In this post I will talk about what to do during the actual interview. To read Part 1 about preparing for the interview, click here.
Since every interview is structured differently, I can’t really post step by step instructions like I did in Part 1. Instead, I will talk about the most important things for you to keep in mind throughout your interview to make sure you make a good impression. Because that’s really what interviewing is all about—you have 1 hour, give or take, to make the best impression you can.
Last summer I actually got the opportunity to do something not many people my age have had the opportunity to do. I got to be on the other side and interview other college students to replace my internship position when my time had come to an end (it was a small start up company).
Seeing what it’s like to be on the other side, I realized that above all no matter how great your resume is or how much experience you have, what’s going to make you stand out in an interview is YOU. Your physical presence in that moment. Not what you write on a piece of paper.
Of all the students I interviewed, I quickly realized how painful it was to have to sit and listen to someone who seemed to have no interest in being there themselves.
The absolute worst thing you can do is bore your interviewer. Don’t be boring. You goal is to leave a lasting impression so that when they’re making final decisions and your name comes up they don’t have to sit there trying to remember who you were.
If you’re normally kind of a quiet person, now’s your time to loosen up a little and be as outgoing as you can. From the moment you walk in, to the moment you walk out, you want to exude confidence and friendliness. It’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. Think about the way you talk, the way you smile, and just generally the way you carry yourself.
Here are some specific things you can do to make sure you present yourself to the best of your ability.
The entire interview is pretty much a first impression itself, but I’m talking about the very first impression you make when you shake your interviewer’s hand. Make sure you start it off right with a firm hand shake, strong eye contact and a friendly smile.
This starts the moment you walk into the door. Walk with confidence. Don’t slouch. Eye contact and frequent smiles throughout. Use facial expressions and hand gestures to engage the interviewer. By the same token, always be engaged in the interviewer(s). Be interested in every word they say.
You want to be as conversational as possible. This means don’t be monotonous, speak calmly but confidently, and don’t be afraid to pause every now and then. I know sometimes when I’m nervous I start to talk fast. If you do this too, it helps to pause every now and then to collect your thoughts and slow things down. Doing this lowers the pressure levels and lets you say what you actually want to say, not the first thing that pops in your head.
Scan the office and observe everything you can. If there’s anything that particularly sticks out to you (i.e. a picture, an award, etc.) feel free to make a casual comment about it. If it strikes up a conversation, you have just made yourself that much more memorable.
Expect the unexpected
No matter how much you prepare, you should always expect a wild card. You might get a really tough question, or the person who was supposed to interview you might be replaced by someone else, or you might forget something you had prepared for.
No matter what happens, be flexible and don’t panic. Once you start to panic, it’s an uphill battle that’s painful to watch from the other side. If you get a really tough question and aren’t sure how to answer, take your time. It’s okay to pause, maybe even say out loud, “That’s a tough question, let me think about that for a second.” When you’ve got something, calmly give the best answer you can come up with, and move on.
Ask when you will hear back
Once it’s come to an end and you’re saying your goodbyes and thankyou’s, if they haven’t already told you, ask when you can expect to hear back from them. This will be important for the follow-up.
Give your best effort to make the best impression you can, but be genuine. You don’t want anything to seem too forced, or fake, so be as natural as you can while being aware of what kind of impression you’re making. I’m sure you’re genuinely a pretty awesome person, so let your interviewers know it.
While preparing for your interview is extremely important, at the end of the day, whether you get the job or not comes down to how well you can execute. Your execution, however, will depend largely on your preparation. So prepare well, be confident, and make an impression that they can’t forget.
Check out the next and final part of the interviewing series to learn how to properly follow-up after your interview is over:
Part 1: Preparing
Part 2: The Moment of Truth
Part 3: The Follow-up
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