Applying for jobs is a time investment, but sometimes the return can yield a chance to get your foot in the door. The interview can be one of the most loathsome parts of the process — you have to dress up and speak without stumbling over your words.
It’s a little known fact that every semester the University of New Mexico has classes to teach students how to do their best during an interview, Communication and Journalism 344.
Evan Ashworth, is part of the term teaching faculty in the C&J Department — he also taught the interviewing class.
Anthony Jackson: What do you guys go over in the class?
Evan Ashworth: It’s primarily in-person or face-to-face interviews. We talk about a lot of different interviewing concepts. We’re talking about interviewing on both sides of the table — it’s not just like what you do or should be doing as an interviewee — it’s about what you should be doing as an employer too.
Jackson: Can you tell me what you’ve told students on how to prepare for an interview?
Ashworth: A lot of this is based off of personal preference and experience — one of the things I always say regardless of the student is you have to do your homework. You have to research the company that you’re applying for or the scholarship that you’re applying for extensively to show that you’ve done that work in the interview and that you demonstrate that knowledge of the company in the Q&A session that’s almost always asked of applicants at the end.
The other sorts of things I offer are based on personal experience, which may not work for everyone. One of the things I do, and I’ve had good luck with this — it’s really strange — is to embarrass myself publicly on the day of the interview. What this means for me is that I drove around town with my window open and sing a pop song terribly. I put myself in this context where I’m embarrassing myself and then after that I feel “well I just sort of hit socially as low as I can go” so the rest of the day is up from here. I’ve found it’s a very unconventional way of building confidence prior to an interview.
In public speaking, I always show this . She talks about a power pose. As part of your preparation for an interview you have to nonverbally prepare yourself for the interview itself. She suggests that before the interview you should make yourself big and powerful with this Wonder Woman pose. It’s this motion creates emotion idea that I was taught in marketing years ago.
Jackson: With phone interviews, what kind of advice do you have for that?
Ashworth: I don’t talk much about phone interviews because increasingly I feel like they’re not happening as much, but we do talk about Skype interviews. The advice that I offer in Skype interviews is not too different. A lot of it is logistical concerns like if you’re doing it on your iPhone, you need to make sure that you’re looking at the camera, not the screen because that’s the equivalent of looking at their neck or their chest.
Preparation is still the most important thing and you can clearly indicate your preparation level by how you’re talking about your experience, your expertise and your understanding of the organization. The strategies are largely the same.
Jackson: How should students conduct themselves?
Ashworth: Nonverbally, the first thing I would notice if I were an interviewer is what my applicant is wearing. Are they wearing professional attire? It tells a lot to the interviewer. Opinions might vary, but one of things I talk about is the importance of a handshake — like who should initiate that handshake.
If you’re going to be the interviewer, let the interviewee be the one to extend their hand so that you’re not making cultural assumptions, among other assumptions about where they come from and whether they want to even shake your hand. But I also say the same thing to the interviewee — just wait and the interviewer will often extend their hand. The ultimate thing here, if you can, is to just be aware of the cultural background of who you are speaking to. A handshake communicates so much.
When I’m interviewing somebody, I’m hoping they’re taking this posture where they’re leaning forward slightly and nodding. If you’re talking as an interviewer and the interviewee is just staring at you, it’s as bad as heckling. This is something that you have to be aware of as an interviewee as how can I communicate to my interviewer that I’m paying attention?
The verbal is just as important. Have talking points pre-prepared. A lot of interview questions are “tell me a bit about yourself.” Reading the job posting will give you a lot of good clues about potential interview questions and what language you should use in preparing your answer.
What applicants don’t do a lot is write stuff down. That communicates information to me as an interviewer like they’re really prepared for this interview, they’re really organized and they’re not panicking when I ask a two or three-part question.
Don’t be afraid of silence. 10 seconds is a bit too much, but when you get a question from an interviewer, a lot of people think they need to respond immediately within a second or two. You don’t have to. I always appreciate that because otherwise you can find yourself in a position as an interviewee where you’re starting a sentence that you don’t know how you’re going to finish. All it really takes is collecting your thoughts for a few moments before you answer.
Jackson: Should students bring a copy or resume of their CV?
Ashworth: I think it doesn’t hurt — it just shows you’re prepared. In my experience as an interviewee and an interviewer, they already have those documents in front of them. It speaks to the level of preparedness that a student has — which is really important for any position they’re applying for in the workforce.
Jackson: Is there anything students should do after an interview?
Ashworth: One of the things I’m a big proponent of is sending a handwritten thank you card. I just think it’s a nice personal touch saying, “hey, even if you don’t hire me, I really genuinely thank you for this opportunity to get interviewed.” A handwritten note says that better than an email. One of the things I like to hear from an applicant is when they ask for a timeline about hearing back.
There are some questions you should never ask like “what’s the pay; how did I do; when do I start?” A question related to the logistics of the process like “when will I hear” indicates to me that this person really cares about the job and they’re structuring their time and I need to respect that.
Anthony Jackson is photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.