It’s pretty upsetting that four years of college (or more for grad students) and boatloads of previous experience can cease to matter in light of one bad thirty minute interview.
But such is life. Bomb your interview and you’re probably not getting the job…unless you’re one of those irksome people who got a degree that teaches actually valuable and not easily replaceable skills. But for those who didn’t make themselves indispensable to future employers, who decided to write essays and read books for four years instead, being impressive in an interview is an absolute must.
As I was one of those dispensable job candidates, but also someone who happens to interview a lot of people, I want to help all the other smart and talented (but not-so-marketable-to-employers) job seekers out there. So here are 8 things to do (and not do) in an interview in order to charm the pants off a potential employer. Or at the very least, not shoot yourself in the foot.
1. Starting with the obvious: make eye contact, have good posture, and give a firm handshake
When they’re not interpreting how “into each other” two people are through body positioning in a photograph in Cosmo, body language experts might actually be onto something. It sounds trite, but making eye contact with your interviewer, sitting up straight, and giving a firm shake sets you up for success. And it’s so easy!
A smile is a simple way to get your interviewer on your side. I once had someone beam at me for an entire interview and I instantly liked him and wanted him to do well. Also, if you’re smiling, you’re probably looking at someone’s face and making eye contact, not maniacally down at some inanimate object. So smile, and the rest of that body language stuff will come more naturally.
3. Don’t admit that you wildly exaggerated something on your resume
When asking one candidate about her experience in a college club, she admitted that she had only ever attended two meetings. It’s probably best to leave such stretches of the truth out of your resume. But if you did wildly exaggerate your credentials to land an interview, you’ve got to be able to bullsh*t your way out of getting caught when the time comes.
4. Don’t downplay yourself…#humblebrag
You might not have been saving the world, but no employer wants to hear that you really didn’t do anything special at your last job. If there’s ever a time to brag about yourself and oh-so-slightly inflate your achievements, an interview is it. Whatever you do, do not tell anyone your job was “so easy a monkey could do it,” as a colleague of mine has once experienced. Nobody wants to hire a monkey.
5. Don’t forget the name of the company you’re interviewing with
Wamp wamp. There’s the door.
6. Show interest in the company and know your motivation for applying
Okay number five is extreme, but sometimes it’s clear that people applied to any job posting they could find—regardless of the role or the company—and therefore they’re in danger of faux pas like forgetting a company’s name or making it clear they’ve done slim to no research. If you’re lacking in experience but display certainty in your professional goals, as well as a real interest in the company, your chances get a lot higher.
For example (shameless plug), when someone interviews at FindTheBest and they know that our mission is to collect, structure, and connect the world’s data, I’m impressed. Start talking about a passion to make datasets like government spending more transparent, and I’m sold!
7. Remember names
When people meet a new acquaintance, the acquaintance’s name often goes in one ear and out the other. But in an interview, it’s important to make a deliberate effort to remember the names of everyone you speak with. People feel more connected to people who use their name. I could cite a study to back that statement up, but instead think of the last time someone you just met addressed you by your name. I bet you liked them!
8. Ask questions
In a similar vein, have you ever met someone who asked you a ton of questions and showed a real interest in you? You probably liked them. The same applies in an interview. Ask the person who interviews you about their experience, their job, anything about themselves, and they’ll warm to you.