1. Stay on topic
When you walk into the interview, there’s always going to be a few nonsense questions, stuff like, “Did you find the place all right?” or “Great weather we’re having, isn’t it?” Just respond, “Yes,” and move on. Don’t start talking about how it was so easy, that all you had to do was take the N train, transfer to the 4 and continue downtown. Nobody wants to hear about how much you love the cold weather or how you hope we’ll get more snow so you can skiing up in Vermont. You’re here to interview for a job, not to pull weather or transit related points of non-conversation out of your ass.
2. They’re going to offer you something to drink. Just say no.
You shake hands, they motion over to the seat, they say something like, “Can I get you anything? Water? Coffee?” Just say, “No thanks, I’m great.” Don’t be like me during my first interview, where I was like, “Yeah. Uh … coffee? Coffee.” I don’t know why I said it. Coffee wouldn’t become a part of my life for another three or four more years. But they offered something, I wasn’t expecting an offer, I wasn’t expecting anything, not really. I was so riddled with anxiety, what if they ask me what I’ve been up to since graduation? Nothing? Really? For five months? Luckily I didn’t have to face down that particular fear. There wasn’t really enough time for questions, not with them finding a cup, getting me some coffee, watching me add milk and sugar, waiting for me to fiddle around with the spoon because I didn’t know where to put anything. I just had to sit there in that seat, wishing that I didn’t have this piping hot cup of distraction preventing me from thinking about anything else besides coffee. Just tell them that you’re good.
3. Maintain eye contact
The whole time. Yes, it’s weird, that feeling you get after a minute, a minute and a half of prolonged staring directly into the gaze of another human being, someone you’ve never met before. And now you’re locked into this person’s eyes far longer than you’ve held visual contact with anybody in recent memory. Is it supposed to feel this creepy? I don’t know. And I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with your face the whole time, but remember not to bite your lips, or try not to look so confused. Just don’t stare off to the side, because sure, it might only be for a second, just to mentally regroup, but I’ve gotten lost in my head, a second turns into a minute, you look up and you don’t even recognize the interviewee anymore. Did someone come in and switch spots? What was her name again? Just try squinting. You’ll feel like you’re thinking hard, and even if you’re not, at least it makes the eye-to-eye soul probe slightly less awkward.
4. Don’t ask about lunch breaks
Don’t ask how long you might get for a lunch break. Stop trying to see if they might show you around the office kitchen. I love going out for a midday feast just as much as anybody else, but try to focus on what’s important here. When they asked you if you had any questions, you weren’t supposed to start wondering aloud if there were any great burrito places within walking distance.
5. Stop sweating so much
I’m not just talking nerves. This is actually getting kind of awkward. I assure you it’s not that hot in here. Do you need a glass of water? No, don’t take the water. Maybe a moist towelette? Come on man, why’d you have to wear a tan suit? You’re actually starting to perspire through the jacket. Just go to the bathroom dude, just go splash some water on your face. Splash some more all over your jacket, but make it look uneven, like the sink accidentally sprayed all over your clothes, like try to have it blend it with the growing pools under your pits. You know what? Just ask to go to the bathroom, but leave. Abort. Get out of there now.
6. Now’s not the time for a competing offer.
It was after college, I was bouncing around from temp job to restaurant job to sitting at home in my underwear. When I finally landed a decent interview, I kept thinking about how I could make myself stand out from all of the other applicants. Right before I went in to speak with the hiring manager, I texted, “Now!” to my friend Chris. He waited exactly five minutes and then called my cell. I interrupted the interview, “Excuse me. I really have to take this,” and then proceeded to say stuff like, “Yes. I see. That’s very good news indeed. Just hold on one second.” And then I looked up and said, “I’m getting a really great job offer here. Can you guys beat fifty grand a year?” She just looked at me and said, “Get out.”