Best Practices for the Interview

If you followed our advice on preparing for the interview, you should have a little extra confidence knowing that you are well prepared.  Here is what to do when the time comes for the actual interview:

Before the Interview

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early. Give yourself plenty of time to walk/drive to the interview location.
  • Turn off your cell phone and double-check your appearance. (Answering a cell phone/looking at a text and dressing inappropriately were each identified by 67% of employers as being a top mistake according to a survey)
  • Use your best manners and be attentive to how you are being perceived. Say please and thank you, and don’t interrupt. Be mindful that your interview begins the moment you arrive until you leave. Be polite to everyone no matter where you meet them (in the parking lot, reception area, etc.). Make sure your appearance and the appearance of your belongings maintains the image you are trying to create for employers (ex. interior of car, purse, etc.). You never know who will be in your interview or part of the decision-making process.
  • The following are quotes from employers during interviews:
    • “She got into a screaming match with someone over a cab outside our building.”
    • “We could see inside his car – he was not as organized as his resume said.”

During the Interview

  • When the interviewer is ready for you, greet him or her with a smile and introduce yourself; be confident, respectful, and as relaxed as possible.  Remember the company has chosen you for an interview so you have the required background. (Failing to make eye contact (68%), smile (38%), or use a firm handshake (22%) were all indicated as top mistakes by employers according to a survey)
  • Give the interviewer(s) your full attention and make a lot of eye contact.  Don’t let anything happening around you distract you. (Appearing uninterested was identified by 62% of employers as being a top mistake according to a survey)
  • Use good posture.  It is okay to be comfortable in your chair, but do not slouch. (Having bad posture was identified by 31% of employers as being a top mistake according to a survey)
  • Try to relax and talk the way you would with your academic advisor or a trusted professor.
  • Taking notes during an interview is encouraged, but don’t let it slow down the interview or prevent you from interacting with the interviewer(s). It is also okay to look at your resume or notes you have prepared as long as you make regular eye contact with the interviewer(s).
  • Watch the interviewer’s body language.  Look and listen for clues that indicate that you might be providing too much or too little detail.  If there are a lot of follow-up questions to dig more information out of you, then you are not providing enough depth in your answers.  If body language indicates a lack of interest in what you are saying, then you are probably not being relevant, clear, or focused with your answers. (Talking too much about unimportant information was identified by 30% of employers as being a top mistake according to a survey)
  • Apply what you learned and practiced in the Effectively Answering Interview Questions section to your interview.

Ending the Interview

  • Once the interviewer(s) have asked all of their questions, they will often ask if you have any questions.  This is your opportunity to ask a few questions to demonstrate your desire to know more about the position, the team that you would be part of, or the organization.  This is not the time to ask about pay, ability to take time off, or anything else that might indicate that you are most interested in what you will be getting from the company.  Once you receive an offer, you will have time to ask these types of questions.
    • Ask for the person’s card/contact information (unless you already have their information) so that you can send a thank-you note and otherwise follow up as needed.
    • Inquire about the next step in the process and approximate timeline for a decision if this has not already been discussed.
    • Shake hands, reiterate your appreciation for the opportunity to interview, and thank the interviewer for his or her time.

Reflecting on Your Interview

Every interview is an opportunity for you to learn and improve. You are not likely to get individual feedback from every interviewer, so it’s very important to self-reflect and make a plan for improvement. Keep track of  next steps, challenging questions, follow-up questions you have, details you may want to include in a thank-you note, and more. Also analyze verbal and non-verbal cues, and make a plan to improve on any skills you do not feel you have mastered. After completing your reflection, remember that you can also schedule an appointment with ECS to review your interview performance and answer any questions you have.

Additional Considerations for Preparing for a Meal

In addition to the traditional components of an interview, some interviews may also have a meal component included. The meal may be needed for practical reasons (e.g., the interview is multiple hours long), but it will be part of the interview and used to gather additional information and analyze how you act in a social setting. Below are some best practices to follow if a meal is included as part of your interview.

  • Be about 10 minutes early. If you are the first to arrive, don’t drink or eat until others arrive.
  • Place small portions on plate and take small bites to allow for maximum time to communicate.
  • Wait for everyone to receive their food before you start eating.
  • Always say thank you & be polite to everyone.
  • Turn your cell phone off.
  • Use good posture (e.g., no slouching or elbows on the table) and table manners (e.g., place napkin in lap, swallow food before speaking).
  • Stay away from very expensive or messy foods.
  • If your host(s) order an alcoholic beverage, it is best to decline but acceptable to have one drink if you are of age.
  • Do not monopolize the conversation or stay silent the entire time.
    • Show genuine interest in getting to know your host(s) better by asking thoughtful questions about safe topics (sports, movies and other general interests). Avoid personal questions unless brought up by the host(s) first.
  • If in doubt, follow the host(s) lead.
  • The following graphic is designed to show you what a formal dining place setting will look like. Please note that not all pieces may be set for every meal.

Image showing a formal dining place setting