September YouTube Video Roundup

Ah, the beginnings of fall. There’s a crisp in the air, leaves finally falling on the ground, pumpkin spice in our coffee, and new videos on the Career Center’s YouTube channel. Here’s a rundown of what we added this month.

Career success

Website Walkthrough: Career Planning

If you could use some assistance in choosing a career path, exploring an industry, or learning new skills, we have resources to help. Our website has some great career planning tools, which Lynnette Lee shows you in this video.

Workplace survival guide

Congratulations! You just snagged a new job. Make sure to start off on the right foot by following the tips laid out in this seminar, by Lynnette Lee.

Reference Ready: Choosing and Presenting Your References

Choosing, vetting, and preparing references can be one of the hardest parts of the job search. Case Duckworth shows you the basics in this presentation.

Common job applications

Albertson’s

In this video, Career Specialist Cynthia Payton walks you through submitting an application in the Produce department of the popular grocery store chain, Albertson’s.

Walmart

Career Specialist Case Duckworth walks through the process of applying to an hourly position in a Walmart store in this video.

Job interview questions

“Tell me about a difficult boss”

This question can be awkward to answer. Luckily, Resume Coach Lynnette Lee and Career Coach Anne Nowak show you the Dos and Don’ts.

“Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker”

Although this question is only slightly less awkward than “Tell me about a difficult boss,” Lynnette Lee and Anne Nowak help you handle it with aplomb.

Work at home websites

Remotive.io Review

Anne Nowak reviews the good parts, and the not-so-good parts, of work-from-home website remotive.io.


Hopefully you’ve found some useful videos on our channel this month. Keep checking for more new content in October!

Written by Case Duckworth

Here’s What’s New on Our YouTube Channel!

Happy September, everybody! Last month, we uploaded a bunch of new videos to help you with your job search. Let’s see what they were.

Seminars

Remote Job Interviews

In these unprecedented times, more companies are opting for job interviews over the phone or by video conference. In this video, Career Coach Anne Nowak talks about best practices and things to avoid when interviewing remotely.

Intro to Cover Letters

Sure, you’ve got a killer resume – but a cover letter is what brings your job application over the edge. There’s just one problem: you don’t know where to start! Resume Coach Lynnette Lee is here to help with this recorded seminar.

Job Search Basics

We started a new playlist that will help you with the very basics of searching for work in 2020, including tutorials on using a computer and the Internet.

Creating an email address

Career Specialist Case Duckworth walks you through creating a new email address at the ever-popular Gmail.

Creating good passwords

Passwords are like keys … well, sort of. Career Specialist Richard Wright shows you the dos and don’ts of good password creation in this video.

Job Application Walk-throughs

Dollar Tree

Lynnette Lee walks you through an application at the popular convenience store.

Lowe’s

If you’re interested in a career in retail or home improvement, Career Specialist Cynthia Payton will walk you through an application at the big-box store Lowe’s.

Job Search Resources

The Career Center’s website has a ton of job search resources, which Resume Coach Lynnette Lee walks you through in this video.

Job Interview Scenarios

Tell me about your computer skills

Anne Nowak and Lynnette Lee discuss good – and bad! – answers to this interview question, which is only getting commoner.

Website Reviews

Power to Fly

Power to Fly is a woman-led company that specializes in helping women land technical roles, with events, career coaching, and job boards. Anne Nowak reviews the site’s pluses and minuses in this video.

Conclusion

That’s all the videos we posted in August. If you have an idea for a video, or would like to request one, drop us a line, give us a call, or come in and see us!

Written by Case Duckworth

Here’s What’s New on Our YouTube Channel!

July was busy for us here at the Career Center! We officially launched our YouTube channel and have a number of videos already there. We’re going to update you on the first Monday of each month as to the newest content, so here’s what we’ve uploaded so far.

Seminars

Mastering the Job Interview

In the first video of our Seminar Series, Resume Coach Lynnette Lee recreates her usually in-person seminar, Mastering the Job Interview. It covers important topics such as what to wear to an interview, how to comport yourself, and what to expect.

