The Basics of Interviewing

By Michael Chin

Job interviews have a lot in common with blind dates: You sit down with a previously unknown person, talk for a while and exchange some details before ultimately deciding on whether or not you will start seeing each other much more frequently in the future. Granted, interviews are much more one-sided, but the analogy still holds. You go to interviews and blind dates with a similar mentality. Anxious. Excited. Hopeful. You want the person on the other side of the desk (or café table, all the same) to like you. You cautiously poke around a blind date’s life like you feign casual glances around the office as you walk to the interview room, watching to see if you’d fit in.

Sometimes the discomfort of the interview is all you need to bring out your calm center. That is, if you’re superhuman. For the rest of humanity, we might find our hands clamming up for that first handshake, our arms quivering a little (not exactly with fear, more with adrenaline) at the point when we hand our resumé in. It always helps me to have mastered a few basics on how to woo your potential boss before entering.

The Attire

Though the old adage commands that we never judge a book by its cover, it still matters that you look nice going into an interview. Personally, my attire is the thing I obsess over most before an interview, though in the course of things it’s not what matters most. Still, you should pay attention to the way you come off; first impressions are important, and their very first will be of the way you appear. Dress to impress, but not to overbear or overshadow. You want to be aesthetically convincing, but never showy. Do wear clothes you might wear to a nice dinner or formal. I can only speak for guys on this subject, but a shirt and slacks or nice khakis (no cargo pockets or zip-off pant legs, buddy) are musts, and a tie is optional. Don’t show up in a T-shirt and/or jeans. Leave your sequin jacket at home. You’ll (ideally) be given at least a little leeway in terms of attire because you’re a student.

The best thing you can do with your attire is simple but effective: Judge your audience. If you’re applying to Yogurtland, you probably won’t need a full suit and tie. If you’re interviewing at a law firm, you probably will. Another adage goes like this: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Unless your interviewer called you “dude” over the phone, you might want to upscale your attire a bit, just in case.

The Resumé

I’m not going to say a whole lot about resumés, because there are a ton of much more qualified people giving workshops all over campus all the time. I’ll leave you with this advice, though: Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box with your resumé design. If you have experience with Adobe InDesign or a friend who’s willing to design a resumé, take advantage of that. If yours is only one in a towering stack, you’re going to want to stand out from the leagues of Microsoft Word template drones out there. (But don’t worry if you’re one of those drones, either –– it’s all about what’s on the resumé, after all.)

One more piece of advice I’d like to impart on the subject of resumés, though: You may be tempted to beef up your list of qualifications, making the most minuscule achievements seem like glorious triumphs. My take on this is not to put on your resumé anything you don’t truly believe in. If you aren’t confident that your participation trophy in middle school soccer truly does show that you work well in a team, then do yourself a favor and leave it off your resumé. Interviewers aren’t stupid, and they can see through that.

The Swagger

The most important part of the interview is one most people have trouble with. You should go into the interview (blind date, whatever) feeling confident in yourself. Believe in what you’re putting forward. You shouldn’t go in wanting them to start to like you. You should go in knowing that you like yourself, confident that they’re going to catch on. Be self-assured, march in exuding a bravado so heady that it influences the person across the desk.

It’s important to distinguish between swagger and cockiness. You want to be confident in everything: your attire, your resumé, your attitude. You want to seem sure of yourself, but never that you’re better than the person interviewing you (because you aren’t, duh).

I’m not saying that doing all of this (or any of this) will get you a job, but being prepared might at least lessen your fear of handing in your resumé. The most important word has been apparent throughout this article, but here it is again, culled for your convenience: Confidence. Be confident. Don’t be self-effacing. Believe in yourself, and everyone else will follow suit.