Hot Tips for Projecting Professionalism at Your Next Job Interview

By Sara Parent

A job interview can be a stressful experience if you don't know what to do, or if you aren't used to being in that situation. But there are some things you can do to help you interact with your interviewer more professionally. A successful interview has as much to do with how you present yourself as the skills you bring to a company.

When meeting someone for the first time, there are some simple rules to remember. We went to Anne Sowden of Here's Looking At You, a Toronto-based image consulting firm, for some suggestions on how job seekers can project a professional image.

She offers these tips for your next interview:

  • Stand up straight and keep your shoulders back. This makes a huge difference when making a first impression AND you'll feel better.

  • If you're not sure how to shake hands properly, get someone to help you. There's nothing worse than a bad handshake.

  • When shaking hands, stand up, make eye contact and smile. Smiling conveys an accepting attitude towards others.

  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer but look away at regular intervals to make sure you aren't staring.

  • If you're concerned about clammy hands. Keep a tissue in your pocket and gently squeeze it before shaking hands.

  • When receiving someone's business card, leave it on the desk/table in front of you and look at it during the meeting. It's one way to make sure you get the person's name correct.

  • When sitting, don't slouch. This sends a message that you don't care about being with someone.

  • Be prepared. Whether it's an interview, meeting or networking. Have a plan of what you want to accomplish and do it.

  • Practice introducing yourself. Get a friend to help you.

Remember that, for better or worse, first opinions are formed very quickly. Sowden says that the image you project can affect your ability to inspire trust and confidence. She adds that it also gives others information by which they judge our credibility and professionalism.

Knowing how to act and presenting yourself professionally through your attire are critical image builders. Sowden offers these tips on dressing for business:

  • Buy the best you can afford in classic styles.

  • The more skin you show, the less professional you look.

  • Err on the side of caution-dress up rather than down; dress conservatively.

  • Research the dress code, the position you're interviewing for and the person you will be meeting.

  • To project expertise, wear a jacket.

  • Wear clothing that is comfortable and makes you feel good.

  • Focus on basics-jackets, skirts, slacks in a neutral colour. Black, navy and charcoal project power and authority.

  • Check skirt lengths. A skirt around knee length is flattering for most women and looks professional. It also doesn't expose too much leg when sitting down. If your skirt has a split, check how much leg you expose when sitting down.

  • Avoid plunging necklines, sheer fabrics, and clinging knits. Knits cling and find body fat even if you think you don't have any.

  • Keep jewellery simple. No clanging, dangling or jangling items.

  • Carry either a briefcase or a purse, not both. No knapsack.

How you look and how you interact with your interviewer will help determine the outcome of the interview. By following these simple rules, you'll likely feel more prepared and ready to take on the challenge.


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