You've finally latched on to a job lead and are facing THE INTERVIEW. And now the big question: What image to project this time? Laid-back liberal, crisp conservative, glowing health and fitness?
But before you decide on your image, you must first psych up that unpsyched body and mind. Look yourself in the mirror . . . slap a cheek . . . do a few "Rocky" steps in place . . .close the bathroom door and say nice things to yourself.
Forget everything you've ever read, heard, read again and heard again about that cliche' of cliche's: "Dress for Success."
The crucial point to remember is that each of us can present a veritable kaleidoscope of images. You must stereotype your interview situations. (And while you're at it, forget what your mom told you about never stereotyping. Chances are your mother didn't have a job.)
And now for a real-life example of the interview-image game:
Monday: Interview at a liberal, progressive, advertising agency downtown. You better believe I stereotyped. I frizzed out my hair to its full capacity (about half an hour with a finger in the socket). For those of you who have a similar interview scheduled in New York: Allow one full hour . . . and wet your finger first.
Next I put on a tailored but somewhat trendy suit . . . colored stockings . . . art-deco jewelry and "go-get 'em" makeup. Music to dress by: deep bass, heart-palpitating Top 20 stuff. I had some black coffee (advertisers never have time to eat) and was all set. I took full advantage of my New Yawk accent.
My advertising interview went just fine. They said they would call Friday.
Tuesday: Interview at a conservative--we are talking right-wing--D.C. law firm. I got up early to de-frizz my hair.
It was hard to believe the same liberal face that stared back from the mirror 24 hours ago was now being transformed into a conservative. With my hair back off my face, I regretted that I didn't have an interview for a dish washing liquid (or some other Florence Henderson-type commercial) lined up instead.
My crisp white blouse was buttoned to the chin. This critical garment performs two purposes: It projects a conservative look and it forces you to keep your neck stretched just far enough to cause your nose to automatically point up in a confident and self-assured manner. (We've all read about the importance of exuding confidence.)
I tied a little preppy ribbon around my stretched neck and added pearls (a must). I put on regular stocking-colored hose, turned off my New York accent and switched on Muzak to eat my breakfast by. Corn flakes with sliced banana, a vitamin and I was off.
My law-office interview went just fine. They said they would call Friday.
Wednesday: Two interviews scheduled one hour apart. (I'd like to challenge Dustin Hoffman to a quick-change contest.)
The first was at a health spa, an easy interview to prepare for. I wore designer sweats and sneakers. Makeup was limited, a little artificial color on my cheeks to look as if I just jogged over. Jane Fonda blasted in the background as I prepared breakfast: a blender health shake.
I told the interviewer the reason I couldn't look him in the eye--as you are supposed to when interviewing--was that I always hold my neck in an exercised position. Good, you know, for circulation. I carried my clothes for my next interview in a trusty gym bag, which I told the spa interviewer I never leave home without.
My fitness interview went just fine. They said they would call Friday.
Next: A posh restaurant. I was beginning to feel schizophrenic. Just one hour ago, I had been preaching the benefits of a total fitness and nutritional program, and here I was promoting chocolate mousse with whipped cream.
I felt great in my loose-fitting, floral-print hostess dress (maybe because of the relief from letting out my stomach after one hour of holding it in at the health spa).
My culinary interview went just fine. They said they would call Friday.
Thursday: Interview at a major publication. I didn't know how to stereotype this one.
I decided to go as myself. All I had to do was combine a little something from each of the other interviews: tailored suit, art-deco jewelry, slightly toned down New York accent (as if I only went to college there) and, of course, the health club hold-in-the-stomach trick.
The interview went just fine. They said they would call Friday.
Friday was spent next to the phone. It rang. Oh no, I thought, how do I know who it is? I mean, should I let my New York accent flow? Should I sound out of breath as if I were just interrupted from my Jane Fonda workout? Should there be a whir of a blender in the background?
I had to answer the phone. The phone had an "advertising" ring to it. A ring is a ring to an employed person, but to the unemployed nervous, it takes on a definite tone. I was sure it was the ad agency . . . I must have sounded chic and trendy after all. I let my New York accent roll full force.
It was the publication job calling. They asked for me by name. "Oh," I answered, "hold please, I'll get her."
I paused, changed ears and said hello in a toned-down voice.
I got the job.
Friday Evening: Celebration at that luxurious restaurant where I had been interviewed. I wore my designer sweats and sneakers, art-deco jewelry, talked modified New Yawkese, held in my stomach and consumed mountains of chocolate mousse and whipped cream.