by Anne Pryor

Did you see the new CBS show called The Job on Friday night?  Five people were interviewed on live TV for the Assistant General Manager job at The Palm, a restaurant that prides itself on hiring the best people and creating a family atmosphere.  I’ve dined at the New York restaurant and it was wonderful, friendly, and fun – the place to be and to be seen.

The first thing that I noticed during the candidate’s introductions to the panel, which included the Chairman / Owner, VP and GM, was that only one candidate shared how he could add value to the company.  The rest focused on what they wanted from the experience.  Friends, it’s not about you – it’s about what you can do for the employer.

Here are the basics to making meaningful connections during the interview:

  • First Impressions are Lasting Impressions – make sure your physical appearance is pristine.  Polish your brand statement and your shoes, make sure your hands and finger nails are clean, press your clothes, act confident (even if you’re not), use a firm handshake and smile. TIP: Have a friend or coach check out your dress prior to the interview.  If you have to drive a distance or fly to the interview, don’t wear your interview clothes to the meeting – hand-carry them with you and make sure the clothes are well-pressed. If you are in need of a new wardrobe for interviewing there are charities in your city that can help.  In the Twin Cities contact Ready For Success.
  • SMILE – Even when you’re nervous, especially when you’re nervous, smile.  This emits trust, approachability, and it breaks the ice. Be conscious and aware of your expressions.  This takes some work, and I suggest you work on it. When I video tape my clients in a mock interview situation it’s the first thing that they often notice – they have not smiled during the entire interview.  TIP: Do a mock interview with a coach or friend to get prepared.
  • Come Prepared – ask meaningful and relevant questions about the company, products, process and strategy. In group interviews, make sure that you have prepared appropriate and relevant questions for each interviewer’s role. The ops person will want to know that you understand and care about ops; the general manager will want to know that you understand strategy, numbers  and the big picture; and the chef will want to know that you know how many ounces are in 2 pounds of lobster. TIP: Check the LinkedIn profiles of your interviewers.
  • Know the Company / Product – research the company, understand the values, mission, vision – it’s usually on their website.  Go so far as visit the company, restaurant, establishment and talk to the employees.  In the interview, tell a positive story about your visit with the employee.    TIP: Set up a Google Alert prior to the interview so that you can have the most up to the minute information about the company, product or industry.
  • Make Eye Contact – practice this – it’s important to show trust, interest, engagement and confidence.  I was once on a panel interview with my boss and colleague meeting with a candidate for a sales job.  My colleague was the youngest in the room and the interviewee never looked at him. After the interview, my colleague said that he would not even consider hiring this candidate because he felt ‘dissed’  because the candidate never once looked at him during the one hour interview.  I recall it well and felt uncomfortable during the session. TIP: There’s a good book that I recommend called The Power of Eye Contact.

Most of all – be yourself.  Your bright and beautiful self.  And, make sure that you have the basics covered to make that meaningful first and lasting impression.  Good luck, my friends.  We’re here to help.

Oh, congratulations and good luck to Alex, the new Assistant General Manager of The Palm.