In the summer of 1983, I graduated from college and moved into a tiny studio apartment with two friends. I desperately needed income, but had no clue what kind of job I wanted.
My brand new B.A. in Psychology was nice to look at, but qualified me for nothing in particular. And my work experience consisted of several years of part-time cashiering in my dad's store. Needless to say, I had not exactly been proactive in my career planning, and I had no resume.
To make matters worse, I knew exactly seven things about job interviews:
- Be polite.
- Don't be late.
- Wear a suit.
- Give a firm handshake.
- Make eye contact.
- Don't take the seat at the head of the table.
- Write a thank-you note.
Unprepared but determined, I sat down with the Help Wanted section of The Boston Globe and tried to find a job. When I spotted the ad for a "People Person," I got all excited. I didn't know exactly what a people person was, but I was pretty sure I was qualified to be one.
I called the number in the ad and, believe it or not, it was a legitimate job opening for a front-desk assistant in a very reputable dental practice in Boston. The dentist's wife Arline managed the office. Arline and I clicked on the phone, and scheduled a time to meet the very next day. My first real job interview!
Just one problem: My electric typewriter was in storage, and no one I knew had a computer yet, so I had no choice but to sit down and literally write my resume.
With a pen.
So I did.
And I got the job!
Months later, Arline told me she'd been ready to make me an offer almost as soon as I walked through the door, because I was the first candidate to arrive on time, wearing a suit. And my embarrassing handwritten resume? That's actually what sold her. When she saw my neat handwriting, she knew her appointment book would never be messy again. And, she figured if I would go to the trouble to hand-write an entire resume, I would probably be a good worker.
What's my point?
In a job interview, it's important to realize you're being evaluated in ways you might not expect. Every little thing you do or say contributes to the overall impression you're making. Seemingly insignificant details can make a big difference. Nobody likes to shake hands with a bone crusher or a dead fish. That was true in 1983, and it's still true today.
Despite all the changes in the hiring process over the past quarter century, I believe most hiring managers still place a lot of importance on the little niceties embodied in the 7-point list. Do you agree?
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