Tips for a Great Interview

Over the past 4 years, I have had the chance to be an interviewee and an interviewer. Unfortunately, neither seems to be easier. Interviewees face the stress of not knowing how to prepare for an interview or what the interviewers thought. On the other hand, interviewers need to decide on questions to understand the true nature of candidates and often face tough decisions when the selection pool has many qualified candidates. Here’s what I’ve learned about a good interview from sitting on both sides.

Before the Interview

When you apply for a position start by making sure you submit a well formatted and organized CV, include all experience that will help you get the job and anything that may help you stand out. You would probably be surprised by how many unformatted, poorly written CVs are submitted in job applications. There are templates all over the internet and as a McGill student you have access to even better, tailored, resources. They have a CV guide and CV review.

If you get the interview, reply in a clear and concise manner. Make sure to communication any necessary information to the interviewer and confirm the date and time with them. If you are conducting a phone or skype interview send you email or phone number. In the case that you have since received another position, still reply to them courteously, you never know when you may interact with them again.

Review your CV and cover letter, make sure you know them well. Furthermore, prepare some examples of difficult or positive situations, many interviewers will ask about times when you overcame something or felt challenged. CaPS has a list of commonly asked questions here. If you are applying for something where past research or studies may be relevant, review some basic elements to make sure the ideas are fresh. Essentially, make sure you are prepared to talk about yourself.

Additionally, make sure to learn about the company or organization, that way you can adeptly talk about what drew you to the position or why you are qualified. This shows the interviewer that you didn’t just apply for every job with a list of tasks you could vaguely complete. Using this information, you could also ask a friend to help you with a mock interview. You can also book a mock interview at CaPS if you plan enough in advance. Furthermore, you can prepare 1 or 2 questions you might want to ask the interviewer at the end of your interview.

Finally, before you leave make sure to dress professionally. While ‘dressing for success’ may sound outdated or cliché, it is important. Business casual attire shows that you are taking the interview seriously.

During the Interview

Show up (on time)! Perhaps this is obvious, however showing up to your allotted time slot is essential to a successful interview, if for some reason you no longer want the job or cannot make the interview notify the interviewer as promptly as possible in a courteous manner. Furthermore, make sure to plan extra time so as not to be late. If you are going to be late due to unforeseen circumstances, contact the interviewer immediately.

Similarly to public speaking, if you forget what you are going to say or are deciding what to say, pause. There is nothing worse than a string of ums and uhs. This, however, is a learned habit. In order to master taking pauses practice stopping speaking when you get nervous to take a deep breath and try to slow your heartbeat. Doing this during interviews will lead to clearer and better structured ideas.

Make eye contact! Perhaps you’ve seen a presentation where the speaker stared at the floor or the ceiling? Or maybe had a conversation with someone who never looks you in the eye? Making eye contact is an important way to develop trust and will convey your confidence. Along the same line, sit straight, this will help you be in a better position to make eye contact, breathe, speak at a comfortable level, and feel confident.

I hope that some of these tips will help you over the course of your interview process!

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