How to Spot and Avoid Job Search Scams

This video is a recreation of Anne Nowak’s seminar. In it, she talks about common employment scams that prey on desperate job-seekers, and shows you how to spot and avoid those scams.

Creating a winning resume

In this “winning” seminar, Lynnette Lee shows you how to write and format a resume that’ll be sure to get you noticed by hiring managers. This video covers how to format your resume, what words and phrases to use, and how to order and present your work history to get the best results.

Choosing a Resume Template

Did you know that the Career Center has a page chockablock with resume templates, free for you to refer to and use, at all stages of your career? Lynnette Lee walks you through which one to choose in this video, depending on the type of job you’re looking for and the type of work you’ve done in the past.

Recession-Proof Your Job and Career

Let’s face it—due to COVID-19, the economy is gearing up for a recession. Anne Nowak shows you how to keep your job in the uncertain times ahead in this seminar.

Job Interview Scenarios

Entering a Job Interview

In this role-play video between Lynnette Lee and Career Coach Anne Nowak, they show you what, and what not, to do when entering a job interview and introducing yourself.

How to Answer: “Tell Me About Yourself”

The dreaded open-ended interview opener, “Tell me about yourself,” has confounded job seekers since time immemorial. In this video, Lynnette Lee and Anne Nowak role-play different scenarios to show you how to answer this question like a pro.

How to Answer: “What is Your Greatest Weakness?”

This might be the most-lampooned of all interview questions, but it still gets asked by hiring managers and interviewers. Lynnette and Anne team up to show you what answers work and which ones don’t.

How to Answer: “What are Your Greatest Strengths?”

In this video, Anne Nowak and Lynnette Lee act out how to respond to one of the trickiest questions in an interviewer’s toolbox.

How to Answer: “Why do You Want to Work With Us?”

Here’s a hint: the answer isn’t “I like money.” In this video, Anne Nowak and Lynnette Lee walk you through the right and wrong ways of answering this evergreen question.

Application Walkthroughs

How to Apply for a Job with East Baton Rouge City-Parish Civil Service

Career Specialist Rick Wright shows you how to apply for a job with the City-Parish Civil Service in this walk-through video, so you can apply to your civil service dream job in no time.

How to Apply for a Job at Domino’s

In this video, Career Specialist Cynthia Payton walks you through applying for a job at the ever-popular pizza chain, Domino’s.

How to Apply for a Job with Dollar General

Career Specialist Case Duckworth guides you through the process of applying to work at one of the nation’s leading retail chains, Dollar General.

Work-from-Home Website Reviews

Rat Race Rebellion

Anne Nowak reviews on of the best work-from-home job board websites, Rat Race Rebellion. She’ll show you how to find a good job to do in your spare time or as a full career, as well as what to look out for and avoid.

Remote Planet

If you were laid off or found yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands during the pandemic, remote-work websites might help you find a way to make some extra cash. Anne Nowak walks you through one of them, Remote Planet, in this video.

Flexjobs

Flexjobs is a little different from other work-from-home websites: it requires a (paid) subscription. Anne Nowak discusses the benefits and drawbacks of that model in this review.

If you’d like to see more content like these videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. And if you’d like to suggest a topic for a future video, please call us at 224-231-3733.

Written by Case Duckworth

The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 5

This is the fifth post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

5th deadly sin: not preparing for a job interview

You read our blog posts about the first four deadly sins of job searching, followed our advice, and scored a job interview. Congratulations! Now, don’t go out and celebrate the achievement on the night before. Instead, use that time to prepare.

Why prepare for a job interview?

After all, this is all about you, and you know yourself pretty well, right? Not quite: the job interview is about you in relation to the job you are applying for and how you can benefit that company in that specific position. In order to be at your peak performance, you need to prepare the following:

Your clothes

Research the organizations’ dress code and dress accordingly. Check out your interview clothes a few days before, if they need dry cleaning you don’t want to find that out the morning of your interview. If it has been a while since your last job interview and you don’t wear your interview clothes frequently, try them on. They might not fit anymore or be out of style.

