How to Interview for an Office Job
Your resume is flawless, you've honed your skills to a perfect match for the position and you're ready to make a change in employment. What else is there to do?
When that long-awaited call comes inviting you to interview for an office job, you'll want to make a good impression on the hiring manager.
What will make your skills stand out from the other applicants? What things might eliminate you from consideration? Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when that important day comes.
A Proper Handshake
Hiring managers form an impression of candidates from the first moment they meet. What kind of impression does a weak handshake make on a hiring manager? It often leaves others with a negative impression, particularly if the job requires meeting and interacting with customers. If you're not sure what kind of a handshake you have, test yours out on a trustworthy friend who will give you their honest reaction.
Failing to have an acceptable handshake can weaken your chances at a job offer, although it's not a complete deal-breaker. You may be able to recover ground if you don't continue down this path.
What Works and What Doesn't?
As a placement director for a business school, I set up interviews for students that graduated from the admin training program. For students trying to move out of the retail or hospitality jobs into office work, many had never held an administrative job or interviewed for one.
Prospective employers let me in on their first impressions after students interviewed for jobs with them. They shared what worked and what kept candidates from being hired. These are a few of their observations.
5 Body Language Tips
Reacting to the body language of the interviewer is important. Adapt your responsiveness to match their preferences.
- Walk with confidence, shoulders back, head up, facing the person about to greet you.
- Once invited to sit, sit all the way back in the chair. No slouching.
- Observe the posture of the hiring person. If they lean toward you, they're likely interested in what you're saying. If their gaze is somewhere over your shoulder or out the window, they're probably bored.
- If you lean slightly toward them, it indicates that you're listening. If they stand up, your interview is likely over and it's time to wrap it up and go.
- Rather than drilling into the interviewer's eyes, keep your eyes focused on their face and occasionally make eye contact.
Career experts have long analyzed body movement as a way to determine a person's character."— Yohana Desta, Mashable
What to Wear?
Brian Tracy, author of Master Strategies for Higher Achievement, believes that "casualness leads to casualties," when it comes to choosing a work outfit.
A business suit might be too dressy, but wearing sweat pants, halter tops or torn jeans to an interview can lead to disaster. Err on the side of dressing too professionally rather than too casually. This is an interview, not a date. Revealing clothing like see-through tops, visible bra straps or low slung pants may have the opposite effect you're trying to achieve.
Cleanliness is also noticed by the astute hiring person. Baby food stains or safety pins on an outfit can diminish your chances of getting the job. Actual feedback from a hiring manager said the applicant was not offered the job because of stains on their clothing. Don't let your first impression at a company be your last one.
Set up a dress rehearsal and mock interview with someone who holds a professional job at an office or a bank. People with office similar work experience can guide you in the right direction. Use caution with who you ask. Don't be afraid to ask for guidance, but remember, choose your adviser carefully. A best friend's opinion of your interview outfit might lead you astray rather than provide an honest answer.
- Arrive on time; not too early and never late.
- Don't bring your children, your parents, boyfriends or pets.
- While in the waiting area of a prospective employer you're being watched from the moment you arrive.
- If you got a ride with someone, have them wait elsewhere to avoid drawing attention to your lack of transportation.
- Turn off your cell phone or set your phone to mute in the reception area.
- Never bring food or drink to the interview.
- Don't chew gum.
- Avoid the use of foul language and slang.
People look for reasons not to hire you when they have a lot of applicants applying for the same job.
How You Treat the Staff
While you're waiting to be called into the hiring manager's office, never disrespect the receptionist. Don't grab their pen out of their hand or use their phone without permission. Interfering with their work duties is not acceptable.
As you fill out the application, don't complain about the repetitiveness of the form or leave gaps in your answers. Your handwriting on the application indicates your attention to detail, your patience and your ability to follow instructions. Be smart. Remember, your attitude is being noted.
Using Retail Experience on Difficult Questions
What if they say, "Tell me about yourself." This can be a tricky question to answer. Most importantly, they do not want to know about your personal problems or family history. They are interested in how your background would be a match for their requirements.
If you're transitioning from retail into an office environment, you may not have a long job history but you may have other skills the company would value like:
- the ability to learn quickly
- attention to detail
- an aptitude for numbers
- courteous, friendliness, outgoing personality
Relay a story about how you've studied on your own to learn word processing, or how you're exceptionally good with numbers. Provide evidence from retail experience.
"When it came to cashing out our registers, mine usually balanced to the penny."
"The manager often called on me to train new employees to set them off on the right path."
"I won an award for perfect attendance."
Two Equally Qualified Applicants?
What happens when two candidates are nearly equal in their skill set, appearance, attitude, and experience? One Vice President told me the way she made her decision between two applicants. She said, "I hire the one who asks me for the job." No amount of hinting about how you would love to work for the company will do.
When the interview is wrapping up they often ask, "Do you have any additional questions?"
- Clearly and succinctly ask for the job.
- Ask when a decision will be made.
- Ask if there is anything else you can do to prove you're the best choice for the position.
- Ask if you might provide a sample of your work on a trial basis of a few hours.
- If so, ask if they would consider you for the job at the end of the apprentice period?
- Ask if there are any areas of your experience where clarification of details will help lead to a decision to hire you.
Tread the line carefully between confidence in your abilities and arrogance.
Finally, promptly follow up the interview with a thank you letter whether by email or snail mail. Writing that letter could literally change your life.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Peg Cole