Whether you're looking for your first job straight out of college, starting a second career or recovering from being laid off, you know how important it is to ace interviews with potential employers. Even during "boom years," there's more demand for jobs than there are jobs available, and a new wave of prospective applicants pours out of universities, community colleges, grad schools and trade schools each year.
If you land a job interview, you want to present the best you possible, and there are several things you can do to give yourself the best chance of being hired:
- Arrive early (but not too early) to your interview. Arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled interview, just in case there are any forms you need to fill out beforehand.
- Be the first to offer a handshake when meeting the interviewer.
- Do your research on the company and the position before interviewing.
- Be upbeat and to-the-point in your statements. Don't ramble on about everything you couldn't stand at your last job.
- Make sure you've described your skills, work experience and abilities.
- Make eye contact and smile.
- Be alert!
- Know what questions you'd like to ask about the job's duties and expectations, and about the employer.
However, you can do all that and still blow your chance the second you walk in the door. How? By not maintaining excellent hygiene.
So what are some hygiene tips you should know about before walking into your interview? See the next page to get started.
Make Sure Your Clothing is Clean
It's much easier to detect funny smells on other people's clothing than it is with your own wardrobe. For this reason, make sure your interview suit is freshly laundered. Make sure your clothes have no stains or discoloration, and check for a yellowed collar, stained sleeve cuffs or even bleached-out spotting.
Unless you're interviewing for a job at a cigar shop, don't wear anything that's been near tobacco smoke or drive to your interview in a car that's been smoked in regularly. Also, make sure there's no animal hair on your clothing. Remove it using a lint brush or sticky roller. Even freshly laundered clothes can look or smell dirty when they're covered with smoke or pet hair.
Clean clothes are a must, but you should also clean and polish your shoes. You don't need to see your own reflection, but you shouldn't see an artist's rendering of the dust bowl either. Pay attention to your other accessories, and make sure your handbag or briefcase is clean on its exterior and organized within. It's pretty awkward when you go to retrieve your CV and have to empty all the contents of the bag in your lap to find it.
Finally, don't eat on the way to your interview. Driving and eating often leads to frantically trying to get a ketchup stain off your shirt in a public restroom.
You've got magic in your fingertips, but also dirt from the garden. We'll give you a hand with that in the next section.
Perfect Hands and Nails
One of the first things you'll do when you meet your interviewer is shake hands, and you don't want your potential boss to recoil in horror once your hands have made contact. Here's a tip: If your handshake is followed by the interviewer wiping a hand on his or her pants, you haven't made a good first impression.
You want your hands to be clean, smooth and moisturized. If you're a nail-biter, try to stop as soon as you can before the interview takes place, giving your nails a chance to look like they haven't been in an industrial accident.
If you can afford it, have a professional manicure. You can also give yourself a manicure, or enlist the services of a friend who knows his or her way around an emery board.
When preparing your nails and hands, you should do the following for best results:
- Use an emery board to file and shape nails. They should be lightly rounded or squared off.
- Soak your hands in warm, soapy water.
- Trim long nails and cuticles. Push back cuticles.
- Lightly scrub hands to remove dead skin cells or excess cuticle.
- Moisturize hands, nails and cuticles.
- For women, if you're painting your nails, go with clear or a neutral color.
- Make sure your hands aren't excessively dry or oily when you arrive at your interview.
- Check your fingernails for dirt when you arrive and clean them if needed.
How can you keep your professional prospects from wilting in front of your eyes (and mouth)? Find out next.
Mind Your Mouth
Since verbal communication is going to play a prominent role in your interview, you better make sure you knock 'em dead with your answers, not your breath.
Try to maintain good oral health and hygiene at all times, and especially in the lead-up to your interview. In general, drink water or use products with fluoride for strong teeth.
If you haven't been to a dentist in a while and can afford to do so, invest in your smile. By maintaining a regimen of good dental hygiene, you'll have a successful-looking, confident smile: clean white teeth, healthy pink gums and good breath.
