Interviews are a part of life, whether you are a college student, getting your first job or applying for a scholarship. These crucial, yet nerve-racking experiences prepare us and help us do better at the jobs bestowed upon us. Instead of focusing on the basics of an interview, let’s take a deeper dive into the ways to impress and improve your interview style.
1. Smile and Relax
“Smiling is always a great nonverbal way of showing confidence. It shows you’re relaxed, it shows you’re happy to be there which is another really important thing,” says Elizabeth Tagg, president of C&IS Student Executive Council. “So having a very calm relaxed presence and a smile can do wonders for your impression on someone else.”
Smiling might seem second nature, but putting too much pressure on the smile can lead to nervously smiling and seeming off. Taking a deep breath can help ease your nerves “diffuse some tension” according to Jennifer Roth-Burnette, director of academic support at the Capstone Center for Student Success.
“People get nervous and they are not always expecting it. If you get nervous, be conscious about breathing and slowing down,” said Roth-Burnette. “I don’t tend to hold nervousness against students, but I can tell when a student is nervous. I know that you can be really prepared and still be very nervous. If you’re nervous and unprepared, it’s really not going to go well.”
Knowing it’s going to be okay if this interview doesn’t turn out the way you planned can help ease the stress and tension building up inside the room or Zoom call. Relax and remember you are where you are supposed to be.
2. Ask them Professional Questions
At the end of every meeting or interview, most interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them at that time, Tagg says to “have at least two to three questions prepared, not just one.” The preparation of more than one question shows that you did your “research and came prepared.”
These questions that you provide will show insight to the organization you’re applying to that you came prepared and genuinely are interested in the position. Companies want that drive and that dedication when hiring a candidate.
“I say always be sure to have some good questions for the people who are interviewing you,” said Roth-Burnette. “Some students will ask what’s in it for them, it sounds self-serving, we’re not looking for that, instead, say ‘What can I learn from this position or what new perspectives might I gain?’”
Keeping these in mind will set you up for success as the interviewers notice your hard work.
3. Postive Attitude = Postive Feedback
Having a professional attitude is always good for the entrance into an interview, but having a professional attitude doesn’t mean it can’t be a positive one. Normally, the interviewers are expecting a friendly face and a nice demeanor, sometimes cracking a joke can ease into that.
“I would say if you can make them laugh, make them laugh. People don’t want to work with people that they feel are stuffy or hyper-professional. If you’re in a situation where you have an opportunity, not to be inappropriate at all, but you can make people laugh,” said Rand Nelson, coordinator of college relations and co-advisor of the Student Executive Council. “Make people connect with you and realize that behind the screen, regardless of skills or anything like that, what they’re connecting with is a person that they can relate to.”
Let the interviewers know your intentions going into the interview, having that positive attitude can show them that you are excited to have this interview and are grateful for the opportunity.
“I think if you’re happy to be there and if you come in with a really good, positive energy, that’s immediately differentiated from someone who is maybe more nervous or hasn’t prepared in addition to coming into the room,” Tagg said.
4. Do Your Homework
“One of the things that are really impressive to me is when students come in and they demonstrably understand what the organization is about, what it does,” Nelson said. “They are not just looking to build their resume with something, but they are familiar with the purpose of the organization, they’ve got some sort of passion in themselves that kind of matches that and they can kind of illustrate that.”
When going into an interview, having that basic knowledge of the company can propel you into a better spot in the elimination process. Applying yourself to that job and matching your skillset can give the impression to the interviewers that you are prepared and want this job says Nelson.
“If it’s an interview where you are going out for a job or a student organization, look up the job and look at what the value statements are and the language they use,” Tagg said. “There is typically a question at the beginning of the interview asking you to ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Tell them how you found out about that company, what you like about the company, find what particular avenue, or what they study is and tie that to your interests, strengths, and professional development, that way you can frame the interview and become better as an applicant.”
Showing the interviewers how you will better their company will look better when tying their company into the mix.
“Making sure you have looked at their website, the mission statements, and their social media can prepare you for any questions thrown your way,” said Roth-Burnette,” If they ask about your opinion on their social media, being prepared to answer that will help you. “
5. Two Words: Body. Language.
Walking into an interview with your shoulders held back, head high, and a smile on your face can show the interviewer that you are prepared and ready. With COVID-19, in-person interviews without masks have been eliminated and Zoom calls have become the new conference room.
“I have done interviews over Zoom and that can be very challenging, especially if confidence can’t be shown by body language and being comfortable in a room. Zoom makes all of that a bit different,” Nelson said. “If you’re a person who in some kind of way relies on a certain level of charisma, or the dynamic energy that you put off personally, that can be kind of challenging to communicate through Zoom.”
Since Zoom has hindered the ability to use body language efficiently and effectively in your interview, relying on the preparedness and comfort of your voice and facial expressions are key.
“There’s something called impression management that you can sort of judge a person when they enter a zoom call about how nervous they appear to be. With all of these interviews now being conducted on Zoom, that is the only way we have to go off of: how you visually appear to someone else,” Tagg said. “If you’re uncomfortable, you ramble, you’re going to talk a little bit longer than necessary and your examples will be vague. When someone is more prepared, they are usually relaxed and comfortable and they don’t use their hands a lot.”
Being nervous in an interview is expected to a degree, but letting that override your interview might hint at unpreparedness or begin to decrease your confidence. Be personable and be yourself, that will make you more comfortable and sit more comfortably.
6. Self Promotion vs Self Confidence
“I think there is a fine line between self-promotion and self-confidence. A lot of times we hear, when prepping for an interview, ‘be sure to highlight your strengths and weaknesses and present yourself in a really favorable light.’ Some people take that as bragging,” Tagg said. “When you’re promoting your achievements it’s always nice to talk about what you did and what you gain from it rather than why you were doing it in the first place.”
Explaining your strengths and weaknesses can be a challenge between wording and presentation. Having an “elevator pitch” can help market you to the interviewer and “helps the interviewers know what they’re potentially getting if they were to accept” you as a candidate. Talking about your weaknesses can be a struggle since scaring off the interviewer is not your main goal, but everybody makes mistakes and has points to improve.
“I think it’s good to be able to frame your weaknesses as growing edges. Everybody has weaknesses and everybody has their strengths, and it’s important to be able to own that,” Roth-Burnette said. “Be able to admit your weaknesses and have a story or two, a short story, to share about how that tripped you up and what you have learned from it.”
The company hiring most likely knows each candidate is going to bring something different to the table, as everyone is unique. Nelson recommends to not stress about the little things such as GPA or recommendation letters since who you are and your work ethic will show more.
“Having that confidence and being comfortable, talk about yourself in such a way that is beneficial for the interview, but not in such a way that you are just prattling on about yourself over and over and over,” Nelson said.
7. Keeping in Mind the Basics
Attending the interview in professional attire should still be a priority, even if the interview is over a platform like Zoom. Engaging in eye contact (or through the camera), not being distracted, and wearing nondistracting accessories are still basic expectations in an interview.
“Be professionally prepared for an interview, not showing up looking like you just rolled out of bed. Not to say people with nicer clothes do better in interviews or anything like that, but just people who look prepared,” Nelson said. “Come prepared in which you’re demonstrating a certain level of professionalism. They used to include a good handshake, and eye contact, and stuff like that, but now obviously we are distanced, so it’s a little different.”
Smile, relax, stay positive and the rest should fall into place as you begin to get comfortable and let your personality shine.
When going to apply these tips and tricks to your interviews, always be yourself and know that they remember the different and the unique. Go get that job!