Interviewing 101: What to Do During the Interview

So you've set up an interview time, marked the date in your calendar and prepped for the interview. Now how do you do your best during the actual interview? The tips below from  Stanford University on what to do during the interview are the second part in our series on Interviewing 101.

First impressions matter. Dress appropriately, as it’s always better to be conservatively overdressed than underdressed. Give a firm handshake, and be relaxed and polite in the opening atmosphere of the interview. If you're interviewing over the phone, stand up while you interview and smile during your answers - it'll show in your tone over the phone.

Relax and slow down. Take your time to speak clearly and comfortably, and take a moment to collect your thoughts before you answer a question, especially if it’s a difficult question.

Connect with your interviewers. When answering a question, use good eye contact. If you’re being interviewed by a panel, start by looking at the questioner, then scan the panel of interviewers, and return finally to the questioner.

Speak like a STAR. When telling a story or anecdote in an interview, use the STAR format:  State the Situation, the Task, the Action you took and the Result of your action. This creates a clear, rounded narrative.

Clarify vague questions. Ask your interviewers to rephrase questions that are not completely clear to you. They may ask deliberately vague questions and force you to interpret them. In this case, restate what you believe they are asking you, then answer appropriately.

Take lemons and make lemonade. If you’re thrown an inherently negative question, such as “What is your biggest weakness?” or “Describe a time that you failed,” answer it honestly, but be clear in your answer what you have learned from your mistakes or how you are working to improve that weak or unpleasant aspect of your personality. This shows that you are dedicated to growing as a person and learning from your blunders and failures.

Don’t let poorly answered questions drag you down. If you get a question that you can’t answer well, just answer it, move on and recover. Often, that great recovery is what your interviewer will remember about you.

Front-load your answers. Get the most relevant information out there first. This way, you will get right to the point and avoid having your interviewers interrupt you before you get to the real point of your answer.

Shed a positive light on your past. Always try to speak positively about your experiences with past employers and job positions. This shows you respect people you’ve worked with.

Need to get back to basics on interviewing preparation? Don't miss the first article in this series, Interviewing 101: What to Do Before the Interview.