Interview Etiquette

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Why Eye Contact During an Interview is so Important

Candidates must make eye contact during an interview as lack of this contact most always results in negative feedback on the part of the client. Eye contact signifies confidence, strong communication and a human connection. A lack of eye contact can be a sign of insecurity, nerves, lack of confidence in ability or experience, and inexperience. Eye contact can really make or break an interview– it is that important for candidates to look into the clients’ eyes when speaking during an interview.

This can be very difficult as nerves often take over or perhaps there are moments when thoughts are being gathered and eye contact is lost. This is truly something that candidates should practice before an interview so it comes as second nature. Keep that eye contact with the client strong– obviously don’t be creepy about it and burn a hole through the client!!! But make sure eye contact is maintained as this makes candidates look confident and secure in what they are communicating.

Eye contact is of course one of many important factors to remember during an interview but it is one that candidates often forget and one that can ruin their chances of landing the role.

Why You Should ALWAYS Show Enthusiasm During An Interview !

One of the most important interview tips that I can give to candidates is the following: SHOW ENTHUSIASM DURING AN INTERVIEW!!! This probably seems like a given but you would be shocked at how many clients circle back with me and tell me that the candidate showed zero enthusiasm during the interview. Candidates should be very enthusiastic about the agency/company and come to the interview having done a lot of research and being equipped with knowledge about the agency/company process, history, culture, brands represented, and key players. Candidates should also show a lot of excitement about the role itself and appear completely interested in the job function and prepared to explain how their backgrounds correlate to the role. Candidates must use the interview as a time to sell themselves and to express sheer enthusiasm for the agency and the role at hand. Even if candidates have doubts about the agency or the role or start to feel like it isn’t a good fit during the interview, these feelings should never be expressed during the first interview! These doubts and questions can be addressed at a later stage of the interview process, however the first interview is all about making the best first impression possible. Very often candidates sound extremely excited about an agency/position when I speak with them but fail to show these emotions during the interview, which results in them not getting a second interview. The moral of the story is SHOW ENTHUSIASM as a part of selling yourself to your potential employer. Sometimes it is this expression of enthusiasm that truly helps candidates to get the job as clients have a lot of heart for great attitudes, spirits, and someone who really wants to join their team.

Why what you wear on your interview can be almost as important as what you say

Candidates need to think very carefully on what to wear to an interview as this is an important part of making a good first impression in the face of the client. Clients obviously care immensely about candidates’ skillsets and evaluate them accordingly but the wrong outfit (especially when interviewing for fashion companies or agencies) can be detrimental. There are always exceptions to the rule based on the particular culture and vibe of the client but in most cases candidates should err on the side of toned down- not boring of course but not too loud either. The outfit should not be a distraction to the client and it should also show that the candidate is professional.

I have seen cases of a wonderful candidate being rejected because the outfit was too loud and showy and this made the client feel that his personality would follow suit! This wasn’t the case but the client only has certain elements to go on and forms opinions accordingly. Please ask your recruiter what to wear to the interview and more importantly, listen to their advice, as the recruiter will know the company well and will be able to guide a candidate on what would be or would not be appropriate.

Improper Client Etiquette During an Interview

While we always stress candidate etiquette throughout the interview process, it is also very important to stress client etiquette. Interviews are truly a two way street– of course the client is assessing the candidate from a skillset and personality perspective, but a candidate is also making assessments of the agency or company, the role itself, and the overall vibe in the room. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that a client also makes a very good impression on the candidate.

This morning a very good candidate went on an interview with a great new client, and I was truly hoping they would click. Unfortunately, the candidate called me and said the client was totally distracted throughout the interview– no eye contact, on her laptop the entire time, and barely any question asking… This was a complete turn off to the candidate who felt like the interview was really a waste of time– and her schedule is too busy for a time wasting meeting.

This is a perfect example of how a client can lose a great candidate at first contact. It is very important for a client to give full attention to a candidate during an interview and to show interest so as not to make the candidate feel as if the meeting was pointless. Even if the client is having the busiest day of the year, it doesn’t matter.

This might seem like interview 101 but this error is quite common among clients and should be corrected so great candidates do not walk away with a bad taste in the mouth and choose to withdraw from the process.

