Interviews: The Right Way to Present Yourself
Photo: UW College of Arts and Sciences
Got an interview coming up? Remember that your behavior and people skills are just as important to getting the job as your resume, experience, training, and technical abilities. You want to demonstrate by the way you conduct yourself that you have the important qualities of courtesy, respect, trust, and reliability. You also want to convey that you’re someone who would make a great colleague!
Want to rock that interview? Here’s your guide.
Before the Interview
- Decide what you’re going to wear. Professional attire is the best option. Even if you’re applying for a more casual position, it’s still important to be neat and well-groomed.
- Practice polite, confident body language. Walk and sit with your head up and your shoulders back so that it feels natural. Your posture and stride can help you convey (and feel more) confidence, even if you’re nervous inside.
- Choose a simple bag, briefcase, or portfolio to carry the items you need for your interview.
- Figure out where you are going and how long it takes to get there. Ask about where to park if you’re driving, and give yourself plenty of time for traveling, especially if you’re taking public transportation.
At the Interview
- Arrive early, but not too early. About 10 minutes before your scheduled interview is ideal. Before you enter the building, turn your cell phone off (not on vibrate) and put it away.
- Treat everyone you meet with respect. Security personnel, receptionists, anyone you encounter may be asked to give their opinion of you.
- Wait without distractions. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and let them know who you are there to see. While you are waiting for your interviewers, sit attentively in the waiting area (no magazines, no coffee cups) with your feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles with your hands in your lap or on the armrests. (You can take this moment to do some mindful breathing.)
- Greet others politely. If you are seated when someone approaches you, stand up before you shake their hand. Look them in the eyes and smile. Offer a greeting like, “It’s nice to meet you…” and say their name using the appropriate honorific (Ms., Mr., Dr. Gen., etc) and their last name. Grip firmly (but not too strong) when you shake someone’s hand; make sure your hand isn’t limp.
- What to place on the table. Most likely, you’ll be seated at a table for your interview. Place only your portfolio with copies of your resume, etc. on the table and/or a pad and pencil; everything else–bag, water bottle, etc.– should be placed next to your feet. You can also rest an arm and hand on the table.
- What to do with your body. During the interview, you want to appear upbeat and energetic without coming across as too assertive. Sit up straight in your chair and lean in slightly. Gesture naturally with your hands (not your body) when you talk. Leaning back or relaxing in your chair sends a signal of disrespect.
- Make eye contact when you’re being asked questions and when you are answering them. It doesn’t need to be continuous, but it helps to communicate that you’re listening and focused.
- Wrapping up. When the interview is over, thank your interviewers for spending time with you and reiterate your interest in the position. You may ask about next steps in the hiring process and when you might expect to hear back from them. Shake hands with everyone in the room, using their name if possible. Smile and keep your cell phone turned off until you are out of the building.
After the Interview
- Send a thank-you note. Immediately after your interview, write a follow-up email to each of your interviewers thanking them for their time, expressing your enthusiasm for the position, and including something thoughtful about your conversation. The follow-up conveys respect and can make you memorable to your interviewers.