Your route to the interview location

Check out where you are going. If you are taking public transportation, check the schedule. If you are driving, search for the best route, how long it takes, if there is construction, etc.  After all, one of the biggest interview blunders is being late!

Research the company and the role you are applying for

You want to know everything about the company you possibly can. If you know somebody that works there already, talk to them. At the very least you need to thoroughly check out their website. Ideally you also follow them on social media and research their business information in company databases such as ReferenceUSA.

Your answers

This is obviously the big one. Most job interviews will be conducted using behavioral questions. Behavioral questions are those that ask about real life examples from your work history or hypothetical scenarios common in your field. For example: “Tell me about a situation with a difficult co-worker and how you resolved it” or “An angry client calls and accuses you of giving him the wrong information. What do you do?”. It is very hard to come up with good answers to those kinds of questions on the spot. You need to take time and prepare them.

The best way to answer behavioral questions is the STAR methodSituation/Task, Action, Result. You want to tell the interviewer the situation or task you were faced with, the action you took to resolve that situation and the result from your action. Google the most common behavioral questions and write down your own best answer to each of them. Then practice them until you can present them naturally and with ease. You also want to record yourself. This way you can see your facial expressions and body language.

If you need help with interview preparation, contact the Career Center at 225-231-3733. We have many interview prep materials for you to practice and will conduct mock interviews, which we can tape if you like.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.

The Job Interview: “What Are Your Strengths?”

The job interview is intended to help employers determine whether you would be the best fit for a position. To that end, hiring managers will ask you about both your weaknesses and your strengths. The question “What are your strengths?” seems like an easy one to answer – it’s a great chance for you to sell yourself and your skills. Yet many people stumble over this question. Let’s take a look at some great and not-so-great responses people make to this question.

mistake #1

“Ummm. . . .I’m not really sure. I guess I hadn’t thought about it. Can we come back to that one?”

How this hurts you: This question comes up, in some way, in almost all interviews. You should be prepared for it. A lack of forethought on your part indicates to the interviewer that you didn’t put much effort into getting ready for this interview. Additionally, no one will be impressed that you have no self-awareness of your strengths.

mistake #2

“I work hard. Y’know. . . I get things done. I’m also very athletic, I love sports, so if you have a company softball team, I’d be a good addition to it.”

How this hurts you: Everyone claims to be a hard worker in a job interview. It’s not very impressive or believable, and it’s too vague to really speak to your relevant skills. Notice the word “relevant” – you want to play up your skills that are related to the job, not the things that you enjoy doing in your personal time.

Mistake #3

“My greatest strengths are that I’m great at customer service, I’m good with computers, and I’m a quick learner.”

How this hurts you: This answer is much better than the previous two. It shows self-awareness and forethought, and it showcases specific relevant skills. Yet it still feels incomplete and unconvincing. Based on this answer alone, do you really believe that this person has these strengths? Have you seen any evidence of the skills mentioned? Or does it feel like empty words?

so how do you answer this question?

First, brainstorm – well ahead of the actual interview – about what your strengths are. What are the skills you bring to the table which would be an asset to the workplace? If you have trouble determining where your value lies, reach out to those around you who might be able to help you. Your family and friends, and most especially your former co-workers and supervisors, can tell you what you’re good at.  Also think of your greatest achievements and success stories from previous jobs: what strengths did you show in those situations? Then, determine which of your strengths would be the most valuable and relevant to the job in question, as well as which strengths you can provide the strongest evidence for.

winning strategy

For each strength you mention, follow a three-step formula.
First, state the strength clearly and directly.
Second, prove the strength with specific details and examples from your work history.
Third, connect the strength to the new job by relating how it would be useful for your new would-be employers. This step is optional for skills whose connection is obvious, but it is very useful for soft skills (such as attention to detail, teamwork, and time management).

winning example

“One of my greatest strengths is customer service. I’ve always tried to follow the Golden Rule and treat customers as I’d like to be treated. I actually won an award two years ago for outstanding customer service. I know that if you hired me, I would make your customers feel welcome and want to continue doing business with us.
Another strength of mine is my proficiency with the software required for this job. I use Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Excel every day in my current position. I also have experience using Google Calendar for booking appointments and WordPress for website maintenance.
My final great strength is a passion for learning. At my current job, I’ve read all the training manuals for every department, not just my own, so that I can have a better understanding of how all the departments work together. That knowledge has enabled me to help customers better, because I could solve problems for them rather than referring them to a different department. Were I to come work for you, I am confident that I would quickly become one of your most knowledgeable employees.”

