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Job Interview: Style and Attitude

This lesson is a part of an audio course Complete Job Interview Preparation by Felix Peeters

In this lesson, we go through everything you need to know to make a good impression.

To prepare for a job interview goes beyond doing research on the company and preparing for specific questions. I do consider that crucial to your preparation, but I have to talk about your style and attitude first. Let's discuss 3 elements of style and attitude: dress code, behavior, and how to speak. As a bonus, I'll also tell you what to do or say if you really don't know the answer to a question. Which is unlikely after taking this course, but just to be sure.

So, for the dress code: let's keep this brief. Either it is very straightforward. For example, if you are applying to a corporate law firm, a bank, or a large consulting firm, you will be wearing a suit, whether you are a woman or a man, and for women, you could also wear a skirt and blazer instead of a suit. But that's about it in terms of the decisions you can make. It becomes more interesting if it's not as clear. And here, my only piece of advice would be: ask someone. It's always better to ask someone than to make assumptions. Either consult someone who has already interviewed with the company, or talk to someone who works there. And last but not least, let me remind you that, if you are preparing for an interview, you must have the email address of a recruiter. And asking the recruiter how to dress will not negatively impact the outcome of your interview. So, perhaps one last thing on the dress code: when in doubt, it's better to overdress a little bit than to do the opposite. Why? Imagine you're interviewing with a start-up. And because this start-up is so hip and groovy, they happen to button-down shirts or dress shoes. It would be unfortunate to walk in being overdressed. But at that point, it should still be easier for you to compensate for your formal attire with spontaneous behavior and clever remarks, than to do the opposite after walking in, looking a bit disheveled and untidy.

Ok, enough about dress code, let's look at attitude. To make a great impression, there are a few things to pay attention to. The first one is: be humble and follow cues. At the beginning of the video call or when you want into the room, wait for the recruiters or hiring managers to open the conversation. Only shake hands if the recruiters initiate, sit down when you are told to. This sounds obvious, but when you are nervous, you tend to forget. Then, place your hands on the table and lean forward just a little bit to signal that you are ready for a conversation. Smile and look at the recruiters. This will make you look and feel confident, and that's a good way to start.

So, we've had dress code and attitude, so let's look at how to speak: simply put, I'd recommend you to practice your answers out loud and work on your tone of voice: speak loudly, without shouting, obviously, try to smile, because others can definitely hear that in your voice. Speak slowly. Leave some breaks at the end of your sentence and use your hands to emphasize elements in your answer. Lastly, keep it short. We'll get to structuring your answers, but make sure to keep your answer short such that the recruiter doesn't feel the need to interrupt you. It's better to keep it too short and get that follow-up question, then to have the hiring manager cut you off.

The last element to style and attitude: what to do if you don't know the answer. Because of this course, it's very unlikely, but if it happens, here's what I would do: speak, be honest, and stay in control. To make that more tangible, let's look at an example of a tricky question where you have no idea where to begin: "Now, Felix: which of our latest acquisitions will have the largest impact on the sustainability of our company." A really nasty question, especially if you're not exactly sure which companies were recently acquired by the firm you're interviewing with. Step one: speak. So, in that case, I would like to say: "Yes, that's an interesting question." Step 2: be honest. You can say: "to be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure which takeovers you are referring to in this case." Step 3: stay in control: you say: "If you could remind me of the latest takeovers, I'll be happy to reflect on which ones are more likely to positively impact sustainability metrics for your company." Now the recruiters may decline and move on to another question, and that's ok. You've still shown initiative and honesty. Chances are, however, that you get that hint that allows you to answer the question, and the moment is saved. So remember: speak, be honest, and stay in control.

Alright, I feel like you've got this by now, and you'll display the right style and attitude during your job interview. So let's move on to the next lesson, where we'll go over the best ways to structure your answers during a job interview! I'll see you there.

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Felix Peeters