Did You Lose the Job Before You Even Met Your Interviewer? (Tips for a successful interview)

Cathy Reeves

You are ready for your interview.  You have done your homework; checked the website and prepared some pertinent questions to ask.  However, before stepping into your interview, consider the complex system of verbal and non-verbal clues that reveal who you are to those around you.  Your manners.  Your arrival time.  Your clothes.  Your eyes.  Your handshake.  Your words.  These all can help you get the job – or doom you to lose it before your interview even takes place.  A few tips:

  • Before the interview – Perhaps you forgot or misplaced the date or time and are forced to re-find out this information.  Take a moment to prepare before you call.  Think about the words you will use.  Avoid verbiage like “forgot,” ”misplaced” or “I don’t know.”  Since the person who answers the phone is probably not your interviewer, you might assume that your words don’t matter.  But they do.  This person can infer things about you from the language you use and may pass this information on to your actual interviewer.  Words like “forget,”  “misplace,” and “I don’t know” may be the truth but they indicate a lack of attention to detail.  Instead, consider   “re-confirm” or “double-check.”  These words indicate a desire to be accurate and do not reflect badly on you.
  • If you agree to an interview, but do not show up at the appointed time, do not call later asking to reschedule.  (Yes, this really happens.)
  • Is your voicemail box set up on your phone?  If yes, is it full?  If you cannot be reached, you may lose the opportunity for an interview or lose a job offer.
  • On the day of the interview, overdress: a jacket, shirt and tie; dress slacks or a dress; a suit; nice shoes.  We can’t stress this enough.  What you wear is not just a reflection of your personal style – it is a statement of respect for the company interviewing you.  It tells those around you how important you think this job could be.  Leave the baseball cap, the dangling key chain, the super-sparkly t-shirt, and the tennis shoes at home – and, for the love of all that is good, invest in an iron.  First impressions are strong, make yours a good one.
  • Treat every person with respect.  Every single one of them.  That person in the elevator who just happened to ride with you could be the owner of the company.  That front office person who greets you could be part of the hiring team.  Everyone you encounter is a part of your interview.  Be polite. Smile.  If given the opportunity, shake hands firmly (more about that later) and look them in the eye (more about this, too).  If you are dismissive to anyone, your behavior can telegraph condescension.
  • A strong handshake is an invaluable asset.  A firm (but not painful) clasp of the hand allows you to communicate confidence without bragging.  A dead fish handshake (weak, limp) or the dreaded fingertip handshake (yuck) can give a negative impression before you even open your mouth.
  • Eye contact speaks volumes.  You may be the most intelligent person in the room, but if you don’t look someone in the eye when you speak, you communicate at the very best, discomfort – at the very worst, dishonesty.
  • ALWAYS bring a copy of your resume and references.  ALWAYS.
  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early – it is safe to assume there will be some form of paperwork to fill out.  At the very least, you will never be late!
  • Also, never be late.

Your actual answers to interview questions will matter, of course – and we hope you answer them well.  Taking into consideration all that people can learn from your behavior, words, and style before your actual interview will help you walk confidently to meet with people who are truly interested to hear what you have to say.   Good luck!


Cathy Reeves is part of the McManis Faulkner’s administrative team.  She is responsible for the staff hiring and coordinates the firm’s employee relations activities.  For more information, please visit

About the author Cathy Reeves

Cathy is a member of McManis Faulkner’s administrative team. In her role as coordinator of the firm’s employee relations activities, Cathy is responsible for the staff hiring and orientation process as well as administering the firm’s insurance policies and other benefit programs.