Smile – A Great Start to Your Interview

Many interviewers will tell you they can spot a winner within twenty seconds of meeting the candidate. Whether that’s a race worth winning is the subject for another day. Today’s topic is about the belief that it’s possible.  With that in mind, how can you make your case in less than half a minute?

Smile. Smile from the inside out. Smile nice and easy. “I’m pleased to be here”, your smile says, “and I’m pleased to meet you.”

Make eye contact, shake hands. Firm and steady. Nice and easy.

Dress to impress in clothes that are clean, pressed, fit well, suit you, and suit the occasion.

Appear as though fresh from the shower, hair clean, well groomed, smoke, perfume, and cologne-free. Wear shoes that you’ve shined and are in good repair.

Maintain good bearing or posture, when standing, sitting, or walking.

Arrive prepared, knowing your strengths, skills, and abilities and how to describe them; how to answer tough questions; and how to ask questions you’d like to have answered.

Relax. You’re going to have a positive experience with this interviewer and if the match is there, you’re going to get this job.

This isn’t the format for a new reality show, Fantasy Interview. It is reality. It’s being open to possibilities, and combining that openness with self-confidence derived from experience, resilience, and self awareness.       Now, let’s go back to the top and look more closely at the implications of these preparations.

Smile from the inside out. Employers want employees who want to work for them and want to do the work they are assigned. They want employees who get along with their co-workers, who project a genuine sense of well being, and who treat everyone they meet in a respectful way.

Shake hands while maintaining eye contact, and without hesitation. Shake hands when you meet and when you depart. Shake hands briefly, yet firmly, with a grip that communicates collegiality, not hand to hand combat. Connect at the palm and match the pressure of your grip with that of the person whose hand you are shaking. Your handshake telegraphs your sense of self worth. Firm signals confidence. Weak signals everything else. Sweaty palms signal interview, eager, nervous, wants the job. All understandable. Damp hands or dry, shake hands anyhow.

Prepare. Employers say you can’t over do it. Preparation makes all the difference between those who make the best and long lasting impressions and those who are imminently forgettable. I know you get the concept, so let’s look at the application. Here’s what you need to do in order to be prepared:

Organize your thoughts and practice your responses to the open-ended, non technical questions you are most likely to be asked: Tell me about yourself; describe your strengths and weakness; describe your biggest mistakes; your greatest successes; your worst and best bosses; why you left your last job; why your last job left you; why you want to work for us, and why we should select you over your competition.

Respond to these questions based upon what you’ve learned about yourself. Focus on work and speak (very briefly) about what you do best, how your contribution drives the top line or protects the bottom line. Describe your strengths as what you do naturally and enjoy doing as often as possible. If asked, describe your weaknesses as your strengths, overdone. Alternate: strength, weakness, strength, weakness.  For example: “I’m a problem solver. I look for what’s broken and needs fixing and fix it (your strength). I’m not apt to have a great deal of patience (your weakness) listening to people give excuses for why it’s broken.”

Then proceed to give another strength and corollary weakness.

Relax. Enjoy the experience. Find the match.  Go for the win.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at