When I was in college I fell in love with “business.”  There was just something about the function of companies, administration, marketing, the teamwork, and creating a lasting organization that could make the lives of others and the world better that always appealed to me.  After my first business course was completed, declaring Business Administration as part of my degree plan was one of the best choices I made.

After studying business I was fortunate to work in a the competitive market of banking for about eight years.  In that time I grew and advanced in the places I worked.  My favorite role was working in Human Resources.  I love people.  I love helping people.  I love enabling and supporting the growth and potential in other people.  One of my favorite parts inside my department was getting to either facilitate or be a part of job interviews.  I not only loved facilitating job interviews, but there was only one job I went for that I did not receive.  It was in a completely different field, and was really just a desperate attempt to get out of a horrible situation.  Not getting that job left the door open for me to get the job that I loved so it really worked out.

Here are some of the things I learned as interviewer and interviewee:

1.  Your cover letter, resume, and application absolutely matter.

Do not have handwriting like a serial killer on any of the items.  This is your first impression.  This is the first step in someone deciding whether or not they will consider you for the position you are seeking.  Be concise.  Be professional.  Again, make it clean and neat.  Sell yourself.  This is your opportunity to showcase what makes you uniquely qualified for the position, so go for it in listing applicable skills and talents.  Make them want to meet you.  Have someone who has proficient skills in grammar read and edit it for you.  It was always very funny to read resumes that had a lot of misspelled words in them.  Make the effort to click the spell check icon.  If someone could not do that, I would not think they could begin to meet our organization’s expectations.

2.  Scheduling the interview is like setting up a blind date.

How you answer the phone and the things you say on the call absolutely matter.  This is a window into your sense of basic manners and professionalism.  If someone gets your voicemail message, it does not need to sound like it was recorded at a frat house kegger.  If you want someone to think you are worth their time and take you seriously, you have to take yourself seriously.  No one wants to think they are showing up to go out on a date with “that guy” or “that girl,” so know that the person doing the interviewing will likewise not want to waste their time.

3.  Be serious enough to keep your social media clean.

It would be really stupid for any company in this day and age not to stalk you on social media.  It is access to free information that helps them make decisions about you before ever meeting you face to face.  No matter how good you look on paper, being drunk and documented making terrible decisions on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or any other platforms will immediately torch your credibility.

4.  Dress like you want the job.

The fact that you are applying for a job means that you need a source of income.  I never expected people to show up in Prada.  Your entire outfit could be from the Salvation Army, and no one will ever know or think twice about it as long as it is clean, fits well, and is wrinkle free.  Wrinkles.  Wrinkles on prospective employees or current ones drove me insane.  Again, this says that you are not taking yourself seriously, and that was a waste of my time.  If you know you have an interview, wash and comb your hair, put on nice, wrinkle free clothes, and professional shoes.  If you choose to wear make-up, keep it classy.  I can not tell you how many prospective team members I saw wearing seven days of make-up at once for their interviews.  This does not scream professionalism and everything about the way you present yourself needs to.  This goes along with clothes that fit well for both men and women.  None of the pieces you wear need to be excessively tight or excessively loose-fitting.  Either says something about you that you do not want to express.  This is non-verbal communication at its finest.

5.  Be confident and honest, and STAND AND SHAKE HANDS!

Everyone is at least a little nervous in an interview, but remember why you applied in the first place.  You thought that on some level you were qualified for this job.  Own that.  Sell that.  Know what you can contribute and why you want to become a part of that team, and then speak that in total assurance.  You can share your strengths and weaknesses knowing that you want to be better while becoming a part of this team, and knowing that you can uniquely contribute to this company through your own skill set.  Be honest.  Never lie in an interview.  It is really easy to tell when people are lying when they are nervous, and we already established that you will be at least a little nervous.  More importantly, if you want them to trust that you are a person of integrity who they can trust to be a part of their team, being honest at this first opportunity is crucial.  When you walk in the room, shake hands before you sit.  Stand and shake hands before you leave.  Demonstrate a strong handshake.  Do not crush their hand or give them a limp fish to shake.  This conveys confidence and respect.  It is a display of professionalism and good manners.  Again, the non-verbal part of interviewing is a big part of “the battle.”

6.  Send a thank you note.

Take the time to thank someone for sharing their time with you.  This is a good way to differentiate yourself from your competition.  This demonstrates that you will go the extra mile.  Most people will not, so do not be afraid to do anything you can to set yourself apart.

7.  Say Thank You

Whether or not you are selected for the position, genuinely thank the person for their time and interest in you.  You never know what could come up later inside the same company that you might be a better fit for.  Do not burn a prospective bridge because you were not selected this time.  They will remember and likely have notes on their experience with you.  Be sure it is all positive.

In today’s world of constant job searching, knowing how to set yourself apart by doing these basic things is a leg up on your chance for success.  As someone who conducted interviews and was able to share with many others in leadership positions that did as well, these few basic things are very often missed, and could very well be key to you getting the yes over the people around you.