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Acing the Interview

Career Resource Center

Acing the Interview

Interview checklist- What to bring

  • A copy of your resume for each person that you will be interviewing with, as well as a few additional copies
  • Portfolio and pen
  • Your written questions
  • Directions and names of interviewers
  • List of carefully chosen and impressive references who have been informed ahead of time as to what position you are interviewing for and what important qualities you’d like them to stress
  • Letters of recommendation to reinforce your positive qualities and distinguish you from the competition if you have them
  • If possible, bring powerful samples of your work to back-up your resume
  • Bring phone number of company in case of a delayed arrival

Tips for the interview day

  • On the day of the interview, reread your resume and cover letter
  • Take a few moments to check your appearance before entering the interview location
  • When entering the office, keep it simple without a lot of bags and luggage
  • Have a breath mint, no gum
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early and kindly check in with the receptionist. Go out of your way to be polite to everyone you encounter, smile often
  • Turn off your cell phone before entering the building
  • Greet the interviewer in a friendly, but professional manner.
  • Introduce yourself with confidence
  • Use a firm handshake, direct eye contact and a friendly smile
  • Remain standing until you are offered a seat
  • Be mindful of your non-verbal communication skills and your posture
  • Listen attentively and concentrate. Reply precisely to each question that is asked, and never interrupt the interviewer
  • Retain the interviewer’s attention by varying the tone of your voice and the tempo of your speech and show enthusiasm for the position
  • Always speak positively about past employers and managers, even if you weren’t treated properly
  • Communicate clearly and effectively by always using correct grammar and pronunciation, no jargon or slang
  • Keep issues work-related, not personal
  • Don’t ask about salary, benefits, or vacation time in the interview
  • When walking through the office, notice the presence/absence of pictures on desks and other details to gather if the culture is in line with your values
  • Practice your answers so that you don’t seem rehearsed- you want to paraphrase what you’ve prepared so that you come across genuine and not canned or impersonal
  • Go beyond the job description- showcase examples of your skills and how they can really contribute to the position, not only in the day-to-day job responsibilities, but in the long-term
  • Give solid reasons to explain why you left previous jobs
  • Remember to ask for the job, at a minimum, what you can do to move the interview process forward
  • Always extend a thank you, both at the close of the interview and in your follow-up effort

Body Language 
Body Language is of critical importance. Positive, upright and open body language shows self-confidence and interest. Most of the time we are unaware of our gestures and body movements, but these unconscious forms of expression have a language all their own. Nonverbal communication sets the stage for the interview- from the time you are introduced to the final handshake.

How to present yourself

  • The handshake
    Never give a handshake while seated. When you meet a prospective employer stand up, make eye contact, and offer a firm, but not overpowering, handshake with one or two pumps from the elbow to the hand. The proper handshake should be firm, dry and confident with strong eye contact.
  • Eye contact
    Making good eye contact is essential, especially as you say hello and smile to greet your interviewer. During the entire interview maintain a moderate amount of eye contact with the interviewer, without staring. If there are multiple interviewers be sure to address each person briefly with your gaze, and then return your focus to the person who asked you the question. Your eyes can also be a window to observing little facts about the interviewer. Look around to notice company literature, bulletin boards, personal mementos, photos, etc. in the interviewer’s office. Use these observations to make conversation and break the ice.
  • The greeting 
    While smiling and making eye contact, speak aloud the name of the person you are introduced to. Follow their name up with a “Nice to meet you”. Saying the name of the person you are meeting establishes a connection to that person, shows that you are paying attention, and also helps you to remember their name. When entering the room, you want to appear confident.
  • After the greeting
    Remain standing, until you are offered a seat. Once seated, sit up straight, leaning slightly forward in your chair. Show your interest in the conversation, by varying your expression throughout the interview. Smile, nod, make positive gestures and show excitement about the opportunity.
  • During the interview
    Smile, maintain casual eye contact, lean forward, nod your head, sit erect but not rigid, and show enthusiasm and interest in the position and company.

Read the interviewer
By paying close attention to nonverbal communication signs, we can help change the direction of the conversation and leave a lasting positive first impression. The body language applies to the interviewer as well as the interviewee. By recognizing any of the negative gestures, one can then switch gears by asking a question or bringing up a new subject. During an interview decode the following gestures:

  • Crossed arms – defensive or reserved.
  • Crossed arms and legs – Very reserved and suspicious.
  • Open arms and hands – open and receptive.
  • Standing with hands inside of pockets – person is not sure or feels suspicious.
  • Standing with hands on hips- Receptive and helpful.
  • Sitting and shaking one of the legs – feels nervous and uncomfortable.
  • Eyes looking downward & face turned away – person is not interested in what you are saying.
  • Sitting with palm of hand holding chin – person is evaluating the information being presented to him, and being critical.
  • Leaning back in chair with both hands clasped behind head – analytical mood, can also be a gesture of superiority.
  • Rubbing or touching one’s nose when answering a question – person is not telling the complete truth.
  • Maintains good eye contact and smiles genuinely - definitely receptive.
  • Rubbing the back of one’s head or neck – disinterested.
  • Person changes position and sits with feet and body pointing toward door – person wants to end the conversation and leave.