At least twice a day, you want to brush and floss your teeth. To do so, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gumline, but be sure to brush away from the gumline. Use short back-and-forth strokes to brush every side of every tooth. Brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth to get rid of excess bacteria that contributes to bad breath.
Hold floss taut between thumbs and forefingers, and slide it gently between your teeth. Floss with the curve of each tooth. Go beneath the gum line, but gently -- don't hurt or cut your gums. Use a clean section of floss for each tooth
Finally, remember to take breath mints to your interview! You don't want your prospects diminished by the ill-advised consumption of a can of soda before you meet your potential employer.
Next: Hair to get you hired.
Tame Your Mane
While you don't need to flaunt locks that look like they've been featured on the cover of a paperback romance novel, it is important when interviewing to have healthy, attractive, clean, nicely trimmed hair.
Even if you have no interviews lined up but you're in the market for a new job, don't get carried away with outlandish colors or overly wild looks when it comes to your hair. While you shouldn't have to misrepresent who you are, you should also give interviewers a chance to get to know you for your skills and abilities without having to overlook dreadlocks or rainbow-colored tresses.
Keep your hair neatly trimmed. Visit your barber or stylist at least a week before your interview. That will provide you with a fresh-looking haircut, but also enough time to fix any major errors should they occur.
Make sure your hair's not frizzy, and don't let other-colored roots be visible. Other than that, maintain a good, simple hair-care regimen:
- Shampoo and condition every other day (you can do so daily, but it's usually not needed), and the day of your interview.
- Brush and comb your hair regularly.
- Don't use too much hairspray or hair gel -- go for a more natural look.
- Don't put anything too heavily perfumed in your hair.
- Tweeze unwanted eyebrow hairs as well as nose and ear hairs.
Next: Avoid a major hygiene faux pas that could derail your career before it gets started.
If you're looking for a rock-solid hygiene tip for your interview, it's this: don't stink.
Unpleasant body odor is a major turnoff to not only romantic suitors, but professional suitors as well.
After your appearance, your smell will likely be the next sensory data your interviewer receives while judging you. Throughout the duration of your job hunt (and ideally your subsequent employment), you should make a practice of showering regularly, and most definitely on the day of interview.
Scrub your pits and nether regions, and wear deodorant or antiperspirant (unscented is best). But don't get carried away in your desire to banish unpleasant natural smells -- go easy on perfume, cologne, body spray or any other scented accoutrement.
Wear an undershirt or underarm sweat pads if you're naturally a heavy (or nervous) sweater. And if these measures don't banish the B.O., see a doctor or specialist. There may be a medical reason you're producing an unpleasant smell.
To give yourself a fighting chance of smelling good, you should avoid eating onions, garlic or other strong-smelling foods, as their odor can be transferred through every pore of your body.
Follow these hygiene tips before your interview, and you may be on the road to gainful employment and, even better, no more job interviews.
For lots more information, see the next page.
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- Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. "How to Floss." (March 5, 2011)http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/OC/Information/OralHealthBasics/GoodOralHygiene/BrushingandFlossing/HowtoFloss.cvsp
- Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. "Oral Hygiene." (March 5, 2011)http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/OC/Information/OralHealthBasics/GoodOralHygiene.cvsp
- Global Healing Center. "Body Odor." (March 5, 2011)http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/body-odor.html
- Hussain, Aysha."What Should You Wear to a Job Interview? Should You Hide Your Hair?" DiversityInc. May 22, 2007. (March 5, 2011)http://www.diversityinc.com/article/1899/What-Should-You-Wear-to-a-Job-Interview-Should-You-Hide-Your-Hair/
- Prince, Jessica. "4 Job Interview Hair Ideas." Glamour. Sept. 4, 2009. (March 5, 2011)http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2009/09/4-job-interview-hair-ideas.html
- University of Illinois Extension. "Looking Your Best for Work." (March 5, 2011)http://urbanext.illinois.edu/dress/04pers-groom-01groom.html
- WorkSmart. "Tips For Success -- The Interview." 2009. (March 5, 2011)http://www.worksmart.ca.gov/tips_interview.html