You Spent All That Time Preparing, Now Don’t Blow the Interview

Used with permission from MicrosoftArticle 2 of 3. During the Interview. This series is specifically for those who are either new to the workforce (teens and college students) or are returning to the workforce (stay-at-home parents) after having a significant period of time off. But even if you don’t fall into this category, you should find these tips for interviewing helpful all the same.

You bought an awesome new outfit and you’ve been practicing your answers to those “most common interview questions.” You read my previous article and are now ready to rock ‘n roll this interview correct?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves too quickly eh? All that prep work you’ve done is just a third of the battle, remember? You might have the best answers planned out and the most impressive outfit lined up, but if you don’t mind your p’s and q’s during the interview, you could still find yourself searching for a job tomorrow. For the day of the interview, it’s especially important to mind your manners and be mindful of your body language.


Keep these important things in mind:

  1. First things first. Turn your cell phone OFF before you enter the building. As a matter of fact, just turn the thing off before you get out of your car. I know, I know. I can hear the excuses already. “But playing ‘Candy Crush’ helps me relax.” “But what if I get an important call?” “But I like to multitask and can answer some emails before they call me back to the interview.” Okay, how about this? Since that cell phone is so important and obviously requires your attention 24-7, then why don’t you just skip the interview since you apparently have some other more important things to attend to anyway? Let me explain it to you this way. THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW THAN THIS INTERVIEW. You don’t need to play any games to help you relax. You don’t need to read the magazine that’s sitting there in the waiting room. If anything, you need to remain focused on the task at hand and think about your opening statement. It’s called visualization. Also, any calls you get can wait. Trust me on this. If it’s important, they will leave a voicemail. You can get back to them after the interview. The world will not fall apart between now and then. And finally, no you cannot multitask. That is a myth. Sure, you might be able to do a few things at the same time, but you’re doing a half-ass job of it. You ever notice that people excel at certain things and not at everything? It’s because they focus and place importance on the task at hand in order to excel at it. If you truly want to succeed in this particular task, the interview, then you need to invest all of your focus and energy into it. Again, everything else can wait. And for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT allow your cell phone to ring or check your phone during the interview! Nothing screams, “I really couldn’t care less about getting this job or working for your organization” more than checking your messages during an interview. Don’t even try a “quick glance.” The second you do this, just leave the interview. You won’t get the job anyway.
  2. The word of the day today is “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking the only person who matters the day of your interview is the hiring manager. Before you leave the car, look in the mirror and remind yourself to make eye contact and smile to anyone and everyone who crosses your path today. For example, hold the door for others and say “good morning” or “good afternoon.” If someone holds a door for you, say “thank you” with a smile. You never know who you might be standing next to or talking to. When you arrive to the designated area, greet the receptionist with a friendly “hello” and smile. Don’t be surprised if he or she tries to engage you into some small talk. There are many times the hiring manager will ask the receptionist what he or she thought about your personality. And if you’re rude or disrespectful to the receptionist and that information gets back to the hiring manager, well, what in the heck do you think is gonna happen next?
  3. Body language is more than just a smile. While you’re sitting in the waiting room, should you sit slouched over like you’re at home watching your favorite show or should you sit up straight? This should be a no-brainer, but if you don’t pay attention to your posture while sitting as well as standing, you could look like a slouch and not even mean it. When the person (or people) enter the room to bring you into the interview, stand up to shake their hands. If you’re already in the interview room waiting for the interviewer, when he or she enters the room, stand up to shake his or her hand. Let me say that again, STAND UP to shake hands. During the interview, even though you’re sitting down, make sure your body is pointed toward the interviewer and make eye contact while answering the questions. Don’t stare, but good, strong eye contact is indicative of confidence. Hand gestures should appear natural and shouldn’t draw attention to themselves. When listening rather than talking, keep your hands down in a relaxed position (palms down on your legs) and don’t fidget.
  4. Leave the slang at home. I don’t care if you’re interviewing for a job at the animal shelter to clean poop out of the cages or if you’re interviewing for a job as an intern in an accountant’s office, the language you use during the interview matters. The “Ain’t nobody got time for that” and “That’s what she said” references do not belong in the interview. I don’t care how comfortable you are with the interviewer. And if the interviewer says something funny, don’t respond with “OMG!” Avoid answering yes or no questions with “yeah,” “yep,” or “uh-huh.” Those are completely inappropriate responses. Now whether or not you say “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” to answer a question is up for debate. Many experts will argue that it depends on age, culture, etc. etc. etc. Rather than get caught up in the debate and try to guess at whether or not the interviewer would appreciate the “sir” or “ma’am” replies, just answer with a “yes” or “no” and quickly follow up with an explanation. For example, “Can you work at least 15 hours a week?” could be answered with, “Yes, my schedule is flexible and I’m able to work more than 15 hours a week if needed.”
  5. Don’t let them smell you. No really. I understand you really dig the new perfume that just came out and I understand you’ve been told the ladies just love that brand of cologne, but you’re not here to get a date. You’re here to get a job. The bottom line is you want the interviewer concentrating on your answers, not your smell – whether you think it’s a good smell or not isn’t even the point. There are many reasons to avoid the perfumes and colognes on the day of your interview. What if the interviewer is allergic? You’re screwed. What if the interviewer just doesn’t like it? You’re screwed. Take a shower and make sure to put on some D.O. for the B.O. and you should be good. For today though, B.O. doesn’t just mean body odor; it also means breathe odor. Now, DO NOT go into the interview chewing gum or sucking on a peppermint, but do have a breathe mint before walking in. Just make sure you finish it BEFORE you walk in. Don’t give the interviewer a stupid reason like “you smell” to quickly move on to the next candidate.
  6. You’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. This may seem odd to you, especially if you’re new to this whole job interviewing thing, but it’s true. I understand that you want a job because you’d like to earn some cashola. Who doesn’t need money right? But understand this, the money won’t matter if you’re a miserable employee who might end up either quitting or being fired. As much as you want this job, and as much as you want to make a good impression, you need to go into the interview with the understanding that you’re also trying to find the right “fit” for you. Now, as the interviewer prepares to finish the interview, he or she is going to ask you if you have any questions. There are three things you can do at this point to raise a red flag (and that is not a good thing). First, you could respond with a firm “No, I don’t have any questions” or “No, I can’t think of any questions.” Wow, way to show you are completely disinterested in the organization and the people. Second, you could just ask about the pay. Wow, way to show you are only interested in a paycheck. As a matter of fact, avoid any questions that involve asking about the pay, the vacation time, or the benefits. These are all things that can be discussed IF you are offered the position. Otherwise, asking them at this point shows that you are only interested in what’s in this for you and not about being a good employee or a team player. Third, you could ask questions that are easily answered just by doing a little homework. Questions like, “What can you tell me about the company?” Wow, aside from being completely vague, what a way to show that you don’t even know where you are. Just as you should spend time tailoring your answers to the interview questions asked of you, you should spend time tailoring your own interesting and unique questions. Scott Ginsberg offers some great advice here on types of interview questions you can ask in his article at The Ladders.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series that will cover what you should do After the Interview.

Jennifer Furlong has 20+ years’ experience in the communication field and is a communication and public speaking lecturer at various colleges in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. in Communication with a focus on Public Relations and an M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her hubby, two teenagers, three dogs and two cats. You can read more of her work at her website and follow her daily Tweets at @speechteach912 on Twitter.

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