A final thought

You may have noticed that the winning answer is much longer than any of the mistake answers. That’s okay – as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what you want. Employers want to use the interview to get a good feel for who you are as an employee, what you can do for them, and how you’d fit in to the company. They can’t learn these things unless you provide full answers to their questions. Beware of rambling – you do not want to go on pointlessly for ages. But as long as everything you are saying is relevant and well-structured, don’t be afraid of a long-ish answer.

If you need any help preparing for a job interview, you may call 225-231-3733 to schedule a practice interview with one of our career specialists.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Job Search Tips for Ex-Offenders, Part 2: The Interview

The Career Center recently presented a pair of job search seminars at a local correctional facility, focusing on the resume and the job interview for ex-offenders. Here are some of the greatest takeaways from those seminars. Read the first post in this series here.

Should I talk about having a criminal record in the interview?

  • It is crucial that you talk about your criminal record in the interview, even if they don’t bring it up. Why? Because they will run a background check and discover your criminal record, and if you haven’t prepared them for that, it will come as a nasty shock. Much better for you to talk about it in the interview, where you can explain the circumstances and reassure them that you’ve changed.
  • One hiring manager we spoke with explained, “If they tell me about the conviction in the interview, I can work with that. I can ask follow-up questions to figure out the details of their situation. I can give them the benefit of the doubt. But if they never tell me, and I find out from the background check, I feel like they were dishonest with me. I don’t appreciate that.”

Dos and don’ts of discussing your incarceration

  • DO: Bring up the incarceration early in the interview, maybe as part of your answer to the very first question, “Tell me about yourself.” Take responsibility for your mistakes. Tell a redemption story about your path to rehabilitation. Focus on the valuable skills and experience you gained while incarcerated. Emphasize your commitment to becoming a contributing member of society again.
  • DON’T: Spend too much time talking about the details of why you went to jail. Blame other people for your situation. Appear hostile or negative. Seem unrepentant for your crimes. Beg or seem desperate for any job. Neglect to convince them of your skills and qualifications for this job.

winning examples of interview answers

  • Tell me about yourself. As you can see from my resume, I’ve got several years of industrial experience. I spent a year as a warehouse technician, which involved operating a forklift and pallet jack, and another six months as a laborer on several different construction projects. After that, my career got derailed a little bit. I made a series of stupid mistakes and wound up in jail. While I was in jail, I realized what a mess I had made out of my life, and I felt ashamed. I decided to turn my life around. I wanted to make sure that I would never go to jail again, so I decided to learn new skills that would help me in the real world. I signed up for vocational training classes to learn new skills. I also worked as a mechanic at the prison for 3 years, which gave me a lot of experience working with my hands and with tools. I’m not afraid to work hard and get my hands dirty, and I think that all of these skills would be useful to your company.
  • Tell me about your criminal record. I was incarcerated for possession of narcotics. I was addicted to heroin, and was too stubborn and stupid to get help for my addiction. I feel like the conviction was justified. I didn’t think this at the time, but now I almost see it as a blessing in disguise. Because I hit rock bottom in jail. The first time my daughter saw me behind bars, I finally realized what I was doing to her. So I made a promise to myself that from then on, I was going to be someone she could be proud of. I enrolled in the prison’s drug rehab program and got clean. I started attending classes and vocational training, so I could be a valuable employee once I got out. I turned around my life and got paroled. Now that I’ve been released, I’m staying on the straight and narrow path. I’ve been drug-free for two years, I’m a deacon at my church, and my daughter is proud of me. If you hire me, I will put my skills and training, as well as my ambition to be a successful employee, to good use for your company.
  • Why should we hire a convicted felon? I can understand why you’d be hesitant to hire someone with my background. I know you’re probably worried that I’ll disappoint. But I’m not going to go back to my old, bad ways. I was young, foolish, and made a terrible mistake. But I decided to turn my life and attitude around. I took advantage of every educational, vocational training, and work opportunity available to me in prison. I now have clear goals, which including being a model employee for a successful company like this one. I have character references from my parole officer and pastor, both of whom would tell you that I am a changed man. If you have any doubts about me still, please hire me on a probationary status until I can prove to you that I am the best man for the job. Frankly, I plan to become your best employee within my first three months.

