Job Interview Tips from an Unorthodox Interviewer

Before your next interview--and before you go into a Googling frenzy--take a look my Unorthdox Interviewer's tips. My goal is to make you feel more confident and poised, which is often what the interviewer is really looking for. They already read your resume, now show off your personality.

There was a point in time in my former life where I spent a large chunk of time interviewing people. I interviewed people for internships, freelance, contract and contract-to-hire positions. The departments I was trying to fill ranged from marketing, sales, graphic design, creative catch-all and personal assistant (Hang in their, personal assistants. I respect the hustle.)

Nancy is on hunt for job-interview tips, too.

The problem with this former-life responsibility was I had no idea what the hell I was doing. (I'm not Fortune 100 quality, but I could employ a start-up, or non-profit in my sleep.) I had a writing degree, with no previous knowledge of Human Resources. But, I know how to talk to people, make them feel comfortable enough to confide in me and how ask important questions. So, I had to learn on my own.

I literally googled "How to Interview" and "Interview Questions"; covertly soaked up as much as I could from professionals and tried to remember my journalism training when it came to asking thoughtful questions and reading body languages. I got better, eventually. Below are my tips for you.


Pretend You Don't Need This: I cannot stress enough how much a sense of calmness can be conveyed as confidence. And confidence, in addition to basic job requirements, is what makes you stand out. Confidence shows you can handle your shit--and whatever kind of shit might arise in the office. No one likes a crybaby. They want a problem solver.
Think of the last time you were anxious. Rapid heartbeat? Extremities slightly shake? Words and recollections float around your head like a jumbled mess? Yeah, that's what you want to avoid. Because when they ask you a stock question like "Where do you see yourself in five years," your answer should seem sincere, as if you took a second to ponder the question.

  • Even if you are lying, repeat the words "No big deal. I don't need this" over and over again. Fake it till you made it; position affirmations can work. That does not mean you don't want this job--it just means that if you don't get it, you'll live. And you will. God forbid you don't get one particular job does not mean it's game over. Sometimes getting a "no" makes you hungry and shakes the icy chill of rejection off. Move along.

That being said, confidence is not cockiness. Do not go so far as to convey an attitude that the interviewer is lucky to be graced with your presence. You should be gracious--but you are secure in who you are, what you bring to the table and think you would make a great addition to the team. Think of it as the writing/theater technique of showing vs. telling.

Show them you are intelligent, confident, experienced and well spoken by the way you sit across the table, making eye contact, giving thoughtful answers and providing relative information when asked about prior experience or examples. Don't tell the person, "Yes, I'm a excellent communicator and planner. I didn't bring any samples, but you can just take my word on it." The only way I can see this attitude as a plus is if they are hiring for Pharmaceutical sales and looking for a psychopath (hehe).

So, remember, you don't need this. I understand that your funds are running low--I've been there-- but for the 20-30 minutes you are interviewing, lie. I promise, you will be a better version of yourself. You will be calmer, more confident and better at conversation.

Body Language is Important. Practice It: It works for the FBI and many hiring managers (and most people) pick up on body cues. Here's a couple of body language cues to practice, so when you are in the middle of the interview you can exude your calm, confident, capable self:

  • Lean back in your chair. Too many people (myself included, at times) get worked up, or nervous to the point where they hunch over the table in front of them. Sometimes it's a security measure as feeling the hard wood surface against your stomach makes you feel less exposed. Other times it might be because your interviewer has learned to sit back in his/her chair, therefore asserting dominance, and you learn forward to be closer to the conversation. Lean back. Feel the hard wood surface against your back. This subtle cue let's them know you are at ease. You will be your charming yourself without letting on that he/she intimidates you.
  • Make eye contact. Let me be more specific: Make contact at the start and finish of each answer. It's ok to let your eyes wander a little bit, especially if you are detailing an experience. If you need more specific, try making eye contact every 10-15 seconds. They might not always be staring into your eyes, but they will notice that you are looking their way. More importantly, you do not want to look like a serial killer with a dead-on gaze the whole time. But, meet their gaze when you begin to answer their questions to show respect and that you are involved in the conversation. Then, end your answer by looking at them, to show confidence in your answer and help them know when you're done.
  • Act like your hands weigh 50 lbs each. No, don't be a robot. But don't wave them manically when you speak. And don't flip your hair or display other nervous twitches. Or tap them on your portfolio. Find two-three places for your hands after the handshake--your lap, the table in front of you, one hand placed on your open portfolio/samples/resume, etc. When you move your hands, return them to a designated area. You have a comfortable place to land and you will look poised and calm.
  • Slow your speech. It is hard to ramble when you talk purposely. Also, you tend to enunicate better, maybe because you're focused on the sound of your own voice. You're gently forcing the other person to listen to you, as by not talking a mile a minute and since there are fewer words, they carry more value. Take a two second pause to formulate a response--even if you have your answers prepared--this will make you look as though you were actually listening to the interviewer instead of formulating your response in your head as they spoke. No one likes the feeling like they aren't being heard.
  • Facial cues. As hard as it can be not to wince when an out-of-left-field question pops up, don't show it. Poker face, people. Practice this in the mirror. Have someone interview you and ask outlandish questions. Get used to hearing something uncomfortable and not responding accordingly. Remember to smile. Don't purse your lips together or squint your eyes. Slightly nod at times during speech. Look to the right when asked a questions that requires a thoughtful response (Eye Cues Here). Don't be a deer caught in the headlights. You are in control.

