Interviewing Skills: During the Interview

Your interview will most likely begin the moment you step into the building of your prospective employer. In all likelihood, you will be evaluated from your first phone contact, which will continue when you enter their office. Everything from your attire, your attitude, and your body language will be included in the assessment. This is a part of your first impression. Are you dressed appropriately for the role? Do you walk or stand with confidence or does your posture indicate timidity? What sort of facial expression are you displaying? Is your face relaxed or are you thinking about something annoying that happened to you the night before?

Your ability to communicate will also be assessed. As English language learners, you will not likely be expected to speak fluently like native speakers, but you will still be expected to communicate effectively during the interview. Here is part two of this 3-part series on Interviewing Skills. If you missed part one, you can read it here.

1. Greet your interviewer with a handshake, eye-contact, and a smile

In business environments, it is customary in many countries to greet each other with a one-handed handshake and a friendly smile. Your handshake should be firm, but not too tight, so don't crush the other person's hand in your grip and don't pump your hand too many times. This is your opportunity to show confidence and reliability, not your opportunity to prove how strong your hand is.

Make eye contact as you shake hands. This demonstrates your alertness and attentiveness, but avoid staring or making eye-contact for too long as it can be uncomfortable. It can also be perceived as a threat, as intimidating, or creepy -- all things you want to avoid while making your first impression.

Your smile sends the message that you're approachable and it sets you up for a positive interaction. It also helps relay that same message through your eyes. It's difficult to show how approachable you are when your mouth is smiling, but your eyes are not. Again, creepy.

2. Bring your resume

Bring a copy of your resume with you to present to the interviewer. Don’t assume the interviewer knows everything they need to know about you from your online application. That's the reason you're there. If you applied for the position through a job search engine like Indeed or LinkedIn Jobs, the employer may not have complete access to your applicant information. Additionally, some people simply like the feel of paper in their hands.

Make sure your resume is clean and free of wrinkles and creases. In fact, carry it inside a portfolio or folder. Also carry your list of references -- on a separate sheet of paper, not on your resume -- but only present them if the interviewer asks for it.

3. Take notes

Bring a notepad and pen with you to your interview. This shows you are prepared. It's a good place to keep those questions you wrote down when you were preparing for the interview. And, at the risk of being obvious, it's a good place to keep notes. Take notes about your job duties, expectations, benefits, and perks. Write down any questions that arise during the interview and ask them later. Also write down the answers to any of the questions you prepared. You don't want to make the mistake of asking a question that was already answered. It could send the message that you are not paying attention, lack focus, or not really interested.

4. Be an attentive and active listener

Just as making eye contact during the initial greeting is important, it is equally important to make eye contact during the interview. Whenever the interviewer is speaking, give him or her your attention. Don't sit all the way back in your chair. Instead, sit upright with your back straight or lean forward a bit as a way of using your body language to show that you are listening carefully and are focused.

Do not interrupt the interviewer while they are speaking. That is considered rude. It's okay to nod your head every now and then or use verbal fillers (sparingly) to indicate understanding. This is a part of being an active listener. Acceptable verbal fillers are words like, I see, alright, or I understand. Verbal fillers you should not use in this environment are uh-huh, yeah, okay, yup, or mmm-hmm. They are distracting and are closer to grunts than they are actual words.

While it is important to be an active listener, I must take a moment to stress that you should use these phrases in moderation. I taught a student recently who used the verbal filler uh-huh every time I made a brief pause during a sentence. As you can imagine, it was very disruptive, distracting, and annoying. It was also prohibitive to her learning experience and interfered with her comprehension because she missed a lot of what I was saying and used too much of her lesson time asking me to repeat phrases.

5. Ask questions

It's okay to ask questions during the interview, especially if the interviewer asks if you have any questions. In fact, at the end of the interview, and sometimes during, they always ask if you have any questions. This is where your preparation will become useful. Now is the time to ask those unanswered questions you wrote in your notes. Try to be brief so as not to prolong the interview too much. Be sincere and show interest in their response. Most importantly, listen to their responses to your questions. They may say something that requires a follow-up question. If so, ask your question. It shows you're paying attention.

One last thing, before you leave, don't forget to say thank you.


prospective (adj.) - likely to be or become something specified in the future

attire (n.) - clothing

assessment (n.) - the act of making a judgment about something : the act of assessing something

first impression (n.) - the effect or influence that something or someone has on a person's thoughts or feelings the first time you meet

posture (n.) - the way in which your body is positioned when you are sitting or standing

timid (adj.) - feeling or showing a lack of courage or confidence

facial expression (n.) - the way someone's face looks that shows emotions and feelings

customary (adj.) - usually done in a particular situation or at a particular place or time

crush (v.) - to press or squeeze (something) so hard that it breaks or loses its shape

pump (v.) - to move (something) up and down or in and out quickly and repeatedly

stare (v.) - to look at someone or something for a long time often with your eyes wide open

perceived (v.) - to think of (someone or something) as being something stated

intimidating (adj.) - the act of making (someone) afraid

creepy (adj.) - strange or scary : causing people to feel nervous and afraid

interaction (n.) - talking or doing things with other people

applicant (n.) - someone who formally asks for something (such as a job or admission to a college) : someone who applies for something

portfolio (n.) - a flat case for carrying documents or drawings

obvious (adj.) - easy for the mind to understand or recognize

perks (n.) - something extra that someone receives in addition to regular pay for doing a job

sparingly (adv.) - not using or giving a lot of something

grunt (n.) - a short, low sound from the throat

prohibitive (adj.) - stopping people from using or doing something

brief (adj.) - lasting only a short period of time; using only a few words

prolong (v.) - to make (something) last or continue for a longer time


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