During The Interview
key concepts and details
Though you may cringe at the thought, you need to sell yourself during the interview. You have a product (yourself) to offer this organization, and you must make sure that the interviewer understands what you have to offer. If you sit back and dutifully await the interviewer's questions, you may never have the opportunity to mention your best skills and qualities.
This doesn't mean that you take over the interview or ignore the interviewer's questions. It does mean that you should enter the interview with an agenda - with a clear idea of your key selling points and how to get those points across, whether your interviewer asks the right leading questions or not. While the interviewer controls the flow of the interview, you control the content.
Be prepared to speak in concise terms about relevant experiences that reflect positively on your skills and your character. (You may want to review our discussion about creating a catalog of your successes.)
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
To continue with the sales analogy - a good salesman never walks into a sales opportunity without knowing as much as possible about the company and its needs. Likewise, you need to carefully research the company and, if you are new to this career, get a solid grounding in this career field.
BE ENTHUSIASTIC, BUT SINCERE
Enthusiasm is so important that Anthony Medley devotes an entire chapter of his book, Sweaty Palms, to the art of enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is vital! Demonstrate your interest in the job and in the company. Enthusiasm works best when it is
- sincere. Don't gush over a job or a company that you couldn't give a hoot about. In fact, why are you interviewing with this company if you're not excited about the job?
- based in your deep interests. If you start your career and job search with an awareness of your deepest, most compelling interests, then you should eventually find yourself in interviews for jobs that you truly are excited about.
If you don't listen well during the interview, you are telling the interviewer that you may not listen well to your coworkers and managers.
- Don't be afraid of silence during the interview - it's better to think about a question for a few moments, rather than jumping in with an answer that's off-target or long and rambling.
- If the question seems ambiguous or you need more clarification, ask the interviewer to elaborate or restate the question. (But don't use this as a ruse to gain more time.)
- Don't display defensiveness when a tough question has you stumped.
SET YOURSELF APART FROM THE COMPETITION
Your interviewer may be bored to tears from interviewing a series of cookie-cutter candidates who speak in the same generalities about their qualifications: "I'm a diligent worker, I'm a team player, I'm a quick learner."
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't use those terms in describing yourself. But you should be able to describe, in detail, previous situations in which you demonstrated those qualities.
You may want to review:
KEEP THEM ENGAGED
You can apply the same principles that work in public speaking - vary the tone and tempo of your voice; take your nervous energy and translate that into enthusiasm; maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Where appropriate, ask questions that will provide information about the job and the interviewer.
Try to match the interviewer's energy level. People like to hire others like themselves.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES OF FORMER EMPLOYERS
Badmouthing a previous employer or supervisor is the quickest way to lose a job offer. If you have experienced a bad employer or an inept manager, find the positives in your relationship and focus on those. If there were no positives, and you must talk about the job, focus as much as possible on your successes in that job and not on the conflicts.
- Plan on arriving at least fifteen minutes before the interview. That will help reduce your stress level, and you will ensure that traffic or other delays don't make you late. (Need a car to get to an interview? Zipcar rents by the hour or day and offers a discount to BC students.)
- Bring a pen and notebook with you. If you wish to take a few notes during your interview (to jot down your interviewer's responses to your questions, for example), ask the interviewer if that's okay.
- Greet your interviewer by name, with a firm handshake and a smile. Until your interviewer tells you otherwise, use the more formal "Mr. (Smith)" or "Ms. (Johnson)."
- Wait for the interviewer to sit down or invite you to sit down before seating yourself.
- Do not smoke or chew gum.
- Sit comfortably, maintain good body posture.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying. Take a few seconds to think about a difficult question before responding. Responding quickly may convey that you're impulsive and don't take time to think about your decisions.
- Don't make up answers to questions you don't know. Your interviewer will conclude that you will do the same thing in the work place.
- Enthusiasm is vital! Demonstrate your interest in the job and in the company.
- Close the interview on a positive note: indicate that the job looks like a good fit and you feel you can make a contribution to the organization; ask about any needed follow-up and when you can expect to next hear from the company; and thank the interviewer for his or her time.
- Be sure you have the interviewer's business card, or at least the proper spelling of their name, their title and their address and phone number.
Proceed to After the Interview