Taking cues from the interviewer

  • How is the interviewer behaving? If they are smiling, asking questions, and taking notes, these are all signs of interest. If they are checking their watch, not taking any notes, or shuffling papers, you probably have lost their interest.
  • Was there a free flowing discussion? The interview should be a natural exchange of information. Things are not going smoothly if the interviewer has to keep referring to a list of questions, or if the candidate answers each question with a five minute monologue. The interview should move forward as a natural conversation.
  • The interviewer may use positive verbal cues to encourage you to elaborate with phrases such as, “Yes, go on” or “Interesting, I’d like to hear more” both of which are clues that the conversation is going well.
  • The interviewer may interrupt you. If this happens, it is probably time to change direction. To be sure that your answers are covering what the interviewer is looking for, ask clarifiers like “Am I answering your question?” or “would you like me to give you another example?” Questions like these give the interviewer some input on how the interview progresses.
  • It is a good sign if the interviewer talks about time frame or availability for making a decision. Hearing the interviewer say “How soon would you be available?” or “Do you have any other firm offers?” signals interest in a potential employee.
  • If you met with other people, it is a positive sign. Sometimes, an interested employer may even introduce you to others, right as the interview comes to a close.
  • Are you a match? If an employer is interested, they may spend time talking about your role in the company, and they will likely invite you to a second interview.

Calming your nerves
Having some butterflies is normal and will energize you to perform at your best. But too much anxiety can keep you from your “A” game. To calm your nerves while waiting to be interviewed, put away your resume. Reviewing it last minute will only enhance anxiety.

  • While waiting, try eating a breath-freshening mint, which is so small it can be easily swallowed before you enter the office.
  • Avoid drinking a lot of coffee or soda before an interview, since caffeine acts as a stimulant increasing feelings of anxiety. Instead, drink water before you interview which will clear your throat and hydrate your body.
  • Try deep breathing exercises while driving to the interview, once you arrive, and again before entering the office. Taking a few controlled focused deep breaths will help clear your mind, relax your muscles, and uplift your spirit.
  • Plan to arrive ten minutes before the interview is scheduled to start. Take this time before the interview to relax and calm your mind.
  • In the interview, sit up straight, don’t cross your arms or legs, speak slowly and breathe slowly and deeply. Relax your body and smile appropriately, if you act relaxed, your body most likely will take cues and become that way.
  • Don’t think about how well you are or are not doing during the interview, instead be in the moment and focus solely on answering the question that you are being asked. Thinking what you should have said on a previous question will only distract you and erode your confidence. Similarly, don’t think ahead or try to anticipate the next question.

Connecting with different types of interviewers
Tactics to effectively communicate with different types of interviewers

  • Unprepared interviewer
    Many job seekers find themselves being interviewed by stressed out interviewers who haven’t found the time to prepare for the interview. If you find yourself in this scenario, it is essential to guide the conversation in a productive direction. Try using the following statement, “Would it be helpful if I give you some information about myself, and share with you what I know about the position?” What follows is a great opportunity to steer the interview by going through the job description, and highlighting the ways that your experience and accomplishments align closely to the position.
  • Overly talkative interviewer
    Sometimes an inexperienced interviewer will ramble endlessly, jump from topic to topic, or not ask any questions. Without any structure to the interview, some candidates might make the mistake of remaining passive, and then leave without having explained why he or she is a perfect fit for the position. You must be assertive, and whenever the talkative interviewer stops to take a breath, jump in and share one of your work related accomplishments.
  • Distracted interviewer
    Phone calls, emails, instant messages, and visitors are all a common part of our workday, but some interviewers let these distractions filter into the interview. In dealing with the interviewer who keeps checking his phone messages, or has co-workers who keep knocking on his door, it is best not to show your annoyance. Instead use assertive phrases such as, “If this is a bad time for you, we could reschedule.” or “If you need to take a few moments now, I’d be glad to go back into the reception area for a bit”. When delicately brought to their attention, most interviewers will try harder to minimize the interruptions during the remainder of the interview.
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