How a potential employer perceives you during the interview will be key in determining whether or not you are hired and you have an opportunity to influence that perception by “selling yourself” throughout the entire interview process. Although the interviewer has a general view of your background from your resume and cover letter, it’s up to you to expand and enhance that view and demonstrate that you are qualified and will “fit-in” with the company. I’ve seen instances where a great interview has offset a candidate’s competitively lesser skill set leading to getting the job. For new graduates, a great interview can influence an employer’s judgment so much that even if your attendance or grade average is slightly lower than other applicants, you still have a good chance of getting the job. Displaying knowledge and confidence when answering questions and exhibiting solid communication skills during an interview gives an employer insight to how you might act with clients. Think of yourself as a company owner, wouldn’t you want a person that demonstrated those qualities working with your clients? Any Element of the Interview Process can be “The Deciding Factor” It’s important to understand that any element of the interview process, beyond the interview questions, can be the deciding factor in hiring an applicant, including the events leading up to, and after the actual interview. Take advantage of maximizing each element to support your over-arching sales message – you are the best candidate for the job. Employers have told me that when interviewing candidates with similar skill sets, they look closely at how each candidate “performs” during the entire interview process. Of course some employers place more emphasis on specific elements than others. I had one employer tell me that she refused to hire a qualified candidate because the candidate knew nothing about her company. Another employer canceled an interview and would not reschedule because the candidate arrived late. I could go on with more examples, the point is, you must be prepared and at your best in every step of the interview process. Clearly, employers will correlate your interview performance to your potential work performance (i.e. late to interview – late to work.) Their perceptions will be based on; how you dress, your body language, what you know about the company/job/interviewer, your arrival time, your greeting including the hand shake, how you end and leave the interview, as well as how you respond to interview questions and which questions you ask the interviewer. So remember, with everything involved in having a great interview, preparation is the key! Before you go that next interview, prepare for every part of the interview process. From doing your homework in researching the company, position, and the interviewer to practicing responses to commonly asked interview questions out loud. Do you know what the most commonly asked interview question is? I’ll cover that next.