That covers the bod. On to brains! It’s just as important to be mentally ready for an interview, starting with getting extra sleep and not drinking or doing drugs the night before. The interviewer will be able to tell if you’re hungover, as this person will likely be an adult with some experience in that very unpleasant state. This is important to you, so as much fun as that WYLD PARTY happening the evening before seems, don’t risk it, because they’ll know as soon as you open your mouth.
Speaking of conversing (har har): Prepare your own questions to ask the interviewer. Nine times out of 10, at the end of the interview, they’ll say, “OK! Well, I think that’s it….do you have any questions for me about the job?” You do have questions! Even if you don’t really have questions at all, even if the job seems very easy/self-explanatory/extraordinarily straightforward, you do, because it makes you seem keen and interested.
As you do your Deep Internet Research, write down any questions that occur to you in a little notebook, then review them right before you walk in the door for the interview. Some good basic ones: “If I were to get this position, what do you envision this job looking like in a year?” “Are there any extra time commitments associated with this job?” It’s extremely useful to know if they’ll expect you to be available for things like like mandatory weekend fundraisers or to be on-call after normal business hours.
Save your tough questions about money for the end of the interview, but do ask them! If you’re not sure how to do that, here are some places to start:
- “What’s the starting salary/hourly rate for this position?”
- “Would this position be eligible for a raise after a certain amount of time?”
- “What is this business’s main source of revenue?” (This last one, you only need to ask if it’s unclear how the business makes money—if a business sells something specific, you probably already know.)
NO ONE likes to ask about money, but it’s important—and the reason jobs exist! Go for it! You need to know what you’re going to make and how much you want to earn. Before the interview, figure out how much money you need to cover all of your life expenses plus extra for fun and emergencies, research what the standard wage is for similar jobs in your industry, and then psych yourself up to ask for more than that. (There’s still an alarming wage gap between what women and men make for doing the same jobs, and between what white people and people of color make for the same jobs, and negotiation—or asking for what you deserve—is one way to shut it down.)
During the Interview
Most interviews will start with small talk. This can be pretty boring and inane, but it is your chance to show your interviewer that you are not a robot. (And if you are a robot, this is your chance to show off your communication programming.) Most interviewers will ask you how you are, or how your weekend was, when they meet you. Have a brief answer ready. How WAS your weekend? Say something short, positive, and sweet, like, “My weekend was great! I went _____ing.” (Skiing! Swimming at the beach!) or “I went to the ____, it was so interesting!” (Do not fill that space with “the big Decriminalize Marijuana protest.”) Make something up if you have to, especially if your weekend actually consisted of putting on stained plaid pajama pants on Friday at 6 PM and then not removing them until Monday at 7 AM (hi). This is not something you tell a potential employer. We’re looking for action verbs here! You are an active and vigorously energetic person who does things!
One thing to keep in mind while you’re on a roll with the chit-chat, though, is not to get too personal. Do not mention your boyfriend or girlfriend or parents (!!!) especially. Do not talk about your friends or roommate or your living situation. If you have a friend who works at the company, don’t bring it up unless you are asked about him or her, ’cause your boss might not like that person, and in any case—knowing them will not mean you’re getting the job. And don’t ask personal questions of your interviewer. Conversely, DO be weirded out if your interviewer asks YOU personal questions about your family, friends, romantic relationships, or living situation!
(By the way, in the U.S., it is actually illegal for an employer to ask you anything about your health/disability status, including mental-health issues or past addictions, unless the questions are specifically about your ability to perform the job you’re applying for. In addition, anti-discrimination laws in most U.S. states make it not illegal, but certainly inappropriate, for someone to ask about your:
• race, ethnicity, or national origin
• gender or sex
• sexual orientation
• arrest/conviction record
• marital, family, or pregnancy status (present or planned)
• military discharge status
• credit history
If you’re asked about any of these things,, you can politely decline to answer (“My gender isn’t relevant to the requirements of this position; I’d rather focus on my ability to do the job”). If you are passed up for a job and are fairly certain it was based on your answer to one of these questions in the interview, you can always file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For employment-discrimination laws in other countries, look here and here.)
After the small talk is out of the way, the person interviewing you will almost always start telling you about the job—how the company/department operates, the responsibilities associated with the position you’re interviewing for, and the people you would be working with if you were hired. Some bosses can be a little long-winded, so this part might be REALLY BORING. If hearing alllllllll about this job makes you feel very sleepy, it’s maybe a red flag that this is not the job for you. But that’s something to think about after you leave—during the interview, actually listen, and give your interviewer the usual cues that you’re doing so, like maintaining eye contact. Are you a wee babe, shyly looking at your hands and feet? No! You are an Adult, brimming with confidence and capability! So look ’em in the eye! (Yes, we sound like coaches, but that’s because we know you are WINNERS!) Also, smile a little. Yeah, we know, YOU ARE NOT HERE TO BE A DOCILE DOLL-PERSON! YOU ARE HERE TO WORK. That is absolutely true! But your potential boss will looking for signs that you’ll be a generally pleasant person to be around for many, many hours during the week. If you want to come across that way, smiling every now and again helps.
It is totally normal and expected that you might feel a little nervous. If that makes you bite your nails, twist your hair, drum your fingers, bite your lip repeatedly, etc., be aware of it, and try to avoid doing it. (Almost everyone has a li’l tic! The important thing is to not distract yourself or your interviewer with yours.) No matter how nervous you are, DON’T INTERRUPT LE INTERVIEWER, EVER, FOR ANY REASON. (Unless a fire is behind her and about to engulf her chair in flames.) If/when this person stops to see if you have any questions, or pauses long enough for you to ask one without cutting them off, ask away! Otherwise, make mental notes and save them for the end.