Surviving the Interview

You’ve gotten the interview, and you’ve prepared for it. Here are some tips to help you ace it:

  • Try to arrive about 15 minutes early. First, it shows you are punctual and excited about the job. Second, it gives you extra time in case traffic or weather makes travel difficult. Third, some companies will have paperwork to fill out before you interview, and this gives you more time to do it. Try not to arrive much earlier unless instructed otherwise, since you don’t want to be in the way or make your interviewer feel as if he or she has to rush through her previous appointment.
  • Turn your phone off. Don’t put it on vibrate. Don’t silence it. Leave it off. You don’t need it going off during an interview or being a distraction. Many people even leave it in the car just in case.
  • Maintain good posture, even in the lobby. Body language has a tremendous impact on how people perceive you, and you never know who might be watching, or who might have input on the hiring decision. Sit up as straight as possible, and don’t fidget, especially in the interview. Bring a notebook or folder to hold, or fold your hands neatly in your lap. A few small gestures are appropriate as you speak, but refrain from any distracting mannerisms, such as hand waving or playing with your hair. Keep your feet flat on the floor, and don’t tap your toes.
  • Smile. It makes you look approachable and friendly.
  • During the interview, enunciate and try not to speak too quickly. Be polite and formal, but remember the interviewer is just a person, too, so it is appropriate to laugh if he tells a joke.
  • Sound enthusiastic. If you are excited about the job, show it. Don’t sound bored by speaking in a monotone voice. Inflection is an important way employers gauge engagement.
  • Don’t fill every silence. Sometimes employers need time to process what you said before moving on to the next question, or they may write down some thoughts. It’s okay if you need a moment to think about how to answer a question. Employers understand you are nervous and may need a moment, too.
  • If you freeze or mess up your phrasing, it’s okay. Just breathe and start over, or continue where you stopped. It happens, so don’t sweat it.
  • Don’t try to analyze your interviewer. It will make you nervous, and you might second-guess yourself. Do be genuine, and don’t try to change yourself to appeal to the interviewer. Employers want to know who you are, not whom you think they want you to be.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. No one will be offended, and not asking can only hurt you.
  • If your interviewer questions your answer, such as, “Did that really happen?” stick to your answer. Some interviewers try to rattle candidates on purpose, just to see what you will do under pressure. Be polite, but stay with your original story. Courage is a plus.
  • It stinks, but sometimes interviewers are just plain mean. They’re probably having a bad day, and you can’t change their attitudes, so just go with it. Stay professional and polite. If they are really negative, you probably don’t want to work there anyway. Interviewers should reflect their company, so remember negative experiences if you get a job offer.
  • Don’t forget interviews are also about you deciding if you like the company. At the end, try to have some good questions prepared to ask the interviewer. It demonstrates interest and gives you insight into the job and company. Some good examples are, “I am interested in developmental opportunities, can you tell me about them?” or “What was your career path?” if you are interviewing with a potential supervisor. Another good one is, “Can you describe what this job looks like on a daily basis?” or “What are your favorite parts of this job?” These not only show your interest, but give you a chance to connect more personally with your interviewer and get a better understanding of the job’s duties.
Peggy Carouthers

Author: Peggy Carouthers

In a previous life Peggy worked as a human resources and hiring manager for a major national retail chain. Her expertise is in job hunting, hiring, and HR. These days Peggy works as a writer, crafting content for a range of publications.
Peggy Carouthers