Why too much eagerness looks like desperation

Advice to all candidates: enthusiasm and eagerness are wonderful and appealing attributes. I have warned in the past that low energy and an apathetic attitude (both in person and in writing)can certainly turn a client off so it’s always important for candidates to turn up the heat during an interview and let the enthusiasm for the role, the agency (company), and brand shine through.

That being said, too much enthusiasm and eagerness can be a negative. When asked by a client during an interview- “when can you start?”- the candidate should never answer “tomorrow!” Even if this is the case (perhaps the candidate is miserable in her job or is currently unemployed) it wreaks of desperation and can subconsciously and consciously make a potential employer feel that anyone could attract this candidate because she is “easy” to get.

Also a candidate, even if very eager, should definitely take some time to review the offer letter and ensure that all the terms are acceptable. I am not implying that a candidate should play hard ball or try to negotiate just to appear savvy or get the most bang for the buck out of the client but even the most eager of candidates should take the time to make sure that the final offer is good for them.

My point is that a candidate should definitely be enthusiastic during the interview process but also play it a bit cool so as to not seem too available in the eyes of the client. It is the same advice I would give to a girl friend before a date, and it works like a charm every time!

Why you should always do your “homework” before an interview

Last week at the Melanie Andersen Agency we finally settled into our new office in the Meatpacking District. Prior to last week we were in transition, moving from SoHo to Meatpacking. During the week I was able to experience the true atmosphere of our office filled with candidate interviews, new business development meetings, and research as well as sit in on my first weekly company meeting. This week we discussed candidate interviews.

Based on what I have gathered from my time at TMAA and from discussions with other professionals, I believe a key step in the interviewing process is sometimes neglected or taken for granted. All of our lives our parents and educators have told us to “do our homework,” the same applies in regards to interviewing. Research prior to any interview is imperative. As recruiters we will do our best when briefing you in the days before your interview with the company but it is up to the candidate to peruse the company’s website or other notable material/press releases. For example before you enter an interview, be sure to familiarize yourself with the company’s initiatives or goals, check out the latest media buzz/trends in their industry or the company’s direction over the past year. There are various reasons why research will benefit both you and the company you are interviewing with. 1) How can you express to the employer that you are the right fit for a role if you do not understand the company and and its values? 2) Research helps a candidate discern if the company and role are truly the right fit for their lifestyle, and 3) By researching, a candidate assures a company that in the beginning steps they have all ready taken a interest and value the opportunity.

I am very excited that Melanie has suggested that I sit in and observe interview training and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned next week!

Candidates and Counter-Offer Motivation- Not Cool

One of the worst and unethical things a candidate can do (to a client, especially) is to go through the interview process in hopes of receiving a counter offer from their current employer. It is wrong for several reasons (in no particular order): 1) it is a waste of both the search firm’s time and the client’s time, 2) it burns bridges majorly with the client and, since these industries tend to be small, tarnish the candidate’s reputation, 3) jeopardizes the client’s opportunity of finding a great person for the role (especially if the client proceeds with one particular candidate because it seems as if the candidate is truly serious about joining the company), and 4)  creates a really bad situation at the candidate’s current company as it becomes obvious that the candidate might not be loyal and is perhaps out for money only.

I worked on a senior role and the client had put all of their eggs in the basket of one candidate. Several rounds of interviews were involved, and the role was an immediate need so the client felt that they would have a great and much needed addition to their team after making an offer. The entire process lasted for about two months, and the candidate expressed a very strong interest throughout. When the offer came, she took several days to respond and even asked a very senior client in the company to make time out of their busy day to answer questions about benefits, etc.  All parties involved believed she would accept based upon all of the signs and actions. In the end, she declined the offer and said she had received a nice counter offer from her current agency. She gave some other reasons for her decision but it was clear that more money from her current employer was the primary motivation to stay put. To note, her original reasons for wanting to seek other opportunities were based on valid concerns regarding her current agency—which could not have gone away in a week’s time!

While a candidate has any right to say “no” to an offer or ultimately decide that this isn’t the right next step, a candidate should really think things through before getting to the offer stage and should definitely not express an extreme interest in joining the company if he or she is only doing it to get a counter offer from his or her current employer.

Again this not only leaves the client in a bind with an incredibly bad taste in the mouth, but it also signals to the candidate’s current employer that he or she is actively seeking other roles—and this makes for an awkward and unstable situation ultimately.

