By Sarah June Fischer March 14, 2014

Job Interviews: What (not) to do

Congratulations, you’ve landed an interview! Here’s how to make sure you don’t blow it.

You know your stack inside out and can effectively speak to your experience and qualifications.

But what about the part of the interview that has nothing to do with software development, and everything to do with interpersonal, social behavior? For a lot of companies, an applicant’s culture fit has as much clout as experience level.

Maximizing your body language and non-verbal cues to display confidence (but not arrogance) comes down to how you naturally carry yourself.

Here are 10 things to practice that will help you walk into and out of the job interview with confidence.

Do:

  1. Smile
    If you are engaging and attentive in the interview, it is a strong signal to the hiring manager that you will be an engaging and attentive employee. Smile and nod in response to questions and conversation. Raising your eyebrows will also show interest. If it feels odd, try practicing in the mirror. You’ll feel silly at first, but with some practice, it will become second nature. It also helps you remember to breath and appear less forceful when you practice points #2 and #3:

  2. Make eye contact
    Looking someone in the eye shows sincerity and validates the other person’s presence. It also helps you become more memorable to the interviewer.

  3. Deliver a strong handshake
    Every form of expression during your interview, however small, gives the interviewer an impression of who you are. The handshake stands out as either firm and authoritative, or feeble and uncertain. Match the other person’s grip, and give a full handshake (not one of those awkward tip-of-the-finger ones).

  4. Stand tall
    How you carry yourself interpersonally translates into your work, and hiring managers will take notice if your shoulders are slumped and your posture is collapsed.

  5. Ask questions
    Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and genuinely care about the company and mission. Questions about the culture, history, work/life balance, and team dynamics (in addition to specifics about the job) show that you want to contribute to each part of the company.

Don’t:

  1. Stare at the floor
    Keeping your chin up will give you the chance to pick up non-verbal communication from your interviewer(s), which can help you steer your responses in the right direction.

  2. Tell the interviewer that you don’t want the role you are interviewing for, but just want to get in the door
    It is great that you want to work for the company, but if this is the role they have, you need to embrace it, learn it, excel, and let your performance demonstrate your ability to do bigger things.

  3. Say only “I don’t know” or nothing
    If you get stuck, start by paraphrasing the question back to be sure that you understand it. You don’t have to know every answer, but do tell the person what you are thinking. Saying, “There are several ways to look at this problem. One is to . . .” allows the interviewer to give you an indication of whether you are going in the right direction or need to take a different route.

  4. Communicate that you don’t believe in the work the company does
    Everyone is happiest if they share the company’s mission. If you don’t agree with the mission of the company, it’s a recipe for disaster. Even if you succeed in getting a job, it will be tough to do great work if your heart isn’t in it.

  5. Interrupt
    You may think you know where the interviewer is going with a question, but resist the urge to jump in and answer. You might cut them off from providing important context, or take the question in a direction that’s incorrect. Give them plenty of time to ask their question, which will give you more time to think about how you want to answer.

There you go! Apply these 10 tips and you’ll exude confidence, plus win the favor of the patron saint of interviews. Good luck!