helpful resources

  • 70millionjobs.com, a job search website devoted entirely to companies willing to hire people with criminal records.
  • Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, which has an ex-offender re-entry program offering free training and employment services.
  • The Capital Area Re-Entry Coalition
  • Any book by author Ronald Krannich, including The Ex-Offender’s Re-Entry Assistance Directory, The Ex-Offender’s Quick Job Hunting Guide, Best Resumes and Letters for Ex-Offenders, and The Ex-Offender’s Job Interview Guide. All of these books may be checked out from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.
  • The Career Center (inside the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Boulevard) can offer personalized assistance with job search strategies, online applications, resumes, and interviews.

Written by Lynnette Lee

The Job Interview: 5 Ways to Calm Pre-Interview Jitters

Score — you got the interview! The date is set, but the closer the day comes, the more nervous you get. You are afraid of not having good answers and being tongue-tied and too stressed to think straight.

That’s normal. When asked why interviewing is stress-inducing, most candidates say because there is a lot at stake and because they don’t know what questions will be asked.

Here’s the good news: There are five easy steps you can take to calm your nerves before that next interview!

Practice, practice, practice

Do a mock interview! Ideally you can practice with a professional. For instance, make an appointment to come to the Career Center, and we will do an in-depth mock interview with you. We will talk through the most commonly asked questions and work out the best answers with you. If that’s not an option, do an internet search for the most commonly asked questions, or check out our website. Then carefully craft your answers and practice with a friend. Take out your smart phone and video yourself. That way you can see your body language and catch potential issues! (For tips on body language, see this post.)

When you have come up with the best possible answers, write them down and practice, practice, practice. The more confident you feel in your answers and how to deliver them, the less nervous you’ll be!

Prepare, prepare, prepare

You want to know as much as possible about the organization you are interviewing with. Check out their official website, social media presence, and recent news coverage.

You also want to prepare your route to the interview site and what you will wear. Check your clothes ahead of time to see if they need to be washed or dry-cleaned.

Again, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be!

Listen to music

On your way to the interview, listen to music that makes you feel good. Sing, rock, rap along to your favorite music. It will energize you and make you feel good and at ease.

Do a power pose

Right before the interview, somewhere in a private corner, try power poses. Never heard of them? Check out this TED talk by Amy Cuddy. Stand up straight, shoulders wide, hands to your hips. Poses like this can make you feel more powerful and confident. Some studies even show that they can actually change your body chemistry to make you more powerful and confident.

Acknowledge your accomplishments

Last but not least, the fact that you were invited to the interview already shows that the organization thinks you might be a good fit. You made it to this stage past many other applicants and are one of only a handful (sometimes only two or three) candidates invited to interview. You have already crossed most hurdles, and the interview is just the very last one. Recognizing this should give you a feeling of accomplishment and increase your self-confidence.

Now that you are prepared and full of self-confidence, there is no room for nervous jitters. Go and nail that interview!

Written by Anne Nowak.

The Job Interview: Do You Have Questions for Us?

Scenario:

The job interview is coming to an end, and so far, you’ve done well. You’ve chosen a great interview outfit, you’ve showcased good body language, and you’ve made excellent use of the STAR formula in your answers.

Then the interviewer says, “So, do you have any questions for us?”
You reply, “No, not really. I think you covered it.”

Congratulations. You’ve just lost the job.

Why is this so important?

