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Successful Interviewing: Part 4 – How to “Shine” During the Interview

How to “Shine” During the Interview

With all the work put into preparing for an interview, knowing what you want to cover, and having key strategies for answering questions, you are guaranteed to have a great interview, right? Wrong! The interview can still be poorly executed due to the “smaller things” that occur during an interview. There are many do’s and don’ts for the day of the interview. A comprehensive list from Virginia Tech’s Career Resources Department is included below. I have added some additional comments within the list in italics.

Interview DO’s


Dress appropriately for the industry.  Err on the side of being conservative to show you take the interview seriously. Your personal grooming and cleanliness should be impeccable.

Even if this means adding a tie and coat on the way to the interview, you should do it. Even companies with a casual dress code want to see you know how to present yourself well when the occasion calls for it. Although, with casual companies, don’t go over the top (i.e., cuff links).


Know the exact time and location of your interview; know how long it takes to get there, park, and find a rest room to freshen up.

Don’t forget about bad traffic. Even if it is your reason for being late, it sounds like a lame excuse.


Arrive early; 10 minutes prior to the interview start time.

Have a contact number with you in the car in case you are running late. It is a good idea to call ahead if you are running late so your interviewers can use their time wisely.


Treat other people you encounter at the company (i.e., receptionist, nurse) with courtesy and respect. Their opinions of you might be solicited during hiring decisions.


Offer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and have a friendly expression when you are greeted by your interviewer.

Keep that eye contact and friendly demeanor throughout the interview. People want to hire candidates who seem like they would be easy to work with (and friendly). Smiling and politely laughing at the appropriate times conveys more about you than you might think. The key is not to be stiff or nervous. Have a comfortable and conversational tone.


Listen to be sure you understand your interviewer’s name and the correct pronunciation.


Even when your interviewer gives you a first and last name, address your interviewer by title (Ms., Mr., Dr.) and last name, until invited to do otherwise.


Sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching.

A simple way to avoid slouching is keep your lower back pressed against the seat. Doing this keeps you from leaning forward (appearing a little too intense) and slouching (and looking a little too comfortable). Keep your hands in your lap to avoid fidgeting and only hold on to your pen when you are taking notes. Candidates who click or tap their pen can be annoying during the interview.


Respond to questions and back up your statements about yourself with specific examples whenever possible.

When discussing your experiences, do not be afraid to use the word “I.” Sure, everyone looks for a team player and you can say “we” whenever appropriate (i.e., “we brainstormed on the solutions, and I executed on the plan”).  Ultimately the interviewer wants to know what YOU did versus the team.


Ask for clarification if you do not understand a question. 

You need to be an excellent listener. Half of being an “excellent communicator” is being able to listen and understand what you are being told. Certainly ask for clarification if you do not understand a question, but if you have to do this too much, you will send a signal that you might not listen well (and therefore, not take direction well).


Be thorough in your responses, while being concise in your wording.

Remember, being concise ensures your intended message is not lost and allows you to bridge to related, important experiences as discussed in an earlier section.


Be honest and be yourself.  Dishonesty gets discovered and is grounds for withdrawing job offers and for firing. You want a good match between yourself and your employer. If you get hired by acting like someone other than yourself, you and your employer will both be unhappy.


Treat the interview seriously and as though you are truly interested in the employer and the opportunity presented.

You can always decide the job is not for you after you have had a chance to consider all your options and reflect on the decision. While in the interview, consider this job your BEST option.


Exhibit a positive attitude. The interviewer is evaluating you as a potential co-worker. Behave like someone you would want to work with.

Positive attitude stretches beyond the workplace. They might even comment on the rainy weather to see how you respond. “Our lawns really need this water” is a POSITIVE response.


Have intelligent questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Having done your research about the employer in advance, ask questions which you did not find answered in your research.


Evaluate the interviewer and the organization s/he represents. An interview is a two-way street. Conduct yourself cordially and respectfully, while thinking critically about the way you are treated and the values and priorities of the organization.


Do expect to be treated appropriately. If you believe you were treated inappropriately or asked questions that were inappropriate or made you uncomfortable, reconsider working with this organization.


When the interviewer concludes the interview, offer a firm handshake and make eye contact. Depart gracefully.

Realize that the interview starts and ends right as you enter and exit the parking lot. You never know who might be watching from the windows as you exit your car and finish getting dressed/drop your papers and chase them around the parking lot/finish a heated argument on your cell phone. The receptionist, admin, and anyone you meet are all a part of the team critiquing your soft skills. Do not assume the interview turns on and off during your stay. Anything you do or say is part of the interview—even small talk.


After the interview, make notes right away so you don’t forget critical details.

You can jot a few notes during the interview, too, especially when getting answers to your questions. It sends a signal that you are listening and very interested in what they have to say. Just be careful about losing too much eye contact when putting too much detail in your notes. The details can be added later—just write down enough for recalling the conversation.

Interview DON’Ts


Don’t make excuses. Take responsibility for your decisions and your actions.


Don’t make negative comments about previous employers or professors (or others).

No exceptions. It sends the message that you might have an issue eventually with the interviewing company if they hire you.


Don’t falsify application materials or answers to interview questions.


Don’t treat the interview casually, as if you are just shopping around or doing the interview for practice. This is an insult to the interviewer and to the organization.


Don’t give the impression that you are only interested in an organization because of its geographic location.

Or continuing education program, or company stability, or health club benefits, or… you get the picture.


Don’t give the impression you are only interested in salary; don’t ask about salary and benefits issues until the subject is brought up by your interviewer.


Don’t act as though you would take any job or are desperate for employment.

On the contrary, act confident, but not arrogant.


Don’t make the interviewer guess what type of work you are interested in; it is not the interviewer’s job to act as a career advisor to you.


Don’t be unprepared for typical interview questions. You may not be asked all of them in every interview, but being unprepared looks foolish.

The typical interview questions can be found all over the Internet.


A job search can be hard work and involve frustrations; don’t exhibit frustrations or a negative attitude in an interview.


Don’t assume that a female interviewer is “Mrs.” or “Miss.” Address her as “Ms.” unless told otherwise. Her marital status is irrelevant to the purpose of the interview.


Don’t chew gum or smell like smoke.


Don’t allow your cell phone to sound during the interview. (If it does, apologize quickly and ignore it.) Don’t take a cell phone call.


Don’t take your parents, your pet (an assistance animal is not a pet in this circumstance), spouse, fiancé, friends or enemies to an interview. If you are not grown up and independent enough to attend an interview alone, you’re insufficiently grown up and independent for a job. (They can certainly visit your new city, at their own expense, but cannot attend your interview.)

A few other points to remember:

  • Make sure you bring a notepad for note-taking, your checklist developed during your preparation, and your list of questions. Confirm if you should also be bringing copies of your work if applicable (although it doesn’t hurt to bring it regardless).
  • Emphasize what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. This idea ties back to an earlier topic of answering the question of “why should they hire you.”
  • A convenient way to remember many of these do’s and don’ts is drawing little icons at the side or bottom of your note pad. Having a little eye for reminding you to maintain eye contact or a chair to remind you of your posture might be handy.

This series of articles on Successful Interviewing is also available as an eBook on the A-List Solutions web site.  Click this link for a free download:  get eBook now.


March 15, 2009 - Posted by | Careers, Interviewing 101, Job Search


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  2. I wish all my applicants would read this before they came for their interviews!

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