Presentation is Everything
Going out and getting a job is a forgotten art. While the Japanese economy wasn't so great during the nineties, most of us somehow managed to hold down a long-term job. But the last 12 months have changed everything, and lots of mid-career people are finding themselves out pounding the streets again.
Part of what we all learn when going to our very first job interview is to wear a suit, shine your shoes, and sit up straight. Presentation is important, because if you're straight out of school, you don't have much else to offer. What mid-career people often don't realize is that it's even more critical for them than for school-leavers to have the right presentation. Why? Well, regardless of the reason you're job hunting, the person on the other side of the table just HAS to be thinking, "How come this person doesn't have a job? What's wrong that I'm not being told about?" So HR managers are looking for every clue possible.
Presentation is a broad term. Superficially it means how you're dressed. Last year, we were interviewing for a recruiting consultant trainee here at DaiJob.com. The candidate sounded great on the phone, and indeed was quite self-confident. But, we asked ourselves, why did she wear sandals and a casual sweater to a job interview that offers a salary at a mid- to upper-management level? It wasn't the sandals we objected to, per se, it was the probable lack of judgement by the candidate - this is someone we were considering to have represent the company to our customers.
Presentation also applies to your interviewing technique. These involve things that you can learn and control, versus your core personality, which you probably can't control. For example, what is your body language - do you show energy and enthusiasm as you're being asked questions? Do you enunciate properly? What are you saying about yourself and how do you say it?
You also need to anticipate some of the little interviewer tricks and practice your "disaster recovery" technique for questions that you don't know the answer to. Some of the tricks include being asked the 5 best and worst things about you. I mean, for crying out loud, how do you say something negative and honest without damaging yourself? The answer is simple: present something harmless, such as "I probably pay too much attention to the detailsﾉ" That's a classic negative turned into a positive! What you're really being asked here is, can you think on your feet, and how do you handle difficult situations.
When I interview a candidate, I generally make up my mind in the first few minutes about whether the person will fit in the organization. I look for body language, and that "sparkle" of intelligence in the candidate's eyes. This is because I'm an entrepreneur and go for that kind of stuff. So as a last point, I believe that you have to know your target audience (the interviewer) and try to tailor your presentation accordingly. For example, for a corporate HR manager, rather than projecting independence of action and strength - which might impress an entrepreneur - you might be better off showing that you can listen as well as talk, and that you are somewhat compliant and dependable as well as being a thinker and doer.