Having served as an officer for a number of school organizations, I’ve spent a lot of time being interviewed and interviewing other students at my high school (I’m actually spectating an interview as I type these words!). As such, I’ve compiled a list of tips that should prove useful for the uninitiated among us.
This is obvious, but a surprising number of students continue to fill in the spaces between their words with a go-to filler such as “I don’t know” or “you know”. You know, this gets really infuriating after a while because, like, you know, they do get redundant. It’s all right to use one or two here and there but, because of their prevalence in our everyday lexicon, students have a tendency to let these words slip sporadically into our formal speech numerous times.
Not only does the frequent usage of these words distract your interviewers from focusing on the positive aspects of your answers, but the solutions to such a problem can actually better your interview. For example, word fillers are usually used when you’re speaking faster than you can craft an answer in your mind. If you pace yourself and speak slower, you’ll be able to collect your thoughts and maintain a steady flow of words coming out of your mouth. Plus, pacing yourself allows you to add inflection to your voice so that you’re not too monotonous.
Hands are hard to control. We instinctively bring them up and wave them about whenever we talk. However, the key here is moderation. Catch yourself from using your hands too much or too little. They should be used to emphasize the key parts of your answers. Overusing them depreciates their usefulness while not using them at all is squandering an asset. If you’re not using your hands, just clasp them together and place them on your lap. That way, you won’t be tempted to break them out. And don’t stick your hands in between your thighs! That’s just funky.
Posture is unique in that most students do not intentionally position themselves in an ungraceful manner. The way that we angle ourselves physically is something we do subconsciously most of the time. However, poor posture such as slouching or sticking your hands awkwardly between your legs can still create a subtle, negative impression in the minds of your interviewers.
Being a student, chances are that many of your fellow peers you’re jostling with for a position also have an issue with posture. However, this presents an excellent opportunity for you to actually set yourself apart from your competition. It’s simple really. Just sit up and straighten your back. Having a power pose can even boost your morale by making you feel like you’re ready and up for the task. Lean forward too (in moderation of course) because it’ll show how you’re unafraid of the interviewers and make you come off as immensely more confident than the others who have preceded you, sitting in whatever seat you find yourself in.
The best curve on a man/woman is his/her smile! Remember, you want your interviewers to like you so be friendly! Smile throughout your interview (not just when you walk in) and only be serious when you’re faced with a question that demands a solemn answer. Of course, if you’re not one to smile, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. In the end, most interviews at this point of our lives are geared toward the interviewing committee learning more about who you are as an individual.
If you use the words “I am creative”, you better follow that up with some examples. More broadly, make sure that you delve deeper into what you say. Go beyond generic answers. If you’re asked to describe yourself, don’t stop at calling yourself a “good” person. Tell your interviewers that you’re altruistic and always ready to lend a hand. Tell them about that time when you opened doors every day for your classmates, so much to the point that you came to be known as “the door opener”. If you’re asked to describe your time on the Speech and Debate Team, don’t be afraid of holding back. Speak esoteric words that, of all the people in that room, only you would know. Tell them about that time you had to work with a stranger for your Duo Interp. event in an IE. If you’re on a sports team, recount stories about how you shattered records and come out of workouts regularly drenched in sweat, but satisfied that you’ve honed your abilities through sheer diligence.
That’s that! There are more pearls of knowledge* that you can arm yourself with, but these five tips should be more than enough to get you started on the path of excelling in interviews.
*Having attire that distinguishes you (such as a red scarf on top of formal wear), knowledge of the organization (what they do, what events they participate in, what responsibilities members/officers have), etc.