How to Prepare for an Interview
First off, if you haven’t had a chance to read my other article “Interview Etiquette 101: What to Do Before an Interview,” make sure to check it out. It talks about what interview etiquette is, why it’s important, and provides some tips on how to properly prepare for an interview. It also discusses how preparations for various types of interviews (ex. phone, in-person, virtual) will differ and lists extra interview preparation resources, including how to handle interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Things to Remember About the Interview Process
When going in for an interview, it is important to acknowledge that the person interviewing you is intentionally taking time out of their day to listen to you and give you a chance. They did not have to give you the opportunity to interview with them and could have easily picked another candidate to interview. As a result, you should always be thankful and act respectfully towards your interviewer. Always remember that getting the chance to be interviewed is a privilege and an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward.
Tips to Help You Improve Your Interview Skills
1. Be Friendly But Professional
- Always be polite, not only to the person interviewing you but also to any other employees or staff members you may encounter.
- Greet your interviewer with a genuine smile and be kind but confident.
- Make sure to reciprocate any kind gestures your interviewer shows you by using mirroring responses such as, “It’s nice to meet you too” or “My day has been great, how has yours been?”.
- Try to be positive and upbeat. Never have a bad or dismissive attitude during an interview and always be respectful of the interviewer’s time.
2. Dealing with the Introductory Handshake
- Normally, exchanging an introductory handshake is an important part of an interview. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the chances of anyone shaking hands during an interview are now very small.
- Even though the chances of an interviewer attempting to shake your hand are slim, be prepared for that possibility. If the idea of shaking hands makes you uncomfortable, have a response pre-prepared on how to politely turn down an offer to shake hands.
3. Make Eye Contact
- As a naturally introverted person, I know that staring into a complete stranger’s eyes can be uncomfortable, to say the least. However, engaging in eye contact shows an interviewer that you are confident, actively listening, and interested in what they have to say.
- Be careful not to make too much eye contact or it may potentially make the interviewer uncomfortable.
4. Sit Up Straight and Have Good Posture
- Having bad posture is seen as a sign of being unprofessional and can cause interviewers not to take you seriously.
- Sitting up straight and having good posture makes you appear both more confident and more competent.
- Always be aware of your body and try not to fidget.
- Remember that the body language you display during an interview is almost as important, if not equally as important, as the words you say. Interviewers often both consciously and subconsciously take note of a candidate’s body language when evaluating them.
5. Take a Breath!
- This is one of the biggest mistakes people make during an interview. Don’t feel like you have to answer a question immediately after the interviewer asks it.
- If you aren’t completely sure how to answer a question, it is perfectly okay to take a second to gather your thoughts. Just make sure to say something along the lines of, “That’s a good question! Let me think about that for a moment.”
- It is always better to take a pause and come up with a good, well-thought-out response instead of trying to fill the silence with nervous rambling. Try not to do this for every question though or you may appear unprepared.
6. Speak Clearly
- Make sure you enunciate your words and don’t mumble.
- If your interviewer says something you didn’t understand clearly, politely ask them if they can repeat the question.
7. Be Proud of Your Accomplishments, But Don’t Be Boastful
- A large part of interviewing is showing the person in charge exactly why you are qualified for that certain position. However, it’s important to make sure that you do not come off as narcissistic or arrogant. This is not to say that you should feel hesitant to talk about your accomplishments; being confident and proud of your hard work is very different from being boastful and conceited.
- Don’t exaggerate your accomplishments, but also make sure that you don’t understate them either. You worked hard for your achievements and they’ve helped make you the qualified applicant you are, so be proud of them!
8. Send a Follow-Up Thank You Email
- Within the first 24 hours after your interview, you should send your interviewer a thank-you email. This shows the interviewer that you can take initiative, are respectful and professional, and are genuinely interested in the position.
9. Try, Try Again
- Getting rejected is hard, but it happens to everyone, so don’t worry if you interview and don’t get the position. Remember that there will be other opportunities, so it is important to view the interview as a valuable learning experience and not a failure.
- Having a bad interview or getting rejected by a recruiter is not necessarily a poor reflection on your abilities or your worth. Sometimes you have an off day, sometimes you get a bad interviewer, sometimes it’s not the right position for you, and sometimes the situation is just out of your control. Try not to take it personally and focus more on improving your interviewing skills rather than dwelling on what you could have done better.