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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Interview Etiquette

Dear Sue: I am going for an interview next week and would like some information on how to sell myself to the company. Do you have any pointers?

Sue Says: I am so glad that you have already recognized the importance of "selling" yourself in the interview because that is exactly what you need to do. Your resume will sell your credentials, but in the interview, you do need to sell yourself. And that is where many people go wrong. Think about it -- if credentials were all that mattered, why would there be a job interview at all? Why won't companies hire someone from the information on a resume? It's because potential employers want to see you -- what you look like and how you handle yourself to determine if you fit the image of their organization.

Think of yourself as a gift that needs packaging -- you're smart, skilled, competent, creative and highly motivated. You're willing to do a great job, and you have the talent to do it. That's the gift. But you are the only one who knows these things about you; telling others how wonderful you are in so many words just isn't going to be the right approach.

So, what is a good approach? Packaging yourself in a way that conveys a powerful presence. You want others to know you're in charge. You want them to perceive you as more than just competent: that you're able to handle any situation and are in control.

The secret to making it happen is having a plan. In my book, How to Gain the Professional Edge, I focus heavily on the importance of planning and creating your desired image. I am amazed at how many people spend thousands of dollars and years of their time gaining knowledge, who then fail to spend any time or money on putting themselves together.

In an interview, you are the product and need to know what kind of impression you want to make. Do your homework -- gather as much information as you can about the company, including the corporate culture? Be sure you "dress to impress" because you only have one chance to make a powerful first impression.

Enter the room with confidence -- carry yourself well and hold your head high. Offer a handshake that is firm and strong. Avoid fidgeting and try not to appear nervous. Maintain eye-contact with the person you are talking with and have several questions prepared that you can ask.

Don't just dwell on your credentials -- let your personality come through! And don't be afraid to talk about your strengths and what you believe you have to contribute. Finally, be yourself -- no one can do that better than you can! Good luck.

Dear Sue: I have an interview tomorrow, and I know that they might ask me why I want to move. I don't know what to say. Can you help me?

- Stumped

Sue Says: Do you want to move? And if so, why? Your answers will probably be the best answers you can give in the interview.

There is no "correct" answer, but if you are willing and able to move, focus on the reasons why -- perhaps you are ready for a change or like the idea of experiencing life in a new city. Maybe this is a time in your life when you are not tied down and you want to take advantage of it by moving around

As long as you are open to moving and are positive about it, you are most likely going to give the answers the interviewer needs to hear.

Dear Sue: I am an executive. Recently, at a meeting with strangers, my boss said "Shut up" as I was making a point. How would you handle this?

- Shocked

Sue Says: If this was the first time something like this happened, I can understand why you were shocked. If he talks to you in this manner other times, but you were surprised because he did it in front of other people, you still have a problem.

I definitely would approach your boss and tell him that you were shocked when he told you to "shut-up" at the meeting and that it made you feel very uncomfortable. Ask him to explain why he reacted that way. Let him know that in the future you would appreciate it if he would find a more respectful way to talk to you or wait to air his negative comments in private.

You might mention that this will make both of you look much better in the eyes of others.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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