Four steps to a confident interview

When you’re interviewing for a job in person or over the phone, making a great first impression is essential. We’ve compiled four ways that you can distinguish yourself from the other smart people vying for the position.

Take notes

Whether you’re on the phone or sitting across the table from an interviewer, take notes of what your interviewer says and the questions they ask.

Imagine what the interviewer sees across the desk if you aren’t taking notes. It’s just you nodding. Then imagine if he or she sees you taking notes. Your non-verbal action conveys to them an important message: “This candidate believes what I am telling them is valuable.” By making notes, you can return to key points once the interviewer has finished speaking.

This technique also helps you make a good impression at a subsequent interview. If you’ve made notes at the first one, you’ll be able to circle back on issues or comments mentioned by the interviewer: “I checked out that website you mentioned in my first interview.” 

Don’t ask silly questions 

People often say that “there are no stupid questions” — but there are! Questions you can answer yourself (such as by reading an annual report or looking at the company’s website) should not be asked in an interview. Show that you’ve done your homework: “Among the 10 research labs you operate, where do you see the greatest growth?”

Learn about your interviewer

If you know the name of your interviewer, learn more about that person through LinkedIn, ResearchGate, or other sites. This is not a stalking exercise, but you may see that you have people, interests, or experiences in common.  Perhaps he or she went to your undergraduate university or is involved in a community organization you support. Skills are important to employers, but so are people who fit their culture.

It’s not about you

There’s a temptation to sell the interviewer on why you want the job. Instead, think about answering their questions from this perspective: “How can I add value to this organization?”

Interviewers also want to see that you have a passion for their company. One recruiter for a multinational company told a group of graduate students, “The last thing we need to know is how smart you are. You have a PhD, we know you are smart. We are looking for enthusiasm, interest, passion, what makes you tick!”

To recap, you’ll be more confident during the interview if you:

1. Write down key points

It shows the interviewer that what they are saying matters. Interviews are stressful situations and by making notes, you’ll remember your key points and those of your interviewer. The kiss of death: asking them for a pen because you forgot yours.

2. Enter the interview armed with knowledge

Learn everything you can about the organization, even you’re only attending an informational interview about potential opportunities.

3. Look for commonalities

Search for people who work at the organization to see if you have something in common, as these commonalities can build rapport during your interview. 

4. Bring your passion.

Think about how you can add value to that organization and share that knowledge in an authentic and enthusiastic way. Employers want to hire people who share their vision and passion.

Gayle Hallgren-Rezac and Judy Thomson, CPA, CA, are the authors of Work The Pond! and facilitators who teach Mitacs Step workshops on Networking Skills, Skills of Communication, and Career Professionalism. Find free e-guides and helpful free tips at   


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