You may have heard the story of Henry Ford, the
founder of Ford Motor Co., inviting job candidates to lunch with
him-primarily to observe their salting habits. If the candidate salted
his food before tasting it, Mr. Ford ruled him out. If the candidate
tasted his food first and salted (or didn't) after, Mr. Ford determined
he was a person who evaluated situations before taking action-just the
sort of person he wanted for his company.
Most employers have their own expectations of candidates, whether or not
they're expressed. If you don't meet them, you may be flunking your job
test. But there are generally accepted rules of applicant etiquette.
Following the nine guidelines below will help you abide by them.
- Be on time. If you're late, no matter how valid
your reason, you're making a statement about your ability to plan
and prepare for the unexpected. You're also indirectly making a
statement about your respect for the interviewer's time. It's better
to build in an extra 15 minutes and walk around the building once or
twice than to arrive late.
- Be polite. According to Chris Lucy, an OfficeTeam
area manager in Rochester, N.Y., a staffing firm based in Menlo
Park, Calif., interviewers will often ask the receptionist,
following the interview, how the candidate behaved when he came in
the front door. Of course, you always should be polite. But you
should be especially polite to the front-office staff, knowing they
might be asked their impressions of you.
font class="text" Know that simple courtesies, if not extended, could cost you a job.
A vice president of a well-known bank in Los Angeles, for example,
decides against any applicant who calls him by his first name before
being invited to do so.
- Don't ramble. Be mindful of the amount of time
allotted to the meeting. "If he indicated you'll have about 45
minutes, try to honor that," says Ms. Lucy, who's been advising
candidates for 16 years. "Don't rattle on and on, but instead glance
at your watch discreetly and stop talking if you need to."
Additionally, don't interrupt the interviewer. "Try to look
interested, even if you already know what the interviewer is telling
you about the company," Ms. Lucy says. Such gaffes could offset the
benefits of your impressive resume or professional appearance.
- Be aware of your body language. A surprising
number of candidates slouch, instead of sitting upright, says Ms.
Lucy. Good posture projects energy and enthusiasm. Additionally, she
says, "the inability to look directly into the interviewer's eyes
probably will be interpreted as a lack of professionalism or-worse
yet-a lack of honesty. Crossed arms often suggest a lack of
receptivity to new ideas."
- Be honest. Up to 15% of executive candidates lie
on job applications, according to Jude M. Werra & Associates, a
consulting firm in Brookfield, Wis., that reviews executive
At some employers, the penalty for a discovered lie on an
application is immediate dismissal. Is it worth the risk? If a lie
is uncovered, even if the sanctions aren't so severe, your employer
probably will have trouble trusting you.
- Be assertive. While you may have reservations
about calling to learn if a decision has been made, some
organizations view such calls as a positive. "We like it when
applicants follow up an interview with a phone call," says Jamie
Columbus, president of Judy Columbus Inc., a residential real-estate
and sales organization in Brighton, N.Y. "It shows initiative. We're
biased in favor of assertive people who call for feedback following
Show how much you want to work for a particular company or the depth
of your passion for the industry or position you're seeking. If
you're applying for a design position, for example, don't hesitate
to bring a portfolio that gives a graphic description of your job
"I love to see what applicants have done in other organizations,"
says Ms. Columbus. "Being able to see samples of their printed work
or letters from their clients definitely influences our decisions.
Having the visual proof of what they're talking about makes the
whole process so much easier."
- Be prepared. Ask questions on occasion instead of
answering them continuously. Better yet, your answers should show
that you've taken the time to learn about the company-that you're
not just looking for a job, you're looking for a job with this
"We expect job applicants to be familiar with our company before
they show up for the interview," Ms. Columbus says. "We expect them
to have visited our web site and to have read local press reports
about us. We also appreciate those applicants who bring several
copies of their resumes so we don't have to stop the interview to
make copies for all the members of the team."
Additionally, be prepared to perform. Ms. Columbus says she often
asks candidates to complete such tasks as designing a sample
brochure or creating a plan of action. "The way they fulfill the
expectation and the speed with which they do it, along with the
quality of their work, has enabled several people to get the jobs
they now have," she says.
- Be professional. Make sure your resume and cover
letters are neat and clean. Check them for typos and an improper
tone. "The first things we look for in a cover letter are accuracy,
creativity and directness," says Ms. Columbus.
- Send a thank-you note. You have a better chance of
making a favorable impression. More than 76% of employers like
receiving a post-interview thank-you note, but only 36% of
applicants write them, according to a survey by Accountemps, a
staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif.
A thank-you note need not be long or fancy. A simple handwritten or
typed message on plain paper will suffice. Thank the interviewer for
his time, offer to provide any additional material that may be
required and say that you look forward to working for the company or
enjoyed meeting him.
"We appreciate thank-you notes sent to each member of the interview
team. And it's great if they come the day after the interview,
rather than two weeks later," says Ms. Columbus.