What to Keep in Mind During an Interview

Interview? No thanks. I have always been afraid of interviewing. The idea of sitting in front of someone (or multiple people) while they stare at you for more than two minutes is annoyingly nerve-racking. Unfortunately, interviewing is inevitable. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when interviewing.

Employers want to put a face and personality to the name on the resume. 

From the minute you submit your application, all you are to the employer is a name. Of course, there is a resume for them to go off of, but a resume could never characterize a personality. That is where the interview comes in. Think of the interview as an invitation to talk about yourself; after all, it is essentially what they want you to do. The hard part is how to go about that while maintaining a neat and professional composure. 

I recently had my very first in-person interview. As usual, I was sweat-through-your-shirt nervous, but I found that once I started talking, I became increasingly more comfortable. Luckily, the employers weren't stony-faced automatons, throwing questions here and there. They smiled, I smiled back, and we got on with it. They wanted to know about me and my experiences; it was almost less nerve-racking to know that I was telling them who I was, and anything I said could be whatever I wanted. This doesn't mean you should lie to your employers, but there is some security in knowing that you're virtually the one leading the conversation. 

Can you prepare for an interview?

It is possible to prepare for an interview. However, no matter how you prepare, you won't be able to guess the exact questions they will ask.

Most of the time, you should be prepared to answer questions on the spot, which is what I believe employers want to know you can do. There should always be topics you know you can use in an interview: past work experiences, times when you’ve have to solve problems, or examples of leadership. If you're hit with a question you didn't expect, take a minute during the interview to gather your thoughts — it's not a crime. It's better to take some thinking time and give a decent answer than to start talking without knowing what you really want to say. You can even ask, "May I have a few moments to think about this?"

If you're freaking out about what to expect, you can always search common interview questions online. However, keep in mind that the internet is not your employer; the questions you find may not be relevant to the job or even close to what your employers are thinking about. Do take to heart, though, that these questions are "common."

Hand-shaking

Make sure your handshake is firm, but not too firm. This isn't a competition, and you don't want your employer to get that impression from you. The handshake is technically the very first impression the employers will see. Two shakes are perfect, make eye-contact and smile (even if they don't). Of course, a handshake is a handshake and it will not define your entire interview.

Are there illegal interview questions?

If you weren't aware, yes, there are illegal interview questions. You can find sample questions here. Illegal questions include anything that has to do with age, race, ethnicity, gender or sex, religion, birthplace, marital status/pregnancy, or disability. These topics do not pertain to the job, and therefore should not be relevant. If you happen to come across an illegal question during an interview, try to talk around the question without answering it, or ask the employer how that pertains to the work. Maybe even re-think how badly you want the job. 

Interviewing can be a rollercoaster of nerves and excitement, but it is up to you to decide how you want to present yourself. Make sure you dress appropriately and keep past experiences in mind you think are relevant to the work of the job. Make sure your employer knows that you are there for a reason, and, overall, be cool.