Look in the mirror — would you hire you?

Chris Posti
| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

If you have been interviewing but are not getting job offers, this column is for you.

Even if we have not met, I feel I know you, because I see people just like you nearly every week. Some of you I meet at professional events. Some I meet for coffee. And some of you schedule individual job coaching sessions with me.

Here are three people I've recently encountered:

• “Marie” is a lawyer who made an appointment with me for interview coaching. I asked Marie to come dressed as if she were going on a real interview. She arrived attired in a somber-looking, inexpensive and ill-fitting suit. She wore no jewelry and no make-up. Her hair was long, dark, straight, and parted down the middle.

• “Roland” is someone I met for coffee at the request of a mutual friend. Roland is nearly 60 years old and has been looking for a position in logistics management for more than a year. As he shuffled to greet me in the restaurant lobby, his shoulders drooped and he looked weary. His teeth were so yellow that my first reaction was to expect bad breath.

• “Tim” is an engineer I met at a networking event for professionals. At age 33, Tim is about 50 pounds overweight. We were introduced to one another in a warm room jammed full of people. Tim was visibly sweating. Being an introvert, he found it difficult to make eye contact when we talked.

When you read these descriptions, it is easy to discern why each of these people is not getting job offers.

Marie may have known how to present herself in front of a jury, but she certainly did not know how to do so on an interview. In fact, when I suggested that she needed a bit of a makeover, she was appalled. She insisted the content of her responses to interview questions was all that mattered. But, I informed her, this is not a court of law. This is the real world, where interviewers take into account the candidate's image, presence, body language, attire, and all sorts of qualities that may seem to have little to do with being able to perform the job at hand.

Roland obviously needs to come across as being more energetic and to get his teeth whitened.

Tim should lose some weight and get more comfortable talking with others in professional settings.

But how about you? If someone were to size up the impression you are making on interviews and in networking settings, what would they say about you? That's a hard question, because we all have our weaknesses, and as human beings, we tend to ignore our liabilities.

In order to overcome them, we first have to identify them. Then, we can take steps to change them or, at least, to temporarily mask them.

So, if you've been interviewing with no success, what can you do to change your outcome? First, look in the mirror to do a head-to-toe, honest, self-analysis. Then, videotape yourself walking and talking at an imaginary networking event.

Finally, with the help of a trusted friend or professional, do a practice round of interviewing. Solicit truthful feedback on how to improve. When the person gives feedback, don't make excuses or get defensive.

After all, once you've passed the “first impression” hurdle, you will be glad to know that your answers really do matter.

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job,” available on Amazon.com. Email your questions to her at chris@postiinc.com.

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