Seize the interview

Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor

Here at The Murray State News, we put any new editors through a pretty intimidating interview process.

Since I’ve been on both sides of the table here and have been through several other interviews and auditions  in the last few years, I’ve picked up quite a few tips and tricks along the way.

When I attended auditions and master classes in my dancing days, the professionals were always unanimous on one piece of advice: your auditions starts the moment you walk in the door to the building and it doesn’t end until you’re in your car and down the street.

Maybe you have time to kill in the waiting room before an interview and think it’s OK to call your mother and voice your concerns or have a short freak-out session in the bathroom, but what you don’t know is that the secretary (who you think isn’t paying you any attention) in the waiting room is studying your every move and will gossip about it to her colleagues. The pair of shoes in the stall next to you in the bathroom? That’s your future coworker, recording to memory your destructive self-talk or terribly narcissistic compliments to the mirror.

If you think you’re OK to let out a sigh and start frowning, celebrating or bad-mouthing the interviewer when the door closes, you’re fooling yourself. As you’re walking to your car, an interviewer could be outside taking their smoke break and see you wipe away tears or do a premature victory dance.

This leads me to another important point: no matter how long the interview is, the interviewers will undoubtedly make a judgment within the first five seconds of seeing you. In writing classes, we often talk about how a reader will decide based on a first page, paragraph or sentence whether or not the want to keep reading. It’s the same way with interviews – they’re looking for a reason to knock you out of the pile, so don’t give them that reason right away. A sure-fire way to do this is to walk in looking worried, defeated or unsmiling. Like I said, your interview starts long before that, so turn on your personable self when you get out of your car.

So, what about the actual interview? What if they ask a question you don’t know the answer to?

Here’s the only thing you need to know: do not ever, ever, say ‘‘I don’t know.’’ That would be far worse than dodging or adapting the question into one you can answer. Saying ‘‘I don’t know’’ in an interview would be the equivalent of a musician staring quizzically at their instrument when asked to play. It would be like a dancer standing still and shrugging after being asked to demonstrate a combination. Don’t do it.

Instead, make the question work in your favor. It might not be exactly what the person asked, but you’ll leave them with a solid answer, hopefully. If you are going to deviate, do a thorough job of it.

If you’re like me, you probably get more freaked out by the faces of the interviewers. Once, I left an interviewer crying (after getting in the car) because the interviewers looked so uninterested I thought they hated me. After I got into the program, though, and spoke with the interviewer, she brought up how impressed she was at my answers and told me that when I left that day, she said to the other interviewer that I was in. Hearing that was unreal for me – it taught me never to assume anything about your reception right after the interview. Your perception is clouded, and you cannot know what they’re thinking.

So, heed my advice. Roll your shoulders back,  lift your chin up and smile. Don’t fear the interview – seize it.