Accepting a new job is a major life decision. It makes sense to approach it with the same level of information-gathering that you’d apply to other major life decisions, like choosing a college or buying a house. If you ask no questions at the interview, hiring managers will wonder, why don’t you care more? Perhaps you aren’t truly interested in this job, and you’re just interviewing as a formality. Perhaps you’re just desperate for any job. Perhaps you didn’t do any research on the company, and therefore you don’t know what kinds of questions to ask. No matter which conclusion the hiring managers draw, it won’t paint you in a positive light. To avoid this, ask several questions at the interview — but not just any questions.

What kinds of questions are a BAD idea to ask?

Any kind of question that references salary, perks, benefits, hours, vacation, sick leave, promotions, etc. These kinds of questions scream, “I don’t care about doing a great job. I am chasing a paycheck.” Yes, you do need to know these things, but not now — wait until after you’ve officially been offered the job. Once they’ve decided you’re the one they want, then you can start negotiating salary and decide if you want to accept the job.

Examples:
“How much will I be earning per hour?”
“What will my commission percentage be?”
“Will the company reimburse me for mileage?”
“What kind of retirement package do you offer?”
“Do you guys provide dental insurance?”
“How soon can I be promoted?”
“Will I have to work weekends?”

Any question you should already know the answer to. Read the job description carefully, research the company thoroughly, and listen attentively to everything the hiring manager says. Otherwise, you may ask bone-headed, surface-level questions which indicate that you didn’t do your homework and weren’t paying attention.

Examples:
“What is the official title for my position?”
“What sorts of products do you make?”
“Do you guys have a mission statement?”
“Wow, you have a website?”

What kinds of questions are a GOOD idea to ask?

Questions about the company culture and working environment.

Examples:  
“What’s your favorite thing about working here?”
“Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?”
“How did this position become available?”
“I saw in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report that you recently opened a new location downtown. Has that expansion created any new challenges for your department?”

Questions about the job duties.

Examples:  
“What will the training process for this position be like?”
“You mentioned that I would be assisting with the Phoenix project. Can you tell me a little bit more about this project? What role would I play in facilitating it?”
“I understand that my primary function will be to assist customers. But during slow times, when there are no customers, what are some other things you’d like me to work on?”

Questions about their expectations of you.

Examples:   
“How would you describe the perfect candidate for this position? What qualities would that person have?”
“Have you had a previous employee in this position who was fantastic? What made her so successful in this role?”
“What is the number-one thing I should focus on in my first 30 days of working here?”

“When can I expect to hear your decision?”

General advice

Listen for red flags. They are not just interviewing you; you are also interviewing them. Before you decide to accept the job, you need to make sure that you would be happy there. When they talk about the work environment, does it sound like an environment you’d fit well into, or does it sound clique-ish or stressful? Do the job duties they discuss seem like something you’d enjoy doing, or would you get bored? Does the boss sound like a micromanager? Does he seem to have unrealistic expectations? Has there been high turnover for this position? If you get a bad vibe from the interview, don’t ignore it.  Trust your instincts.

Respond to their responses. Don’t just nod dumbly after they answer your questions. React in a positive and meaningful way. For example: You ask them to describe the perfect candidate, and they answer, “The ideal candidate would have stellar customer service skills, a meticulous eye for detail, and the ability to stay calm in a stressful environment.” You now have a golden opportunity to sell yourself. Smile and say that that sounds perfect for you. Then, address each point in turn, and explain (with examples wherever possible) how you definitely possess that trait.

Written by Lynnette Lee

The Job Interview: Body Language

Savvy job seekers know that, in order to be prepared for job interviews, they need to formulate and practice answers to common interview questions. Yet even the most polished answers will get you nowhere if your body language is problematic. Studies estimate that about 65% of all communication is nonverbal – which means that hiring managers are evaluating you on much more than the content of your answers. Make sure that your body is projecting the same message as your words with these tips.

A tall confident posture

Do not slouch. A slumped-over posture sends one of two messages; it says either “I’m scared” or “I’m bored.” These are not ideas you want to evoke during your interview! Your stance should project confidence and enthusiasm. Stand and sit tall, with your chest out, shoulders back, and head held high. Pretend that there is a broomstick taped to your spine. (Some people also find it helpful to make sure that their backs never touch the backs of their chairs.) For most people, this will not come naturally or feel comfortable at first, so practice it until you become used to it.

