Ch. 3: Interview Tips
In Ch. 2: How to Prepare for an Interview we discussed how to research potential employers, practice interviewing, and what job seekers should bring with them to be well-prepared. To follow up, we've put together these interview tips to help avoid common mistakes most job seekers make.
With interviews, what you don’t say is as important as what you do say. Non-verbal communication is one of the most important elements to be conscious of when interviewing.
Nonverbal Communication in an interview is a two way street. Not only should you beware of what signals you put off, but look out for those your interviewer might be sending.
It’s like dating; you have to figure out if the person across from you likes you enough to take the relationship to the next level.
I’ll go through a few tips and tricks, so that you can have a good poker face and land the job.
1. What to Wear to an Interview
You need to look your best not only on paper but in person. Like dating, they are trying to gauge if you are the right match for their company. Similarly, you are also deciding if you want to continue the relationship with them.
To look the most attractive, you need to project what's on your resume that landed you the interview. You need to look good; if you don’t look as good in person as your resume portrays you to be, they won’t give you the job.
With all the clothing styles and trends today, it is best to stay on the conservative side and look neat, clean, and business professional. Stick to neutral tones and dark colors; instead of distracting your prospective employer with bright colors.
Depending on the employer, some may prefer business attire, while others may want interviewees to dress for the position they're seeking. It's always best to ask rather than guess.
2. A Good Handshake
Many people will tell you that having a good handshake makes a good first impression. A good handshake goes a long way on how others perceive you; it can show confidence, strength, personality, and many other traits.
Tips to a good handshake include:
Don’t linger—it’s like too much eye contact; it is uncomfortable, and the other person isn’t sure when to break away.
Be firm, but don’t crush—you don’t want to break their hand, but you don’t want your handshake to be cold and dead--it’ll make you seem weak. Just a good balance of pressure between their hand and yours; they should counter each other—one should not overpower.
Avoid the Dead Fish Handshake— don’t just put your hand in theirs, lifeless and cold. It is one of the biggest turn offs in handshaking.
Don’t Shake With the Left Hand— Left handed shakes are seen at least as strange, but can offend some. Stick to shaking with the right hand—unless otherwise.
A good handshake should convey confidence and…
3. Confidence is Key
Confidence plays a big part in how people perceive you. While you want to come across as confident, you don’t want to come off as cocky and arrogant.
Finding the right balance between being overly confident—to the point of disinterested and arrogant—and needy/weak is key.
The middle ground is to be friendly, have faith in your skills, and believe you have something to bring to the table.
Asking arrogant questions , or seeming entitled to the job, will alienate your interviewer, and it won’t result in a second interview. Keep sarcasm at bay, and watch your facial expressions when you respond to a question.
Don’t act like the job is above or below you—if you want the job, it should be a perfect fit. Show you deserve the job by how you answer questions and by your preparation.
On the same token, don’t believe the job is above you. If you seem insecure about being able to fulfill the job duties, your interviewer will notice and question your fit.
4. Keep Your Guard Up
Stay alert, don’t let your guard down, and don’t get too comfortable. Getting too comfortable with your interviewer will reveal subconscious insecurities that might come across as needy or fearful.
Talking about your fears and seeming too needy will not make you seem human—it will lose you the job. Don’t talk about how you really need a job or about any baggage you have. It’s not good to talk about personal problems or anything that would make them sense that you couldn’t perform your duties.
Stay professional and keep a moderate poker face on. Be polite and pleasant, but don’t reveal too much about your personal life. The interviewer is not your friend—he or she is the person standing between you and the job.
5. Don't Dominate the Conversation
One way to do this is to be a good listener and ask intelligent questions. If you get them talking about themselves and the job, it will give you a break and let you reorganize your thoughts. Remember that an interview is a conversation and not just a Q and A.
Nobody likes a person that overpowers the conversation and rambles. Keep a good discourse, and it will show that you, in fact, do have good communication skills and leadership potential.
Good listeners are considered great conversationalists, because they get the other person talking and can engage with questions to further continue the dialog. So, listen for great opportunities to ask more compelling questions that keep your interviewer engaged; you don’t have to let them be the only one asking questions.
6. Don’t Break the Bubble
Always keep in mind your interviewer's personal space, this includes: eye contact and proximity to their body.
Maintain eye contact, but don’t over do it. Always remember to blink and look away from time to time. Look at one eye and then the other; it will help make it feel that you are not just statically staring at them.
Note: It is best, when thinking of questions or answers, to look up instead of to the left—looking left is an indicator that you are lying.
As for proximity to their body, most interviews have chairs set up, so you don’t have to worry about this one as much. Just don’t lean in too far, or position your chair closer to theirs.
7. Don’t Be Nervous
It will make you seem uptight, and your interviewer will notice. Work off the nerves by being active before the interview - for example, working out or walking. If your interview is up a few floors in a building, take the stairs; it’s a good way of relieving nervousness.
Being nervous will weigh you down, and it will keep you from being yourself. Try to quell the emotion, and keep a level head. It’s not life or death, and you have a better chance of getting the job if you believe that either way you will be okay.
Preparing for your interview will help calm your nerves. If you have great answers and a highlight reel of skills in your tool belt, then you will feel better about anything that comes your way in the interview.
Just relax. Keep calm, sit up straight, put your hands on your hips, and don’t make too many gestures. And, don’t get too close to your interviewer. Keep it cool; you’ll be prepared.
Remember that your demeanor and nonverbal communication should send the message that you are a capable, competent, intelligent, and professional person. Show them the best you, and try and relate to your interviewer; they are people too. Don’t let down your guard and remain professional at all times.
Keep your voice firm, but not intense and slow down when talking—it’ll help you stay on topic and organize your thoughts. Pause before answering questions so it seems you’re taking careful consideration. Above all, be friendly and genuine. If you just be yourself, you won’t have to pretend to be something you’re not.