Career Wednesday: How to Interview Like a Champion

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Wednesday! Can you all believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving? Hopefully everyone has lots of fun plans with family and friends scheduled for the next few days. I know the past week has been crazy for me. Between flying cross-country to start my new job (see this post for more information) having one of my best friends from college visit, and going on a mini-vacation to Hershey, PA it's been a busy couple of days. The blog took a little bit of a back seat, but don't worry, things will be settling down soon (hopefully). Tonight I am headed with Alex and Kalliope to my parents' house and meeting up with high school friends for drinks in our town (oh Thanksgiving Eve, how I love thee). Then we have family Thanksgiving tomorrow and Friday we're headed to Pittsburgh to see Alex's family and have a second Thanksgiving + birthday celebration for Alex. It's going to be hectic but I love getting to see everyone! 

Anyways, Nidhi is back today with another great guest post to continue our series. This week's topic is interviewing and this is something I think everyone could use extra tips on. Check out Nidhi's post below and then feel free to leave comments with any additional tips you find helpful!

Picture of Nidhi provided by Nidhi

How to Prep for a Job Interview
Guest Post by Nidhi Desai (email:

Last week’s blog on resume writing was only the beginning of the whole “finding-a-new-job” saga. Now, the resume’s updated and you’re ready for the next part of the process: interviewing.

Before the interview
Prior to the interview, prepare strong responses to questions that are likely to be asked. A commonly asked starter question is, “Could you please tell me a little bit about yourself?” This is a great opening question during which the interviewee has the ability to describe their career thus far, highlighting important experiences. As mentioned in the prior week’s blog post, a recruiter/interviewer may only glance at a resume for seconds and may not remember significant details. Therefore, for those 1-3 years out of college, use this opportunity to share your career story right from the end of college. For example, a sample response to this question could be: “I graduated from XYZ University in 2013, with a degree in (subject). Upon graduation I started working at (company) where I currently am a (job title) and some of my responsibilities include…” Of course, glam up the response with other relevant and interesting information if appropriate (i.e. what prompted you to choose your major).

Some other commonly asked questions include: 
  •  What types of clients/projects have you work on?
  •  Why are you seeking a change in careers? (If relevant)
  •  Tell me about a time at work when you knew a (client) deadline wasn't going to be met - what did you do?
  •  Tell me about a time when you didn't get along with someone in your department or work team with whom you worked closely- how did you handle the situation?

During the Interview
It is good practice to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early, allotting time for any transportation or travel delays, as well. Nothing sets a careless and irresponsible first impression than arriving late for an interview. Arriving early also allows you to collect your thoughts one final time before the interview begins. 

Dress business professional (unless told otherwise), which means suits for both genders; women can choose between a pant suit, dresses with jacket or skirt and suit jacket. Stick to conservative, neutral colors. Grooming is equally important – hair, make up, facial hair for men, fingernails – everything should be groomed and professional. For a 30-60 minute face-to-face interview, you want to be sure to be fully presentable so that nothing about your appearance is distracting to the interviewer. Carry a work portfolio that has a notepad to easily jot down names, questions or notes.

When the interviewer arrives, greet them with a firm handshake, while maintaining eye contact and smiling to exhibit confidence and strong non-verbal communication cues. Smiling is key – even if you feel very nervous and unsettled inside, smiling will naturally make you seem more approachable and friendly. Smiling is key during phone interviews as well, as inflection and related enthusiasm can be sensed through the phone.

When the interview begins, particularly with behavioral questions, remain composed and make the question/answer interaction as conversational as possible. Ultimately, the people interviewing are assessing if they could see themselves working with the candidate, so it is best to be relaxed and answer honestly. When asked more analytical or industry- specific questions, take your time in answering. Many times, more than achieving the correct answer, the interviewer is more interested in learning the interviewee’s thought-process and problem-solving skills. When asked extraneous questions like "How many baseballs do you think can fit in this room?" (I was really asked that one time), try to make it conversational and vocalize your thought-process aloud. For example, saying something like, "well a baseball is about 9 inches in circumference and I think this room is X by Y inches, so YYY baseballs could probably fit in this room." 

Once the interviewer has completed asking their questions, they will ask if the interviewee has any questions they'd like to ask. It's very important to ask meaningful and insightful questions at this point. As a general rule of thumb, try to have at least 3-5 questions premeditated to ask in case some were answered during the interview. Ask questions about the day-to-day duties of the role, what the work culture is like and anything else you would want in a company/job. At this time, it is not appropriate to ask for the pay or the number of days off allowed since there is no job offer on the table yet. If you're feeling gutsy, you can ask if the interviewer has any concerns or hesitations about your candidacy that you can maybe help clarify or expand upon while you're there.

After the interview
As the interview concludes, ask for the interviewer's business card that includes their name and work email address. Just like in the beginning, end the interaction by thanking the interviewer for their time with a firm handshake, steady eye contact and a friendly smile. 

Complete the process for all interviewers and try to differentiate the questions asked. Of course if there are things you truly value as important (i.e. culture), it doesn't hurt to ask multiple people to obtain a more thorough understanding of it and through the eyes of multiple people.
Another general rule: email all the interviewers personally within 24 hours of the interview. Thank them for their time and express how great of a time you had at their office. Assuming they are interviewing multiple people for the role, try to include a personal point of the conversation in the thank you email, so the interviewer can differentiate between all the candidates and clearly remember you. For example, if during an interview the interviewer and you discussed the importance of work-life balance and all the measures the company takes to ensure a healthy balance, include a sentence of how important and meaningful that is and how you really value that the company addresses it. 
Building work relationships and professional networks are very important. You never know who knows whom and what they will say about your work quality and ethic, so it’s a good idea to always be in people’s good graces. In addition to being excellent references for the future, it’s amazing how close friends you can become with previous co-workers. Therefore, even when starting a new job, don’t burn bridges with old co-workers and managers; just continue to expand and deepen that professional network.

Nidhi has some amazing tips and it's important to be prepared and put your best foot forward at an interview. They can make or break your chances of landing your dream position, and you're so close! What do you think of these tips? Do you have any tips of your own? Remember to come back next week for the next installment of this five-part career series!
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  1. Love this post! I'm currently looking for a second job so this is perfect for me to read right now, I'll be going back to your resume post as well! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

  2. these are great tips. one of the best interview tips i've ever got is how to respond to tricky questions like "what are your weaknesses?". some people are reluctant to answer that question honestly because they don't wanna be exposed for their weaknesses. but i was told that answering honestly is your best shot, it shows that you acknowledge and are fully aware of your flaw. the best cherry on top would be to alter that weakness to a strength. for example when you admit that your weakness is you are such a perfectionist, but on the upside it makes you very attentive to details and maintain a certain standard quality for your work products.

  3. This is super helpful, thanks for sharing!


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