November 3, 2010— -- By now, we've all heard the same oft-repeated recommendations for acing a job interview: research the company -- and your interviewers -- ahead of time:
Study your resume so no one can stump you on its claims. Practice your answers ahead of time. Break the ice by mentioning a hobby, alma mater or former city of residence that you and your interviewer share. Ask plenty of questions. Take notes if you have to. Look sharp. Don't fidget. Ooze enthusiasm. Be polite to receptionists and assistants. Turn off your cell phone. Don't show up drunk, gassy, sweaty or accompanied by your mom. Send a thank-you note after the fact.
But what about the lesser-known interviewing code of conduct? If you're new to job hunting or you've been out of the interviewing loop for a decade or two, you'll likely have countless questions -- for example: How long should my answers be? What should I do with my hands when I'm talking? What emergency provisions should I bring? How can I let them know I'm ready to start on Monday without sounding like a total suck-up?
For insider suggestions, I polled dozens of recruiters, hiring managers and interview coaches. Their top tips follow.
"Sometimes the most tricky interview question is 'Tell me a little bit about yourself,'" said Rahul Yohd, an executive recruiter with the firm Link Legal Search Group in Dallas.
"This is one of the most critical questions in any interview, not only because it is usually one of the first questions asked, but because it is one of the few times in the interview where you can take control," he said. Unfortunately, he added, "It's almost impossible to effectively condense your entire life into a 60- to 90-second response."
To avoid crossing the line between informative answer and off-the-rails ramble, Yohd recommends "scripting out" your response and rehearsing it aloud until perfect.
"Bullet-point out the four to six areas of your life, mostly professional, that you feel will be important for the interviewer to know about," he explained. "Then refine it to where the answer takes no longer than 60 to 90 seconds to deliver."
There's being animated in the interview, and then there's punctuating every sentence you utter with jazz hands. To strike the right balance, Lisa McDonald of Career Polish, Inc., a job search consulting firm based in Fishers, Ind., recommends mimicking your interviewer "to make sure your body language does not overpower theirs."
For all the big "hand talkers" out there, McDonald offers this advice: "Put the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb and press your fingernail into the pad of your thumb. This helps you be aware of your hands without being noticeable."
On the flip side, introverts should pay attention to whether they're actually making eye contact with their interviewer -- a must if you want to come across as reliable and confident.
"It sounds so basic, but try video-taping a mock interview and see whether or not you are actually comfortable with this," said Corinne Gregory, president of SocialSmarts, a consultancy based in Bellevue, Wash. that helps people hone their social skills. "You'll probably find you are looking around, looking away much more than you think you are."
Fortunately, Gregory has an easy remedy: "Look [your interviewer] in the eyes when you begin a point, then look just below the eyes or to one side of the nose. Finish by looking the person in the eyes again at the end of your statement."
It may sound simple, but if you haven't interviewed in a couple of years, it's all too easy to leave the house without change for the parking meter or any other interviewing essentials. For this reason, experts suggest assembling a survival kit ahead of time and leaving it in your car or briefcase. Among the necessary items: