This is the first in a series of interview tips that I have assembled over my many years as both a marketer and talent guide.  My hope is that these tips give some insight to candidates as they prepare for interviews and their next great adventure.

Prior to my becoming a talent guide over a decade ago, I was constantly contacted by recruiters that were conducting searches for roles that they did not understand.  Moreover, when the role itself piqued my interest they were not able to clearly explain the role and responsibilities.  How can you find great talent if you aren’t clear about the opportunity?

Further, when I agreed to interview for the role, the recruiter would never conduct any kind of prep with me.  I always considered this bizarre.  Why waste your client’s valuable time with someone that is not prepared to tell their story?  After all, many of the best candidates rarely interview as they are too busy delivering exceptional results in their current companies, so preparing them for the interview only ensures that they clearly explain how their background and skills fit the role.  On the other hand, some of the best interviewees are the best because they are interviewing all the time.

Interview Tip #1:  Do you want the job or not?

Believe it or not I have said this more times than I care to mention to a candidate prior to an interview.  Usually, it is preceded by the candidate saying something like “I know that they are business casual so why do I need to wear a suit?”.  Or in our now Zoom enabled world “It’s only a Zoom call why do I need to dress up?”.

Each time my response has been “Do you want the job or not?”.  Now granted what makes for business attire has dramatically changed over the years.  And our Work from Home current reality has made it so other than sweats, I am not sure what people wear daily.  That said, I always put on my marketer’s hat -to say, “What would give me an advantage or disadvantage?”.  While dressing up might not give you an advantage, it would surely be a disadvantage if all other candidates dressed up.

Similarly, in our video interview world, I have coached candidates to make sure that their video camera is properly positioned and that their background is neat and well organized.  You do not have to have it look like you are going for 10 out of 10 on Room Rater.  But you do not want your interviewer to think you are sloppy or have some other disqualifying attribute.  And yes, they do look.  And no, using the virtual background does not make it better.

The same can be said of anything else that your interviewer might find fault with whether that is hair, other personal adornments, or an affinity for My Little Pony, which is poised on a shelf behind you.  You want to be viewed as a smart, organized professional.  Anything that detracts from that message is self-defeating.  So, do what you can to make sure the interviewer is impressed with your professionalism because you never know what the other candidates are doing.

Once you have landed the role, of course you should dress similarly to your new co-workers (I still say a step better is a good long-term career choice).  Until then, “Do you want the job or not?”.