Interview Tips for Moving from Retail to an Office Job
The Office Worker
Your resume is flawless, your skills are 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 be prepared to make a good impression on the hiring manager.
As placement director for a Dallas Business School, it was my responsibility to help graduate students find jobs. We worked with employers who were hiring and set up real interviews for qualified candidates. The school also held career fairs on campus where prospective employers would come out to interview graduates.
Students ranged in age from eighteen to seventy years old; men and women who wanted to move out of the retail or hospitality industries into the corporate world. Many had never held an office job or interviewed for a professional position. Some things that kept candidates from being hired were pointed out by real employers that interviewed students for jobs at their companies.
When meeting a hiring manager for the first time, a proper handshake is routine. It sets the tone for a candidate and solidifies that first impression in an instant. If you ever shook the hand of someone with a weak handshake, you'll know exactly the impression this leaves on the other party. If you're not sure what kind of a handshake you have, test it out on a few friends and coworkers and ask for their honest reactions.
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 from this if you don't continue down this path.
What kind of handshake do you have?
The Hiring Manager
When it comes to reading body language, the approach to take is to observe the style of the interviewer and try to mirror their preferences both in posture and eye contact. Making eye contact can be a tricky area.
If they are the type of interviewer who looks directly into an applicant's eyes and waits for some sort of response, like a nod or even a one word answer from you, adapt your responsiveness to match their needs. If they constantly look out the window or stare at a location over your shoulder they probably don't want you to lock eyes with them.
Mirroring takes many forms. Sometimes it involves rephrasing an important point and stating it back to the interviewer to let them know you got it. It's also useful to watch for body language like crossed crossed arms. Tread lightly when this happens. If they lean toward you, they are likely interested in what you're saying. If you lean slightly toward them, it indicates that you are listening. If they stand up, your allocated time is probably over and it's time to go.
Job Interview Tips
The Right Clothes
Brian Tracy, in his audio series, Master Strategies for Higher Achievement, tells listeners that "casualness leads to casualties." Even if a potential employer's dress code is business casual this is usually not the right attire for an interview.
If a business suit seems too stuffy don't be fooled into wearing sweat pants, halter tops or faded jeans to an interview. It's better to err on the side of dressing too professionally rather than dressing too casually. Remember, this is an interview not a date. Revealing clothes like see-through tops, visible bra straps or visible boxer shorts may have the opposite effect you're trying to achieve.
Know that cleanliness is noticed by the astute hiring person. Baby food stains or safety pins on an outfit can diminish your chances of getting the job. Take my word for this from actual feedback a hiring manager after one of my students interviewed at their company. The student was not offered the job because of their stained clothing.
How do you know what clothes to choose? Search Google for hints on dressing for success. There are many resources to guide you on this subject. Don't let your first impression at a company be your last one.
When you ask a friend for their opinion of your selected interview outfit, they may unwittingly lead you astray rather than give you a brutally honest answer. Try to arrange a dress rehearsal and practice the interview process with someone who holds a professional job, like the church pastor or a friend who works at an office or a bank. These people will know from experience and can help guide you in the right direction.
Don't be afraid to ask for guidance, but remember, choose your advisor carefully.
If you carry on a conversation while you wait in the reception area of a prospective employer, remember, you are being watched from the moment you arrive.
- Arrive on time, not early, not late.
- Arrive alone. Don't bring your children, parents, boyfriends or pets.
- Have your ride wait for you in the car to avoid drawing attention to your lack of a car.
- Turn off your cell phone or set your phone to mute in the reception area.
- Don't bring food or drink to the interview reception area.
- Avoid the use of foul language and slang.
People look for reasons not to hire you when multiple applicants apply for a job.
The Walls Have Eyes
While you're waiting to be called into the hiring manager's office your every move is under scrutiny. Remember, never disrespect the receptionist. Do not grab their pen from their hand or use their phone without permission. Their job includes answering the phone and interfering with this by tying up their line is not acceptable.
As you are filling out the application, if you complain about the repetitiveness of the blasted form, keep in mind, your attitude is being noted. Even your handwriting on the application is a telltale indicator of your attention to detail and your patience and your ability to follow the rules. Be smart.
Private Eyes - Daryl Hall and John Oates
The Reception Area
Choosing Between Two Equally Qualified Applicants
What happens if two candidates are nearly equal in their skill set, appearance, attitude and experience? One Vice President told me, "The way I made my decision between two applicants is simple. 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. Clearly and succinctly ask for the job.
When the interview is wrapping up and they ask you, "Do you have any questions?" you might 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. Offer to provide a sample of your work on a trial basis of a few hours 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.
© 2012 Peg Cole