Interviewing Tips

Congratulations! You have landed an interview, an in-person, go and meet people face to face interview. This is exciting! It can also be incredibly nerve wracking. Below are a list of tips that can help you make it through the process. It is not exhaustive, as that would be a way longer post than I want to write, let alone what anyone wants to read. But hopefully these will help.


If they give you a choice of days or times, pick the one that works best for you. I know of no studies that say it’s better to be the first or last or whatever person interviewed (and you really have no idea if other people were offered other times, anyway), so don’t worry about that. Pick the time that honestly works best for you, because your chances of getting the job are always better if you’re not running late/stressed/worried about how long it will take.


Know how you’re going to get there and how long it will take. Think about the time of day you’ll be traveling. Print out your directions the night before.  Allow extra time for getting lost, finding parking, or that random accident on the freeway.


Know what you are wearing. Choose your outfit carefully the night before, allowing for time to do any last minute laundering needed. If it’s the first time you would wear that outfit, try it on, make sure it looks the way you want it to.


Dress for the company. I don’t care if you are applying for a job as a mail clerk, if the office dress code is business professional, show up in a suit and tie. At the same time, if you’re applying for the COO position at an internet start-up founded by an early 20s college drop-out, you may want to lean more toward the business casual side of things.


Dress for the job. Most companies now a days are business casual. If you’re applying for an hourly position, you should be able to interview in business casual dress (though don’t lean too heavily on the casual side). However, if you’re applying for a salaried position, lean more toward business. The higher level the position, the further on the business side you should be.

Sometimes how you dress should be based on the division of the organization you are applying to. Sales guys will typically dress differently than IT staff. An example from my own life, people at the School of Medicine dress differently than those in the College of Engineering, despite both being part of the same University.


Be polite and friendly to all support staff (receptionists, security guards, admins). Being rude to any of these people can easily cost you the job, no matter how much you hit it off with the person actually interviewing you.


Make intelligent eye contact. If you are interviewing with only one person, don’t make them feel like you are staring. Take time to blink, or glance around your surroundings. If you are interviewing with a panel, focus most of your eye contact on the person who asked the question, but make sure to look around the room, at all members of the panel, at least once per question. (Their body language will be able to tell you a lot.)


Pay attention to your body language. Try not to fidget, but if you’re a fidget-er, try to do so intelligently – lean forward when being asked a question, lean back when considering your answer, sit up when giving your answer. Try not to cross your arms (this is the toughest thing for me), as it makes you seem closed off. Doodle or take pretend notes to give your hands/arms something to do that isn’t being crossed in front of you.


Take actual notes. Many questions, especially in “behavioral” interviews have multiple parts. Don’t expect to be able to remember the 4th part after having answered the first 3. Jot them down, double check to make sure you have all the parts right in your notes before you start answering.

Notes can also help you keep your answers on point and make sure you don’t leave something out. I know a number of brilliant people who can tangent off anything. Jotting down a couple of quick notes before they start answering a question can help them stay on track.


Know your answers to standard interview questions. Know why you want to work for that company/in that department. Have stories prepared regarding times when you had difficulty with a co-worker, what your greatest accomplishments were, a time when you felt you failed (and what you learned from it).


Do NOT try to game the questions. If you are asked for what you think your biggest weakness is, don’t try to present your weakness as a strength. No one is perfect. Hiring managers know this. They need staff members who are aware of their own weaknesses, and they need to be aware of those weaknesses, as well.  Now, no one wants to talk about what they are bad at in an interview, I get that, but self-awareness goes a long way. Talk honestly about your weaknesses, then follow that up with the skills you have learned to mitigate those weaknesses. That shows the hiring manager you’re honest about your abilities and also able to be proactive.


Take a moment before answering questions. Even if it is a question you have answered a million times or have prepared the perfect answer for, don’t start talking the second the last syllable has left the interviewer’s mouth. Take a breath, show that you’re considering the question, and then try to speak slowly and evenly.


Know what questions you want to ask. And yes, you MUST ask questions when given the chance. You can have a few basic ones of your own prepared. I always like to ask what the interviewer hopes to the person in the position they are hiring for will accomplish in the first six months to a year. If a lot of the interview has hinged on what the last person did (and you get the feeling that maybe it wasn’t enough) change the question to say “forgetting about what has been done in the past, in your ideal world, what would this position do”. Another favorite of mine is to ask people what their favorite thing about working for that company (or in that department) is.


Ask about timelines and next steps. If at all possible, never leave an interview not knowing what should be happening next and when it should be happening. Sometimes those answers will be vague, but at least you have an idea. Knowing timelines gives you more power, especially if you are interviewing for multiple positions.


Follow up with a thank you note. Yes, a thank you note. Alright, if after the interview you realize you really don’t want the job, you can skip the thank you note. But otherwise, take the time to write a few words in an email to the folks you interviewed with. Say you enjoyed meeting them and learning more about the position/department/company. Mention one thing in particular that you are interested in/excited about. Tell them you hope to be hearing from them again about [next step] or in [timeline]. And always end it by saying you are available for any additional questions should they have any. Make sure your contact information is in that thank you note.