This is your big day. It’s your interview day. All sorts of things are running through your mind. If you haven‘t prepared properly, then you’re really sweating it and upset with yourself for not being proactive again. If you have prepared properly, then you’re thinking forward. You’re eager to put into action everything you’ve prepared for and all the interview help you have received.
If the interviewer has done his or her job, then they have helped prepare you for what to expect such as the length of the interview, how many people you will meet, and who they are along with titles. Typically your interview will be one-on-one with you and the interviewer. The more experienced the interviewer, the more organized they will be by telling you what to expect and explaining the procedure or process. A good interviewer will help put you at ease. Their intent is not to embarrass you or try to ‘catch you’ at something. Remember, their goal is to find the best candidate and fill the desired position, so they have a vested interest in giving you a level-field opportunity to present yourself in a genuine manner. Both you and the interviewer have something in common; you both want to know if this job opportunity would be a good match for you, and for the company. You have to be good for the company, and on the flip side, the company has to be good for you. So in a sense, both you and the interviewer are interviewing each other. We’ll get into that a little later in this article.
Keep in mind that the purpose of the interviewer’s questions is to determine if your skills and qualifications meet the needs of the position or job in question. The questions most likely will be open-ended questions which require more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
When answering those questions you have the opportunity to present your skills and experiences. It’s O.K. and encouraged to give some thought to the question before you answer; a creative pause is seen as a positive rather than a negative as long as it’s done sparingly. Additionally it is perfectly appropriate to ask for clarification of a question if you don’t fully understand the jest of the query.
Occasionally an interviewer may do or ask the unexpected. This may be done either intentionally or unintentionally on their part. If it’s done intentionally, they may be more concerned with your demeanor in answering the question, more so than the answer itself.
An example can be the interviewer being interrupted by a phone call or someone knocking on the door or entering the room while you’re answering a question. In that situation, you need to be patient and make a note where the conversation was interrupted. Another example can be an ‘off the wall question’ such as “how do you think our Country would be different today if the Pilgrims would have landed on the West Coast instead of the East Coast?” There’s no right or wrong answer, so the interviewer wants to understand your thought process and see if you can navigate the unusual.
Be honest with your answers. Getting ‘caught’ in a contradiction can be unpleasant for both you and the interviewer. If it should happen, then be honest in your explanation including misunderstanding the question. There are times you may need to clarify or qualify a previous answer for clarity.
Earlier in this article I mentioned you are also, in a sense, interviewing the interviewer and this is done by asking questions on your part to the interviewer. In your preparation for your interview you should have created a list of questions to ask. These can be asked during the interview if it’s in the proper context of the conversation, or they can be left to address at the end of the interview. Appropriate questions can include career path, opportunity, company’s future, training, expectations, etc. Questions not to ask at this time include salary, benefits, and hours among others.
The interviewer will let you know when the interview is complete, so allow him or her to take that lead. You can get an indication if the interview went well if the interview lasts longer than anticipated, if the interviewer begins to make more statements rather than asking more questions, and if they begin to tell you more about the company, benefits, or the position.
Finally, the interviewer should tell you what to expect next and by when. If they don’t, then it’s appropriate to ask them what the next step is in the process. As you wrap it up with your interviewer, thank him or her for the time they invested in meeting with you, and with a firm handshake and good eye contact, let them know you are eager to take it to the next step.