A sign of these digital times, more and more job searchers are contacting me not to edit or ghostwrite their marketing materials.
No, it isn't the resume and cover letter they are concerned about. Those have been good enough to get them The Interview. However, how they managed themselves during that process didn't get them the offer for a job or a contract assignment. Presenting ourselves in person has become a lost art for Generation X and even Baby Boomers. Millennials might never have had the fundamentals drilled into them.
To begin with, presentation of self is a continuum. It starts as soon as we enter the employer's space. That continues in how we sit in on the sofa, how we greet the interviewer and how we accept the invitation to sit down in the interior office.
You bet, we are being watched at every point in that process. The interviewer will probably ask the receptionist what he or she "thinks" of us. If our facial expressions weren't friendly and our body language not relaxed, the impression we made might have been negative.
During the actual interview, the oldest fundamental applies. As sociologist Erving Goffman hammered in his classic "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life," the person with the most power defines or sets the rules for the interaction. The interviewer has the power. We follow the lead. If the person is stiff, we pull out our buttoned-down persona. If the person is expansive and invites chattiness, we take out the practiced script on our background. If the person is all-business we align our commentary to information which will help those hiring make the choice.
How to improve interviewing skills? Observe how folks handle themselves in the media. Deconstruct the presentation habits of successful people at work. Role play with an ally who knows the score about professional interactions. With attention paid and practice, we get better at this.