sure your shoes are polished. This may seem trivial but it is essential, since interviewers put a premium on how your shoes look.
3: Men should ensure that their socks match, while women should make certain that their hose has no runs. They should carry a spare pair – just in case.
One thing that is inexcusable for an interview is not arriving at least 10 minutes early. This is why I implore you to know exactly where you’re going and how you will get there. If it is by public transportation, know which train or bus goes there and at which stop to get off. Plan one or more alternate routes in the event of an unforeseen problem.
If driving, use MapQuest and have an alternate route in case of unforeseen traffic or construction delays. Inquire about parking upon arrival, and its cost – if any. If you are not 100 percent sure how to get there, and how long it takes, make a prior test at the same time of day.
Make sure your GPS and cell phone are fully charged, and that you have the phone number and extension of the contact person programmed into your phone in the event you are unavoidably delayed. Most important, if you schedule two or more interviews for the same day, make sure you leave enough time between them in case the first one runs longer than expected.
Perry Newman, CPC is president/CEO of First Impressions Resumes in Brooklyn, and has over 30 years experience as a resume writer, career coach and executive recruiter. If you would like him to review your resume and offer free recommendations, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call 646-894-4101 and request a free copy of his updated 2009 edition of Job Hunting in the 21st Century, compliments of The Jewish Press. This comprehensive handbook covers resume writing, networking and other key topics on how to conduct a successful job search in greater detail.