Read This Before Your Next Interview

By Pepper de Callier

It’s safe to say that one of the key elements of any plan for boosting economic growth is human resource development.  Without talented, motivated, and skilled people to execute brilliant business strategies there wouldn’t be much happening in the way of innovation and growth. 

I would like to look at this from a different perspective, though.  My experience is that there are a lot of talented people here in the Czech Republic.  The real questions are “How do they get noticed?”   “How can they increase the odds that they’ll be hired after that interview?”  Assumption: you’re bright, you’re talented and you’re looking for a break.  Here’s how to increase the likelihood of being given the break you’re looking for.

Recently I met with several directors of human resources here in Prague and asked them this question: “Based upon the people you interview on a daily basis, what are the three most important things that you would advise potential applicants to be aware of, develop or improve upon in order to increase their likelihood of being hired.” 

Here are their answers:

1. The Blink Factor: In his recent bestseller Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes how we make decisions without thinking.  For good or for bad, our impressions of things and people are made in nano-seconds sometimes -- it is hardwired into our brain and most of the time we don’t filter the input through logic, understanding or intelligence -- it just happens.  This, of course, is a critical thing to consider when you’re going to be meeting someone for the first time who can have a direct and important impact on your life.

Here’s the Czech version of The Blink Factor through the eyes of those who might be evaluating you when you apply for your next position.  Take time to consider who you are going to be meeting with and the business environment in which you will be meeting when you put together your “look” for the interview.  The rule-of-thumb here is never let one thing about you become anegative identifier at first glance and the thing you’ll be remembered for.  The most common things our panel identified were: hair styles and colors, the length of dresses (as in too short), the length of men’s slacks—too short; men’s socks that hover around the ankle; short sleeve dress shirts on men; body odor; watches, rings, and necklaces that are so noticeable that they are distracting; facial expression (a nice smile is a critical element); handshake (is it firm?); posture (are you really interested in this meeting?).   Another point they stressed in our interviews was that it’s not about how much money you spent on your “look” -- the clothes, shoes, haircut, jewelry, etc. -- it’s about how appropriate it is to the corporate culture and position for which you are interviewing.  Still not sure what will look right?  Here’s a tip: go to the location where your interview will be taking place at the time when most people are arriving for work.  This will give you a real insight as to what is viewed as appropriate for this particular corporate culture.  

2.  Interview Preparation: This is a common complaint among human resource managers.  How well you prepare for an interview not only displays interest and intelligence, it is a predictor of how you will approach things after you’re hired.  Here are some things you should know or be aware of that will display good preparation: The name of the CEO, the company’s products and services, their locations, their market and customers, recent articles written about them or by someone in the company, any recent interviews with senior management, trends you have observed in their marketplace, why you are interested in working for this company. Now you’re ready to formulate some intelligent questions and observations that will impress your interviewer.

3. Emotional Intelligence: all through the interview the interviewer will be looking for key words or phrases that display your flexibility, humility, empathy, humor, common sense, and interest in others.  This is especially true, I’m told, as regards many young professionals who have risen very quickly, haven’t yet experienced failure and have a touch of arrogance about them or a feeling that they have all the answers, that subordinates are expendable and everything is “black or white”.  The message here is that employers aren’t impressed with “Masters of the Universe”.

Spending the time to work on just these three areas could make the difference in your next interview. 

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at

*These are reprints from Pepper de Callier‘s newspaper column in Hospodarske noviny.  

Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By

From beginning September 3rd, 2012, you will be able to start your week with an insight, or new perspective that will help you move closer to your goals as a professional and a personally fulfilling life as one of today’s most respected coaches, authors and leadership authorities, Pepper de Callier, shares his thoughts with you in a short inspirational video of two to four minutes every Monday morning on YouTube in a series titled Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By.
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