Recently, I’ve had to do a lot of interviews. Some were for class and some were for jobs and on-campus opportunities. From these experiences, I’ve been able to gather a list of tips and tricks that have helped be successful. While it might work for me, keep in mind that everyone prepares differently.
Preparing for the interview
Practice, practice, practice
Whenever possible, practice answering interview questions and answers. UT offers great services for practicing. There is the Career Services Center on campus if you want to practice in-person with experienced people who are more than willing to give you feedback and improve your interviewing skills. Or, if you prefer online help, there is a widget on Okta (aka MyUTampa) called Quinncia and you can schedule mock interviews and receive feedback within minutes to 48 hours. This online platform can also give you suggestions about facial gestures, potential responses, and ways to improve your resumé (you will most likely need that before the interview). Also, ask your friends to help you out! My friends were more than willing to ask me practice questions and listen to my responses.
Do your research
It is extremely important to know what your interview may be like. If you have friends who work where you are applying or know anyone that is in a similar group/field of work that you are interviewing for, be sure to reach out and ask them what they think the interview will be like and their tips for you. It never hurts to ask people for help. You can use their responses to help practice as stated before so that you can be prepared for what the interview may be like. Also, it is good to know what the company/organization/group does, what stands for, and what position you are applying for. The company/organization most likely has a website where you can look up and search what their values are, what the company does, and what your specific job you are applying for does on a daily basis. It is important to know this information (which you can only do from doing your research) as that’s probably one of the first questions they’re going to ask you. The more knowledgeable you are, the more prepared you are, which leads to being more confident in yourself and your responses than before.
Give yourself a little pep talk!
What really works for me is if I find a bathroom or secluded area and hype myself up. Sometimes all you need is to hear is “I’ve got it” and “I am going to rock this interview.” I’ve noticed that if I speak it into existence, I will focus on it, and then I notice myself being more confident in the interview. Plus, it is a great way to calm your nerves before going into the interview. Note: The interviewer wants you to succeed. They are obviously looking for someone to fill a position and are hoping you are the best candidate. Remember that and use it in your pep talk!
During the interview
Pause and breathe
One of the biggest mistakes I used to make at interviews was that I would talk forever and sound rushed. I’ve noticed that if I start the interview off by pausing for a quick second or two to think about my answer and just breathe, I become calmer and my answers sound more eloquent and put together. The interviewer would much rather have you take a second or two to breathe and think about your answer than have a mumbled, rushed answer.
Express your emotions!
No one likes listening to or talking to someone who is dull, so don’t be afraid to express your feelings or opinions when you are explaining a story or answering questions. This allows the interviewer to build a connection with you and see how you act and react to certain things. It shows your personality and engages the person (or people) you are talking with. The more I did this (appropriately) in interviews, the more comfortable I felt when speaking with the interviewer.
Be specific whenever possible
Interviewers love when you give specific examples with details (as long as it pertains to the question asked). It gives them a chance to see your thought process, your ability to communicate intricate ideas, and makes it easier for them to understand your answer. When you provide vague answers, it leaves a lot for the interviewer to interpret and guess, but when you provide details, they can understand exactly what you are saying and ask more in-depth follow up questions to learn more. Plus, it shows off how prepared you are and how much you know!
Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions/questions at the end
If you need clarification on a question, don’t be afraid to ask! It’s better to fully understand and answer the question completely and confidently than to answer only part of it and provide a vague answer. Also, the interviewer will usually ask if you have any questions for them once they are done asking their questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them any questions! Some of my favorites are “how would you describe the work environment/the culture of the organization?” and “What’s the most important thing I could do to help within the first few weeks of employment/acceptance?” These types of questions show that you are interested in them and the organization, which interviewers love to see and hear.
After the interview
Thank the interviewer(s) right away
Directly after the last question is asked, thank the interviewers for their time. It is nice to be appreciated and it makes you look respectful. With a good thank you, you can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer that can get you one step closer to the job.
Whether you celebrate right after the interview or after you get the job/become part of the organization, you need to celebrate! Whether that is treating yourself to a tasty treat or going out for a fun night, it is important to celebrate that you went through and finished the interview. They can be nerve-racking, so it is nice to sit back and celebrate the small accomplishment of finishing the interview. Hopefully, you also got the job too!
I hope some of my tips and tricks will help you succeed in your next interview! You’re going to do amazing!