Interviews are tough. They are high-pressure situations where you need to sell yourself in a way that makes you look ambitious, eager, motivated and valuable to the organisation. Like most things, "interview-ing" is a skill and it is something that you should definitely get better at over time. The context of the interview will mean that each interview will be quite different– they may share certain elements, but the overall experience will differ across each one. It is easy to focus on all of the things you should do and say, but sometimes, it means you forget what you shouldn’t say. Hopefully, this article will change that for you.
1. "So how much am I going to get paid?"
Please, please, please do not discuss a salary before you have received an offer especially as a student. It can suggest that your motivations are entirely financial and that a "lowball" offer would deter you from the company. When you are young, a company will often put a lot more than money into training you, so speaking about just the money might make them reconsider if you would be worth the investment.
2. "My apologies for being late."
Don’t be late. Of course if circumstances are unavoidable that is generally acceptable, however, plan ahead. Plan to be there 15-20 minutes earlier than you are needed. This way, in case anything happens, you still have enough of a margin to make it in time for the interview. Additionally, if there are no delays, that time before the interview can be quite relaxing and can settle some nerves you might have.
3. "Can I miss work if I have an exam?"
Asking this question sets a weird precedent– you are essentially asking for time off before you have even been offered a job. This could be a red flag for a potential employer who has to choose between you and other worthy candidates. For special circumstances, most student employers will be understanding — just try not to start the relationship by talking about all of the times you might have to be absent.
4. "I’m sorry, I’m really nervous."
Okay, to be totally honest, this could go either way. It really depends on the rapport between you and the interviewer; If they are being warm and understanding, you might be able to get away with it. In other circumstances, this suggests that you lack confidence in yourself. Trust that you are qualified for the job and sell it!
5. "Oh, I know the answer to that. Hmm let me think about this…"
Again, this could go either way. To some interviewers, especially in a technical field, knowing the answer pretty quickly might be encouraging. To others, it may appear that you have rehearsed the interview before and are regurgitating an answer that you have pre-prepared. There is nothing wrong with knowing what to say to certain questions that you pre-empt; just don’t make it look like you are trying to memorise a script.
6. "I’m a real team player."
Indeed, this is something that interviewers and firms are looking for, but just saying that you are a team player doesn’t mean anything. Instead of using a line that is arguably generic, take the opportunity to mention an example of how you are a team player. If this is a skill they appreciate, they might ask you to elaborate on the story. In that instance, keep it short. Focus on the parts where you were a team player.
7. "I think he had a red shirt… wait, maybe it was green. Actually no, the man in the blue shirt!"
This links back to the previous point. If you are telling a story that the interviewer wants to know about, nix the small details that are irrelevant. The interviewer will never know what colour the shirt of some random guy was, so it doesn’t make sense to break your flow thinking about it. Stick to the facts, stick to what highlights you as a valuable individual and subtly highlight those.
8. "Great, thank you. Bye."
When you finish an interview, I would recommend that your final interaction is through a follow-up email, up to two days after the interview, thanking the interviewer for their time and for the considering you for a job in their company. Do not pitch yourself more in that email. It should be short, polite and serve as a formality to complete the process.
A lot of these are contingent on the age, experience and attitude of the interviewer. Being candid and honest with your interviewer might work with some, but this isn’t always the case. Above everything else, it is imperative to be clear, respectful and listen. Listen intently to what the interviewer has to say, ask questions (where they are appropriate) and if you are nervous, try and settle yourself. Here are a series of strategies from the Guardian to calm some interview nerves.
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