Come with 5-6 questions. Research the company beforehand and come up with at least 5-6 questions about it. Think a little further than, "Do you have Casual Friday?" Ask they plan on going nationwide, or international. Ask if there is travel involved for the position. Ask if there are plans to incorporate a blog, additional client market, etc. Ask what the interviewer likes about working there--it gives them a chance to talk about him/herself and everyone likes that! (Note: I pull this question out if the person is from the department I'm interviewing for, or comes off as friendly. Use discretion.) Show that you came prepared. I say 5-6 questions because some will be answered during the interview.

Dress professional, even a little boring. There's no real peacocking at an interview. (The only caveat I can think of is in the fashion industry.) It can even hurt you--interviewers are human, if you get a petty or inappropriate interviewer, your look could adversely affect your ability to be taken seriously. Once employed you can exercise your stylish muscle and see what fits into the dress code. Dress professional, as in a suit, blazer and dress pants/ dress skirt. I don't recommend wearing a business-appropriate dress (great for meetings, but came come off as not appropriate).

This is not to say you won't look attractive and powerful. You are just doing it in a formal way.

  • Jewelry to a minimum and probably kept to basic metals with small embellishments
  • Black or mono-tone pumps/flats (I stick with pumps)
  • Blouse under your buttoned jacket--use color if you wish, just not crazy patterns or too bold
  • Makeup. Wear some. Not wearing any makeup can actually be distracting. Just some mascara, chapstick and blush should do the trick if makeup is not your normal routine. No fake eyelashes
  • Polished hair. I mean not frizzy. Straighten or curl it. Or, put it up in a bun. Save the side braids or updos for your free time or once you see the culture of your office
  • Suit / blazer combinations that fit your body (a well-fitting suit can be sexy, don't knock it)
  • Nail polish: clear, light pink, nude, red (not a fan, but accepted) muted tones of other shades

Bring a portfolio. Fill it with multiple copies of your resume, writing samples, projects, references, etc. You should have samples of anything you want to talk about or refer to. And when you start speaking about it, open up your portfolio and hand the interviewer his/her own copy. (This was one subtle indicator of an organized, competent interviewee-- they always ended up being great workers, who worked well on their individual projects and took the lead on group projects. )Also, feel free to open your handy portfolio and take notes as the interviewer will inevitably ramble on about the company's history and their own role. Look engaged.

I own this one. My mom bought it for me when I graduated college. Thanks, mom. (I know you're reading this, that's why I never write about sex.)

Asking salary information at Interview One: Capricorn thinks this is a must and does it. He also believes this is something that will set you apart from the entry-levels as people making lateral moves or advancements will of course need to know salary information as they need to gauge whether this job opportunity is worth their time. Knowing you own worth is the take away here.

I still tend to shy away from asking. It's probably something I need to work on, as it does sound assertive. I never disregarded an interviewee for asking. Follow Capricorn on this one.

In my time as an interviewer (and now interviewee) this is what I learned. I considered people who displayed the above qualities more seriously. Be the best version of yourself you can-- don't morph into a superhero at an interview; you will most likely be found out.

Good Night and Good Luck,

Lady J

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Lady J is a writer, blogger  and Chicago Cubs' fan. You can find her at, or follow her on Twitter at @LadyJWanderlust

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