Practicing good posture will not only make you look more confident, it will actually make you feel more confident. Holding a tall powerful stance for as little as two minutes can cause a spike in your body’s testosteronelevel  and a drop in your body’s cortisol (the stress hormone) level. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power poses for more information on this phenomenon.

A pleasant facial expression

One of your major goals in the interview should be to make the interviewers like you. After all, they will have to work daily with whomever they hire — so why would they hire someone unlikeable? One of the easiest ways to be seen as friendly and approachable is to have a pleasant facial expression. Smile a lot. Look enthusiastic and happy to be there. Keep a friendly light in your eyes at all times. This is harder than it sounds — after all, an interview is a high-pressure environment in which you’ll be concentrating intensely. In these circumstances, people tend to frown or scowl. Be aware of this issue, and practice with a mirror if you’re having trouble maintaining that pleasant face.

Steady eye contact

The eyes are the windows to your soul — and if your interviewers can’t see yours, they’re not going to feel any connection to you. Even more troubling is the fact that by avoiding eye contact, you come across as not confident or even untrustworthy. No one will believe what you have to say if you can’t meet their eyes while saying it. From your perspective, maintaining good eye contact may seem difficult and uncomfortable because you may feel shy bragging about yourself to strangers. Overcome this tendency by practicing with a friend or with a mirror. Make sure that you can maintain good eye contact both while listening (to show that you’re paying attention) and while speaking (to project confidence). Additionally, f you are interviewed by multiple people, try to divide your eye contact evenly between them.

However, this can be carried too far. If you stare down your interviewers while barely blinking, you will come across as intimidating or creepy. Find a good balance.

Clear vocal tone and enunciation

It sounds simple, but many people forget that your answers don’t count for anything if the interviewers can’t hear or understand you. Make sure that you speak loudly, precisely, and slowly enough to be clearly understood. Do not allow your nerves to make you whisper, mumble, or yammer.

Proper placement of arms and legs

When you sit, your feet should either be placed firmly on the ground in front of you, or crossed at the ankle (not the knee). Anything else looks too casual. Make sure that your arms show an open stance — not crossed or closing off your body in a way that would indicate hostility, boredom, or fear. Your hands may be placed in your lap, on the armrests of your chair, or on the table in front of you.

A good handshake

Don’t let yourself go to either extreme in terms of pressure — a “limp fish” handshake looks unconfident, but an “arm wrestler” handshake is too aggressive. If possible, try to make sure that your hands are not clammy, sweaty, sticky, or freezing.

No fidgeting

You can use your hands to gesture and emphasize within reason — don’t look like a choir conductor. However, you should endeavor not to make any mindless, purposeless movements. No jiggling of your leg, tapping your pen, swinging in your chair, etc. In addition to making you look nervous, these types of movements are very distracting and can be annoying to others. If you tend to fidget, plan accordingly and remove temptation as much as possible. Keep your hair pulled back so you can’t twirl it. Paint your nails so you won’t bite them. Don’t wear jewelry, bring a click pen, or have gum in your mouth for the interview. And practice sitting absolutely still for several minutes at a time.

Further Review

Below are some of the relevant items from the Career Center collection that are available for check out. You can check availability and place a hold via the East Baton Rouge Parish Library‘s online catalog.

  • The Body Language Handbook: How to Read Everyone’s Hidden Thoughts and Intentions by Gregory Hartley (book)
  • Good First Impressions: Proven Tips and Techniques for Successful Job Interviews by JISTWorks (DVD)
  • Words, Camera, Action! How Body Language, Tone, and Words Affect Communication by Linx Educational (DVD)

Written by Lynnette Lee.

The Job Interview: How to Dress for an Interview

 

With all of the complex work you’ve put in to succeed at your job search, it would be a shame for you to mess up your chances due to something as simple as clothing. But a lot of job seekers do just that; one of the main reasons employers cite for not hiring someone is that the candidate was inappropriately dressed for the interview.

