My sister-in-law pinged me for some tips to prepare for a long, multi-session interview coming up.
I've been on both ends as interviewer and interviewee (mostly interviewer) and I seem to have been pretty successful as far as interviews go, so here are my tips (your mileage may vary):
- There is no preparation. It's like an exam. Either you know your stuff or you don't. Zen out and accept that you may not be able to answer/know everything and that no amount of last minute cramming new material will help. The more you worry about the material the bigger of a problem you are creating for yourself because you'll just be more anxious.
- Have faith in what you do know. Whatever it is that you do know, you need to be able to communicate it effectively. You need to communicate your knowledge, your skills, and your character effectively. You are in an interview because someone likes your resume and the experience that you have so you have to be able to communicate that experience effectively.
- Say "I don't know" if you don't know. I interview a lot of people and one of my pet peeves is when I give a tough question and the interviewee won't just say "I don't know". Sometimes, the questions are designed to be hard so if you don't know, don't dance around it and be frank so you don't waste anyone's time.
- If you really think it's an interesting question, you can say "Hmm, I don't know, but I've never thought about it like that..."
- Or "I don't have a background in that topic, but it's interesting, how would you approach it?"
- Or "Oh, that's an interesting question; I've honestly never thought about that before". That leads me to my next tip...
This is, in fact, a trait that I am looking for in an interview because it lets me know that if an individual gets stuck, he will quickly raise his or her voice and let me know so I can help them get unstuck and that this individual is willing to ask for help.
- Make it conversational. The more you treat it like a grilling, the more it will feel like you're over a fire. I treat every interview like a conversation and treat every question like a conversational discussion. The interviewer is a conversation partner and not a superior or an interviewer. This also leaves a lasting impression on them because they feel like you are someone they can easily talk to and people like to work with people they can talk to. Also, you are always free to turn the tables and interview your interviewer; remember, an interview is a two way street: they want to know if they should hire you and you want to know if you really want to work with these people.
- Dress sharp, watch your posture, and give a strong first impression. Harvard studies have shown that posture has a strong influence not only on how others perceive you but also how you perform. Stand up straight. Sit straight. Shoulders back. Project confidence but also look relaxed. Use hand gestures to help communicate. Make eye contact -- don't lock it, though -- that's freaky. Using full body communication is important but remember not to fidget. Basic stuff.
- Remember names and call people by names. When you meet someone and greet them, they will present themselves and always call them by their name immediately. Interviewer: "Hi, I'm James"; you: "Hi, James, I'm Lindsay, pleased to meet you". It's subliminal, but people like to hear their names and it helps you make an impression in your brain so you know who he was. At the end, repeat the interviewer's name: "James, I really appreciate your time".
- Don't forget to drink water. When you talk a lot, your mouth and throat will get dry and if you don't hydrate, it will impact your ability to speak. Hit the restroom when you get a chance, even if you don't "need' to go because if you get the urge during a discussion, it will distract you.
- And final tip is to create mental checkpoints. One thing that happens with me is that because I treat an interview as a conversation, it is easy to lose the original question or topic in a long discussion. So you have to make a mental checkpoint and be able to bring the discussion back to the original topic to answer the question. You don't want to be in a position where you have to ask "Sorry, what was the question?"