How To: Master the Art of the Interview

In my last post I wrote about the resume and cover letter tips I’ve picked up over the years, so this week I thought I’d continue in a similar vein and aggregate the pearls of wisdom I’ve acquired on an equally important element of the internship search: the Interview.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The disclaimer from my previous post applies here as well: When talking about interview suggestions, it’s important to remember that they’re subjective and most likely will change depending on the position you’re applying for, your potential employer, and the type of interview you’ll be having, e.g., general, technical, in-person, phone.

For me, the process of interviewing is divided into three stages.

Before

1.    Research, research, research. Know the company’s history and get up to date on what’s going on in the industry in which you’re seeking employment. Was the company you’re interviewing with recently written about in the New York Times? Read it and prepare to reference it in your interview. Then, prepare questions to ask based upon this research.

2.    Assess yourself. What am I good at? What am I not good at? Do I have the skills this company needs? Your resume and co-workers can help provide answers to these questions. Make sure you’re prepared to speak about previous positions held and don’t be afraid to ask the people you currently work with what they think you’re good at. Then, prepare to take your weaknesses and turn them into a positive. For example, if you’re interviewing for a position for which digital editing skills may not be required but could still be valuable, you could say something like, “I’d love to strengthen my editing skills, so I’m taking a course right now to achieve proficiency with FinalCut Pro and AVID.”

3.    Practice, practice, practice. Do a mock interview with someone other than family or friends.

4.    “To suit, or not to suit?” Buy the appropriate clothes. And this doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie. In the world of film and TV production, for one, people dress more casually than they do in corporate offices.

5.    Don’t forget about the secretary. While waiting in the lobby, don’t forget about the secretary. Don’t bring him coffee or be overly friendly, but make sure to smile and remember his name. Also remember that the interview starts as soon as you walk in the door, so that same friendly behavior applies to anyone you may encounter in the building.

During

1.    Take it and choose it. If the secretary or interviewer asks if you’d like water or coffee, take it! It’ll give you something to go to if you need a few seconds to formulate an answer once the interview begins. Also, if they don’t assign you a seat when entering the room, demonstrate your ability to take initiative by choosing a seat yourself.

2.    You had me at ‘Hello.’ Your first response should be the strongest and most dynamic. Interviewers are making judgments right away and may even make a decision within the first thirty seconds to two minutes. That said, try thinking of the interview as a commercial for yourself, so maintain eye contact, enthusiasm, and excitement through the interview. Even if you’re nervous. Also remember to choose your words carefully, giving definitive and meaningful answers. There’s a difference between answering a question with “Absolutely!” and an unenthused “Yes.”

3.    Watch your interviewer. Remember to feed off your interviewer’s behavior. Mirroring tones and gestures is a great way to ingratiate yourself with him or her.

4.    Sip that water. You don’t have to answer questions right away! It’s okay to take a few seconds to formulate an answer, even if those seconds feel like the longest seconds in the whole wide world. Here’s where drinking that water could buy you a few seconds while organizing your thoughts. Also, if you’re confused by something the interviewer is talking about, ask for an explanation! This is yet another way to show both initiative and your interest in the position.

5.    “That’s all, folks.” Before the interview is officially over, ask if you can clarify any of your answers for them. Make sure they have your correct contact information and that you have the interviewer’s information as well. Ask for a business card or get the necessary information from the secretary on the way out, if needed. Finally, thank your interviewer and smile.

After

1.    Always say thanks. Send a follow-up email. We’re in the Email Age so a short email is most likely the way to go. Thank them for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with you about the position. Reiterate your interest in the job and remind them why you’re the one for it.

2.    You live, you learn. Make sure to take the time to reflect on what you did well in your interview, regardless of whether you ended up getting the position. Never make the same mistake twice.