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Interview tips worth chewing on

By Kavita Gosyne, The Graduate – 05/03/2006 – 12:00am

Last week we went through a step-by-step guide about your first business lunch. However due to a surprising number of you who have been in a situation where a job interview is conducted over coffee or even lunch, I went back to the experts to find out more about this new casual style of job interviewing.

“Job interview lunches are becoming increasingly more popular as executives are discovering how much more information is revealed about a candidate when they are in a relaxed setting,” says Robin Jay, author of The Art Of The Business Lunch.

Jay dedicated a chapter in her book to this situation. She says employers find it easier to learn more about a candidate in this way than during an office interview.

When participating in a meeting over a meal — despite the relaxed atmosphere — you must remain professional.

“If you want to make a lasting impression, then it pays to be on your best business behaviour at any such meal. Of course, you need to be knowledgeable in your field, but you also need the style and grace to see you through these events,” says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette For Dummies.

“You only get one chance! Psychologists tell us that most people form impressions of others in the first four minutes and that 80 per cent of the impression is based on non-verbal signs,” Fox adds.

“In other words, what comes out of your mouth has very little to do with how people judge you. And, once a first impression is made, it’s very hard to get people to change that judgment.”

Your appearance carries a lot of weight during the first meeting. Clothes can be a nonverbal mode of communication, according to Fox. Reflecting a professional, clean image is essential. “Package yourself professionally, but also package yourself so you can be happy in your own skin and content with the impression you make on others,” suggests Fox. “Keep it simple, professional, and sophisticated. You want your confidence to come from your professional abilities rather than be put on with the latest trends in fashion.”

Jay agrees dress is important, but reminds candidates to also bring their portfolio or any helpful materials. “You should dress as though you already have the job,” suggests Jay. “If you have a portfolio with past projects, letters of reference or other helpful materials, by all means bring it along. Then look for the right opportunity to present that which you brought.”

At the end of most interview lunches the employer picks up the bill, although Jay says offering to pay is a nice gesture.

“At the very least, when they reach to pay for the bill say, ‘Thank you so much for lunch and for the opportunity to get to learn more about you and your company.’”

Remember a lunch interview is still an interview. It’s about learning if you are the right fit for the job.

“They are first and foremost trying to get to know you, and to size you up for the job,” reminds Jay. “It’s never just about lunch!”

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