Dress the part.

There is an accepted social norm that when a job candidate shows up to an interview, they should always look their best. A well-groomed and appropriately dressed job candidate communicates to the interviewer that they understand the importance of professionalism, which can help put everyone at ease.

In a nationwide study, 40% of HR managers outlined inappropriate attire as the most common mistake they see during job interviews. An additional 13% noted poor presentation of self, while another 11% reported slovenly appearance as an interview deal-breaker.

Clothes, accessories, and even footwear need not be expensive; however, they should be carefully chosen in order to enhance your professional presence and complement your capabilities.  Job candidates should select interview attire as if their career depends on it…because most often it will.  

Don’t just sit there.

While waiting in the reception area before a job interview, strike up a casual, friendly conversation with the receptionist.  This small-talk exchange should only be a few minutes.  Make an authentic connection with the receptionist, without hindering their job performance.

Often – after a candidate’s interview is completed and they’ve left the building – the interviewer may ask the receptionist for their initial impressions of the candidate.  You’ll never know when the receptionist might be called upon to give an informal assessment of the applicant.  

How a job candidate greets and interacts with the receptionist may provide subtle clues into the type of informal exchanges the individual might have with their future co-workers.  

Look them straight in the eye.

Students pose for a photo on the steps of the PA State Capitol. 

Recently, a group of York College students participated in a networking event held in the East Wing Rotunda of Pennsylvania’s State Capital. Many in attendance were political science and history majors, looking to meet local professionals within state government agencies and local advocacy groups.  

After some informal socializing over hors d’oeuvres, each guest briefly addressed the students –– sharing personal insights on how newly-minted college graduates could begin their political science careers with a strong start.

Toward the end of the discussion, one seasoned expert shared this bit of wisdom with the students, “You need to know how to act professionally within this industry. When you meet people, a good firm handshake is necessary. And look them straight in the eye.”

Professionalism helps you stand out from the crowd.

Today’s marketplace is crowded with college students looking to launch their careers.    

Most of my time is spent working with such students –– exploring what it means to be a professional and coaching them on the attitudes and behaviors that are necessary for professional excellence.   

Many students work hard to acquire such behaviors during their academic experience. Those that do, have much more success in landing an internship or job.  As I recently shared with one student on campus today, “A degree may get you the interview; however, professionalism will land you the job.