Here are some tips to help you dress for success.

General Guidelines

You should dress pretty formally and conservatively: nothing casual, gaudy, or provocative. The advice of some experts is to dress as you would for a funeral or a meeting with the president. Note that the level of formality required may change depending on the kind of job you’re applying for. For example, an office executive would wear a three-piece suit and dress shoes, but a construction worker might wear a polo shirt with khakis and work boots.

Don’ts

Visible tattoos and/or piercings. Cover them up or take them out. Earrings are acceptable, but if you have multiple piercings in your ears, less is definitely more.

Flashy or clunky jewelry. Be very minimalistic with accessories. This is especially true for men, who should wear only a watch.

Hats, sunglasses, or hoodies. The employer wants to see your face.

Lots of colorful makeup. This is not a nightclub. A little makeup can make you look vibrant and energetic, but too much will make you look unprofessional.

Clothing that doesn’t fit well. Your outfit should skim your body — neither hugging it too tight nor too saggy.

Clothing that is dirty, wrinkled, or torn. You want to look like you care about getting the details right.

Clothing which is too revealing. Short skirts and plunging necklines are inappropriate for the job interview.

Jeans, t-shirts, sweatpants, pajamas, gym clothes, sneakers, flip-flops, etc. Comfortable clothing which you would wear to lounge around the house has no business in a professional setting.

Elaborate and distracting hairstyles, bedhead, or hair in your face. Ideally, you want your hair to be pulled back from your face, and you want it to look groomed and manageable.

Scraggly facial hair. If you have a beard or mustache, keep it trimmed and groomed.

Long and/or colorful nails. Keep it conservative – you don’t want your electric blue nail polish to distract the interviewer. Long fingernails are frowned upon if you’re interviewing for a job where you’ll need to use your hands — such as preparing food, shelving merchandise, using a computer, etc.

Perfume, cologne, or aftershave. Some people are allergic to fragrances, and you don’t want to set off the interviewer’s allergies.

Body odor or bad breath. Just . . . eww.

Do’s

Be clean, neat, and well-groomed. Shower, wash your hair, and brush your teeth. Wear deodorant (but avoid strongly scented ones). Comb your hair, style it simply, and keep it out of your face. Clean and file your fingernails. Gentlemen, groom your facial hair. Ladies, wear a bit of makeup in neutral colors.

Prepare your outfit carefully. Try on your outfit several days before the interview. Make sure it fits you well. If necessary, have the outfit altered or mended. Clean and iron your outfit the day before the interview.

Choose appropriate shoes, and clean them. Dress shoes are always a good choice, but work boots are also acceptable for positions which involve manual labor (construction, warehousing, etc). We recommend closed-toed shoes — not sandals — with little or no heel. Flip-flops, sneakers, clunky combat boots, and giant platform heels are strictly forbidden.

Dress conservatively. Stick to mostly dark or neutral clothing, with perhaps a small splash of color. Make sure your accessories, hair, makeup, nails, etc., are not gaudy or flashy. Wear nothing revealing or provocative. Cover tattoos and remove piercings other than earrings.

Dress formally, allowing variations depending on the position. A three-piece suit is always an excellent choice — and is indeed the only choice for someone applying for an upper-level executive position. However, for positions which are slightly less advanced, there are several other good options. A man applying to be the head bank teller might wear a dress shirt and slacks without a jacket or tie. A woman applying to be an office manager might wear a blouse and skirt with or without a jacket. For some entry-level positions, and for some blue-collar positions, even less formality may be acceptable. A teenager applying for her first job at a grocery store might wear a polo shirt and khakis, as might a machine operator applying at an industrial plant. If you’re not sure what to wear, try to err on the side of being more formal than is necessary.

Additional Reading

For more on this subject, try these books which are available for check out from the Career Center.

  • Style Bible: What to Wear to Work by Lauren A. Rothman
  • Dress to Impress: How a Navy Blazer Changed My Life by Joyce Nelson Shellhart
  • Dressing Smart for Men by Joanna Nicholson

Written by Lynnette Lee.