Interview Best Practices For Private Service Professionals

It is not unusual to be nervous prior to an interview. Practice does make perfect, but, let’s face it, we do not want to spend the rest of our lives in interviews trying to perfect our skills in that area. If we are always interviewing, it goes without saying that we also are not working. Obviously, this is not the desired outcome of an interview.

Here are some tips to help prepare yourself for a successful interview.

1. WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU?

  • Pen and pad to take notes

  • 2 extra copies of your resume

  • A list of sensible and position-related questions. Do not ask questions that are self-focused like vacation time, sick-day policy, etc. Try to ask questions that give the interviewer a sense that you are interested and engaged by the position.

2. ATTIRE:

  • Present yourself professionally

  • You can never go wrong in business attire

  • Trying to guess the dress code for the position is risky, which is why business attire is always a safe bet

  • Make sure that your shoes are well polished and that your laces are not fraying. People look for the details and they want to be reassured that you do as well.

  • Your clothes should be spotless

  • NEVER wear fragrances or scented body lotion

  • Keep jewelry to a minimum

  • Make sure that your nails are in good condition and clean

  • Men, make sure you are properly shaved

  • Brush your teeth beforehand and floss. There are few things worse than interviewing someone with a piece of spinach stuck between their teeth.

  • Use mouthwash and have a breath mint handy.

  • Brush or comb your hair. I am always incredulous about having to remind people about this most basic of grooming items.

  • Generally, you should be well-groomed. If that includes getting your haircut before an important interview, do it.

3. BE PREPARED

  • Interviews generally consist of standard questions like “tell me about yourself.” This is a frequent opening question. It is an icebreaker, but it is also an opportunity for the interviewee to shine. Be succinct in your answer. Be interesting, but stay focused in your answer on the position at hand.

  • Think about the position and consider the kinds of questions that you might be asked. Prepare answers ahead of time that reference your experience, accomplishments, and skills.

  • Have a friend interview you in advance. Get them to ask you some tough questions and then ask them to evaluate your performance. Wash and repeat.

  • Be on time. In Private Service, do not be early for an interview. If your appointment is at 10 am, you arrive at 10 am. This is an area of difference between Private Service and a corporate interview.

  • Be upbeat and positive. If the first words to come out of your mouth is a complaint about the weather, you are not off to a good start. 

  • Do not eat anything heavy beforehand. A power shake or smoothie is a good idea. A heavy pasta, laced with garlic is not.

  • Do not smoke beforehand. Many homes are non-smoking environments these days. The smell of cigarette smoke will be invasive and unwelcome in such environments. Non-smoking Employers will be anxious to get you out of their home environment. Needless to say, this is not the desired outcome.

  • I can’t emphasize this next one enough… TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE! No explanation why should be required.

4. THE GREETING

  • Be yourself… Just be your best self. There is no point in pretending to be some other person. It is an act that will ultimately lead to unhappiness and failure.

  • As mentioned previously, be friendly and upbeat

  • Treat everyone whom you encounter exactly as you would the final decision maker

  • Wait for the interviewer (the person of authority) to offer their hand for a handshake. If they do not offer their hand, do not extend yours. 

  • When you shake a hand, it should not be a bone-crushing experience

  • If you happen to be sitting down, stand up to shake the person’s hand

  • A handshake is never more than 2 to 5 seconds long in duration and the motion is up and down. The hands meet thumb web to thumb web. 

  • It is during this time when you state a greeting like “Hello Mrs. Jones. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

  • Always pay attention to the other person’s hand. If it is injured, offer your left hand instead.

  • When greeting everyone, make eye contact

  • Stand until the interviewer sits. Once they sit, that is your cue to sit down as well.

  • Do not “ooo and ahhh” over the environment. One of the perks of working in Private Service is that one gets to work in some spectacular settings. An interview, however, is not the time to ogle over the Matisse. Be moderate and discreet. It is okay to say, at an appropriate time, “You have a lovely home, Mrs. Jones.”

  • Be aware of different cultural customs and follow them

5. REMEMBER YOUR BODY LANGUAGE

  • You should look alert and engaged

  • Stand straight when standing. Sit straight when sitting. Never slouch.

  • Maintain eye contact… always

  • Make sure that your facial expressions are in alignment with the conversation’s subject matter

  • Never cross your arms

  • Do not fidget or play with your hair or click a pen repeatedly

  • Have pen and paper ready, but only use it when necessary. Don’t doodle out of nervousness.

  • Demonstrate that you are actively listening. For example, nod your head in understanding when appropriate.

6. ANSWERING QUESTIONS

  • Again, try to be prepared for the kinds of questions you are likely to be asked

  • Your answers should be succinct and appropriate

  • Long, rambling answers are one of the surest ways to torpedo an interview

  • Speak clearly. Enunciate and do not mumble.

  • AVOID, at all costs, “Yes” and “No” answers. Provide context to your responses. For example, “Yes, I know how to manage a wine cellar. I managed a 5,000 bottle collection for my previous employer and installed a management system to track the cellar contents between homes.”

  • Be honest. While you want to present yourself and your experience in the best light possible, it is never okay to outright lie. You will be caught and eliminated from the hiring process if you do. It is never worth it.

  • NEVER trash-talk a previous employer. We have all experienced problematic employment situations. Be diplomatic and respectful in your answer and explanation. A future Employer will feel uncomfortable if they hear a previous Employer being indiscreetly bad-mouthed. They will think that if you are prepared to speak ill about a past Employer, you will be willing to do the same to a future Employer.

  • If you do not understand a question, ask your interviewer if they can rephrase the question. Never try to “wing” your answers.

  • Use professional language and avoid slang

  • Even if the question “Why would it be a mistake not to hire you?” is never asked, know the answer. Weave your reasons into all of your other answers. All successful interviews hinge on convincing the interviewer that it is you, above all the other Candidates, who can bring the most value to the Employer. If you can do that, it is a good bet that the job will be yours.

7. ASKING QUESTIONS

  • Interviews often close with the question “Do you have any questions for me?” You should be prepared with two or three position-appropriate and insightful questions.

  • Do not use this opportunity to ask about vacation time or sick-day policy. While these items are important, the interview is not the occasion to ask about them.

  • Instead, ask questions that will pique the interest of the interviewer. For example, if you are interviewing as a Private Chef, it is very appropriate to ask the interviewer what their favourite cookbook is or if there are any food-related allergies you should be aware of.

  • Base your questions on what you think matters most to the interviewer. This requires forethought.

8. CLOSING THE DEAL

  • It is okay to ask about next steps and the timetable in the hiring process

  • Make sure that the interviewer knows you are interested in the position. It is a mistake to come across as blasé.

  • Make sure to thank the interviewer for their time. Let them know that it was a pleasure to meet them and that you enjoyed the conversation.

  • If appropriate (it is not always the case in Private Service), follow up with a thank you email or a hand-written thank you note. Sometimes, an intermediary, like a Recruiter, can be used for this purpose.

A lot of the skills associated with interviews are a matter of common sense. It does help, however, to periodically remind yourself about the formula for a successful interview. It has always been my belief that the most important bottom-line is to conduct yourself professionally. It will always translate in a positive way.

© Portico Inc., 2017

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