LESSON: Candidates should pull out of the interview process at the right time (definitely before reference gathering and offer stage) if they know that they are only pursuing an opportunity to use it as leverage at their current company. It just isn’t cool.

Why You Should Never Lie about your Salary

We all want to get as much money as possible when going for a new job… As you know, a client establishes a budget range for a role and then alters it on a case by case basis depending on a candidate’s current salary, levels of experience and targeted compensation. Part of a recruiter’s job is to guide both candidates and clients regarding salary- letting the client know the “going rate” for certain roles and levels as well as keeping the candidate’s goals and expectations in check when it comes to compensation.

More often than not clients will ask a candidate to submit paystubs as proof of annual salary to avoid any type of dishonesty. The worst thing a candidate can do is lie initially about current salary as a paystub doesn’t lie. This dishonesty will most likely lead to a complete loss of the job opportunity– and a recruiter will not want to work with you again. Also, aside from being dishonest, a lying candidate also wastes a clients time majorly as they have tailored their offer based upon an incorrect figure.

So be honest throughout the process. The end goal is to get as much money as possible in the move (while being realistic of course) but honesty is always the best policy and achieves the most favorable outcome in the end for all parties.

Candidates To Limit Their Client Contact

When working with a recruiter and just in general, candidates should really limit their contact with potential employers. I will give a good example so you can see what I mean. I sent a good candidate for an interview at a reputable agency. She was totally on point in terms of personality and skillset, and she was very interested in the role and the agency. She did the right thing by sending a “thank you” email after the interview. I have stressed in the past that thank you emails/notes are very professional, appropriate, and often make a candidate stand out from the rest (I know it’s difficult to imagine but some candidates do not think to send a thank you following an interview, and this does reflect poorly on them in the eyes of the client).

In this particular case, the candidate did send a thank you but then also sent a follow up email that was a little bit quirky in hopes of being funny and perhaps seeming unique or different. The note was sent to a very senior person at the agency, and it completely turned him off from the candidate. It was unnecessary and was not entirely professional as a candidate should not be superfluously emailing/contacting a potential employer in this manner.

As a recruiter, a critical part of my job is to manage the relationship between candidates and clients throughout the interview and hiring process. Candidates should leave it to the recruiter to act as the communication liaison during these stages and truly limit interaction with the client until (fingers crossed) they have gotten the job. It is the best, smartest, and safest way to go about it. And if a candidate has a point to relay that was not stressed in the interview, for example, the candidate should speak with the recruiter instead of the client directly- and the recruiter will handle this communication in a professional way.

In this case, the candidate literally put herself out of the running through one email. The candidate’s intention may have been great, but the end result was quite negative and unfortunate.

Post from Carolyn our new intern

As the new intern at The Melanie Andersen Agency, I had no prior experience in regards to recruiting or creative industries. Honestly, I was not completely sure of what I had signed up for but when it comes to a new adventure I am always up for the challenge. This will be my third week with the ladies of TMAA and I believe that I have already picked up some information that is invaluable to any professional or company.

1. Who is the client?

The answer to this question is the cornerstone of how an executive search consultancy operates. Our clients are the companies that pay us to find them candidates. This is not to say that recruiters do not have the candidates best interests at heart or put in hours of extensive prep time with candidates prior to the screening and interview process. That being said, our primary function, as a recruiting agency is to find candidates that fit the job description given to us by the clients who we have been retained by. Each job description is customarily very detailed with specific expectations and experience required. We are not agents – this would change recruiters’ moniker from “head hunters” to “role hunters.”

2. The salary and package

Normally a high priority topic for candidates, the salary negotiation is an essential and yet sometimes tedious part of the recruiting process for the candidate, client and recruiter alike. Due to the often structured and non-negotiable terms of the job description, some candidates become slightly outlandish with their salary expectations during the negotiations. The best weapon a candidate has in their salary negotiation arsenal is research. Candidates it is crucial to know the worth your current role holds as well as the role you are interviewing for. With this information you will gain understanding of what is acceptable salary request during negotiations and what is not.

More frequently than not candidates are too concerned with the highest salary possible and lose sight of the big picture and end result, i.e. getting the job. Always remember happiness in the work place is just important as salary. It is vital handle negotiations in a respectful and polite manner because the way the candidate handles the interview process can either leave good or bad impression with both the recruiter and the potential new company.

In summary, I am looking forward to what this next week will bring and continuing to sharing what I am learning!