The saying, first impressions mean everything is one that can be applied to the interview process across industries and professions. However, for administrative and other office support professionals, the first impression can hold a bit more weight, especially in such a competitive job market.
“It’s easy to find candidates who can perform standard admin functions such as scheduling, travel arrangements, and expense reports, but those technical skills aren’t what’s going to get you the job,” explains Emily Kaplan, a Staffing Manager within The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support division. “Employers are really looking for a candidate who is going to be an excellent cultural fit. Though part of that fit does involves personality, the hiring manager is specifically looking out for signs, in the way you present yourself, that you will represent the person or department you are supporting well.”
In order to put your best foot forward and leave a positive, lasting impression at your next interview, here are Emily’s tips for success:
Practice your handshake: A firm handshake isn’t only important at the interview, but in any professional setting. “If you work in an office support capacity, you’re going to be interacting with a lot of people and shaking a lot of hands, which is why your handshake is going to be one of the first things that the hiring manager takes note of,” says Emily. “A firm handshake shows a level of self-confidence, which is a trait that most executives look out for in their assistants.”
While a strong handshake may not necessarily help you stand out against your competition, a bad handshake is hard to forget, so start practicing!
Maintain good eye contact and strong posture: Most of the work that executive assistants and other office support personnel are responsible for involves working with other people – something that not only requires excellent communication skills, but also strong nonverbal communication skills. “Eye contact and good posture are two of the strongest forms of nonverbal communication,” explains Emily. “Sitting upright and maintaining eye contact with your interviewer will show you are engaged in the conversation, interested in the role, and friendly; three things that can be indicative of how you would perform if you were offered the position.”
Be enthusiastic/exude positive energy: As an administrative professional, you’ll often find yourself balancing multiple tasks, keeping yourself and your team organized, and managing stress. If you can prove to employers that you can do all of this while maintaining a positive attitude and general enthusiasm for your work, you can expect to be in heavy consideration for the offer. To express your enthusiasm and positivity, Emily recommends, “smiling, actively listening and participating, and asking questions about the role throughout the interview.”
Be aware of your surroundings: “From the moment you walk in to the second you round the corner of the building, act the way you would if you were in the interview,” warns Emily. “Treat everyone from security to the receptionist with respect, and refrain from making any phone calls to talk about the interview until you are at least a few minutes away from the building.” For example, if someone from the company sees you being rude or is the subject of your negative attitude, they may give the hiring manager a heads up about your behavior. You can also raise some red flags about your eligibility if someone overhears you talking negatively about the interview, or openly about a confidential search. As a result, resist the temptation to call your recruiter or a friend until you can ensure you are in a private location.
“These are all general interview best practices that all office support candidates should try to abide by, regardless of whether you want the role,” says Emily. “In the professional world, you never know when you are going to run into someone you interviewed with again, and if that time ever comes, you’ll be happy you made a great first impression!”