Over the course of four hours last week, I served as both an interviewer and an interviewee. I went from fielding tough interview questions to spouting off similar inquiries to an intern candidate. The dual experience highlighted some seemingly obvious do’s (and don’ts) of interviewing that can easily be forgotten.
Do: Prepare for the Worst
I gave myself an extra hour of travel time to my interview. I’d even tested the commute. The bus rolled up 15 minutes late. After the creaky, whirring engine started bucking and the bus crawled to 5 miles per hour, I wondered in horror if it was going to break down. It did. The minutes ticked away as the driver—with zero sense of urgency—circled around outside mumbling to himself and I sat trapped on the side of the road. When he finally let us off, I ran into the street and maniacally hailed a cab. Near tears, I told the driver that I had 15 minutes to get somewhere exactly 15 minutes away. Just in case I called ahead warning that I’d be a few minutes late. Luckily, my rock star driver (a woman, mind you) got me there with one minute to spare.
Lesson learned: the worst can happen, and it did. Keep calm, give yourself ridiculous amounts of extra time, and always call ahead to say you’ll be late. And for the love of God, don’t get on a bus that looks like it’s going to catch fire.
Do: Be Honest
Once I’d settled into my interview and my nerves were calm(er), the hiring manager asked what seemed to be a trick question. Instead of being honest, I told him what I thought he wanted to hear. Backfire! I had over-analyzed a tough interview question that I’d spent far too much time Googling the “appropriate” answer to, instead of crafting an honest answer to it.
In the end, you’re only hurting yourself. It’s one thing to mold your answer in a positive direction, it’s another to outright misrepresent yourself. Luckily, that was early in the interview. I made sure to offer honest, forthcoming responses and they were received favorably.
Don’t: Yes to Death
Back at my own office, I interviewed a couple college students for intern positions. After my own interview experience, I gave a lot of leeway and tried to ask original questions, especially if I sensed I was getting canned responses. But as one person nodded and said “yes” even before I finished asking the question, his eagerness came off as disingenuous If he had paused, or taken a few moments to come up with a thoughtful answer, I would have valued his responses more. Instead, I didn’t believe him and he did not get the job. Be fresh to death, don’t yes to death!
Don’t: Forget the Thank You note
It’s one of the easiest things to do: send a Thank You note after the interview. It’s also one of the easiest things to forget. You’re so happy to be done with the interview, all your bundled up nerves have been unleashed and the next thing you know, it’s a week later and you’ve forgotten to follow up and send a thank you note. That’s a killer realization, but just know that it’s never too late (well, unless they’ve already told you no, then that’s too late). A handwritten card is a great touch; since an email is so easy to send, sometimes that extra effort pays off. Just make sure you have the card ready, even before the interview, with a stamped envelope. Draft up a message, and send right after the interview so they get it 1-2 days after.
If you take anything away from these tips, it’s that we have all done at least one of these things in an interview. Your stress and anxiety levels may be high; and you may commit blunders you never thought possible. Just breathe and make a list of even the most simple things you need to remember. And…go get ’em!