How to Conduct a Successful Interview Part 2: The Interviewee’s Side

What the Interview is For: The Candidate’s Angle

By the time you have been invited to interview, you have hopefully researched the company and demonstrated that you have the basic capabilities needed to get the job done. Optimally, you have a good sense of how you will be compensated (though still subject to negotiation), and you like the mission and aims of the company. But, none of that tells you whether you are going to like the environment in which you will be working, or the personalities of the people with whom you will be working. Does the office feel right? Do you think you will get along with your coworkers? Do you think you can be yourself without that conflicting too much with the requirements of the position? You are coming to the interview to find out whether you will enjoy the context in which you will create value through your efforts. The other key reason you are coming to interview is to give your potential employers answers to the same questions, and possibly provide further indicators that you can accomplish what they need you to get done.

Preparing for the Interview

Properly, the company has already told you everything you need to know about the interview. If they haven’t, however, make sure to ask for all of the following:

  • Where the interview will take place (the more specific, the better, because you don’t want to have to call to ask for directions when you’re running late)
  • How you should dress for the interview (e.g., business formal, business casual, etc. If you don’t want to ask, always go for business formal [I recommend following these guidelines to the letter].)
  • Who will be interviewing you (look them up!)
  • Estimated length for the interview (hour, half-day, whole day, etc. — this also helps with your meal/snack planning)
  • What sorts of questions they will be asking and/or what they want to learn about you

What to Talk About During the Interview

Remember: this is a get-to-know-you event. You want to get to know them; they want to get to know you. So, have a conversation. If you and your interviewer researched each other, as you should have, there should be some common ground for kicking off the conversation, or things that you want to know about each other that can be answered with stories. If you can’t find any casual points, a good starter is current events in your field, work that the company recently did, or some of the cool aspects of your field (i.e., geek out!). Here are some examples (and interviewers can use these, too):

Dealing with Tough/Inappropriate Questions

Since I get asked about tough or inappropriate questions so much, I am going to get into this even though no interview should have any. For almost all of my recommendations here, I would note that, should they fall flat, you probably don’t want the job.

The Parting

Always conclude with a “thank you” and a handshake (or other appropriate parting ritual), and some indicator of how you will be in touch (not just that you will, but how and when). A thank-you note should follow.

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Orin Davis

Orin Davis

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.