Five interview tips

Whether you’re interviewing for a job at Baskin Robbins or an admission to Princeton, here are five interview tips to help you do your best.

1. Consider ahead of time what you’d like to talk about.

What would you like to talk about if it were up to you?  If you were given that opportunity, what would you say, and how would you say it?  Be reasonable—you’re not going to talk about how cute your cat is for 20 minutes.  But if you’d like to talk about your work in the Key Club, how you take care of your little sister, or how you’ve experimented making your own ice cream, chances are, one or more of the questions will give you an opening.  And you’ll be ready when it does.

2. Get to the location 15-20 minutes early. 

The worst way to start an interview is to be late.  The second worst way is to be almost late but still perspiring because of nerves and a last-minute sprint from the elevator.  So get there 15-20 minutes early.  Then wait in the car or grab a bottle of water.  That will leave you a good ten minutes to collect yourself and get ready.

3. Make a good first impression.

Shake hands.   Make eye contact.  Smile and say, “It’s nice to meet you.”  Sounds simple, but a lot of teenagers (and adults) get this part wrong.  Practice if you have to.

4. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t panic.

People get stumped all the time.  Nobody has ever gotten penalized for thinking for 15-20 seconds before giving a great answer.  So if an employer asks, “What’s something risky you’ve tried that paid off?” and you can’t think of anything off the top of your head, sit and think about it before you fumble through an answer.  Buy a little time and tell your interviewer what a great question it is.  And if you can’t think of anything, ask if it would be OK to come back to it.

5. Bring (good) questions.

Have some good questions for your interviewer.  It shows that you’re engaged and not just going through the motions.  But don’t ask just to ask.  Really think about what you’d like to know.  The person in front of you went to this college, manages this store, or is on the committee for this scholarship—they’ve got the information about something you want.  It shouldn’t be a stretch to think of a few questions you’d really like answers to.  Consider them ahead of time so you’re ready when asked, “Do you have any questions for me?”