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Interviewing Truths

1. Everyone gets nervous.

For many job seekers, just the thought of interviewing with an employer can be a source of anxiety and nervousness. After all, it’s not often that we find ourselves sitting alone in a small, hot room answering unpredictable, probing questions from a complete stranger who seemingly holds the fate of our future in their hands. But before you push the panic button, let’s take a collective deep breath and dispel some of the more common interview myths and explore ways to help you go into your next interview feeling more polished, prepared, and confident.

First off, everyone experiences some degree of increased energy before an interview. Whether you call it nervousness or excitement or anticipation, it’s all the same basic physiological reaction. Our bodies secrete an increase of adrenaline, resulting in an elevated heart rate, dilated pupils, and increased body temperature. For some, this can create a sense of increased energy and confidence. For others, it can cause more intense, adverse sensations, such as upset stomach, shortness of breath, racing mind, and a fight or flight response that can feel like a full-blown panic attack.

2. Interviewing is a skill that can be learned.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the interview-nervousness continuum, the good news is that interviewing is just like any other skill you’ve ever mastered; the more you practice, the better you will get. If you have ever been on a team, played an instrument, or performed in public, you probably didn’t just show up on game day and expect to deliver a flawless performance. Instead, you most likely spent many hours beforehand practicing, rehearsing, and visualizing what you would do and say. Well, interviewing is no different. Even if you have strong communication skills and don’t get stressed out about interviewing, don’t underestimate the benefits of practicing! Winging it seldom works.
To this end, I highly recommend that every Wilson College of Textiles student participate in a practice mock interview prior to the real thing. You can schedule a mock interview with a member of the Wilson College of Textiles Career Services Office via ePACK. In an addition, keep an eye out in ePACK for upcoming Mock Interview Days with Textile employers.

3. Interviewing is a two-way street.

Just as employers interview you to see if you are a fit, you are interviewing them as well. By being attentive and thoughtful, you can learn important things about an organization during the interview. Some things you may want to consider include:

  • How does the organization’s mission match with your interests?
  • Does the nature of the job sound interesting?
  • How is the organization run; does it seem well-organized?
  • How do the other employees interact with each other?
  • Are you excited about the possibility of this position?
  • Does the job match your career interests?

While it may not seem like it, you are also interviewing the employer as well. Before accepting a job or internship, it’s important that you get your questions answered and feel secure about the role you are ultimately stepping into. Conducting employer research is essential to ensuring that you understand the role, culture, expectations, and vision of the organization you are considering joining. You are a commodity, meaning that you have valuable skills that the employer wants. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be wasting their time and resources interviewing you in the first place!

4. The interviewer is on your side.

Contrary to what you may think, the interviewer isn’t interested in watching you crash and burn under the pressure of ambiguous questions. Instead, he or she is typically more interested in seeing you be successful during the interview. After all, it’s in their best interest to make you feel welcomed and comfortable during the interview, so that they can get to know the real you and determine if you’d be a good fit. Also, many of the employers who recruit candidates from the Wilson College of Textiles are alumni themselves, so they have a special connection to our students and are invested in your success.

What do employers look for during the interview?

By investing the time to interview you, the employer has already demonstrated their initial interest in you as a potential employee. The items on your resume offer a potential match with the role they are seeking to fill. So, now they need to determine the following:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you do the job?
  3. Will you fit in?

More specifically, employers have outlined 5 top skills that they seek in new hires:

  • Communication
  • Work Ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Analytical
  • Initiative

In order to determine whether or not you possess these skills and attributes, employers will ask a variety of questions pertaining to your past experiences, personality, goals, and interests. While there’s an endless number of questions that employers can choose to ask, there are some fairly consistent and common questions you should be prepared to answer. Please see the Sample Interview Questions link for examples.

Preparing for Your Interview

Long before you ever sit down face to face with an employer, your interview has already begun. As soon as you post your resume online or email it to an employer, you must be ready for the employer to call or email you regarding a position. So, it is imperative that your email address and voice mail message are professional, as well as any information you post on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. An employer who receives your resume can choose to call you at any time, so be prepared right from the start.

Do Your Homework

One of the most important aspects of the interview process occurs before you ever even speak to the employer. Conducting research on prospective employers is essential to a successful interview. So, what things should you know about an employer before the interview? Simply put: as much as possible.

You should be knowledgeable about the organization’s mission, history, growth, products, competitors, locations, etc. Obviously, visiting the employer’s website is the easiest place to start. Employers want to hire candidates that can demonstrate a solid knowledge and genuine interest in their organizations.

In addition to conducting employer research, it is also important that you are able to adequately communicate your skills, interests, and goals during the interview, and match them to the position you are pursuing. Keep in mind that anything and everything on your resume is fair game for the employer to ask about. Carefully review your resume and make sure that you can speak in detail about everything on it.

It’s recommended that you bring with you a professional, leather portfolio with a pad and pen. Though you should not take extensive notes during the interview, you may want to jot down a few things, or have some prepared questions that you would like to ask the employer. Additionally, don’t forget to bring several copies of your resume, work samples (optional), and any other examples of your accomplishments.

The first thing an employer will notice upon meeting you is the way you present yourself. Though organization culture can vary, the importance of professional attire cannot be overstated. By dressing appropriately, you demonstrate not only respect for the interviewer, but a larger understanding of professional etiquette. Though you should ultimately be evaluated and hired based on your skills and abilities, the image you project during the interview will certainly be taken into consideration.

It’s highly advised that you plan what you are going to wear in advance. The morning of your interview is not the time to discover that your one dress shirt has a stain on it or doesn’t quite fit as well as it once did. For many Wilson College of Textiles interviews, business casual attire will be appropriate. This typically means a collared shirt/blouse and slacks. However, some organizations more closely aligned with the fashion industry might appreciate a candidate who dresses in a more stylish manner. If you’re not sure, ask a member of the Wilson College of Textiles Office of Career Services.

Much of how and what we communicate is done through non-verbal communication. According to some studies, as much as 90% of our communication is done through body language. This is especially true during a job interview. You need to be aware of the messages you are conveying both verbally and non-verbally.

Tips to Keep in Mind


Everyone should be comfortable offering a firm, dry, confident handshake. You do not want to break anyone’s knuckles, nor do you want to offer a limp, sweaty palm. Practice your handshake; this simple gesture can convey a lot to an employer.

Your body language during the interview should convey a sense of positive energy and engagement. Sit up straight with legs crossed or feet firmly on the floor. Your back should be straight, head up and looking forward. Refrain from slouching, appearing too relaxed, or excessive fidgeting.

Don’t forget to smile! While you want to come across as serious and professional, you also want to remain friendly and likeable. Don’t be afraid to show your interpersonal skills and natural warmth during the interview.

It’s important that you maintain a good balance of eye contact with the employer. This conveys honesty, confidence, and interest. While your goal is not to stare the employer down, you do want to show that you are comfortable with direct eye contact. A good rule of thumb is to engage in eye contact when the employer is asking you a question or when you are responding. When you are thinking of your answer, it is okay to break eye contact.

As previously mentioned, nervousness during the interview is common for many people. However, you do want to pay attention to the way that you react to your nervousness. If you are tapping your foot or fumbling with a pen throughout the interview, it can be very distracting to you and the employer. Work on controlling any nervous behavior before you meet with the employer in person. Also keep in mind that chewing gum is never appropriate in an interview.

As previously mentioned, nervousness during the interview is common for many people. However, you do want to pay attention to the way that you react to your nervousness. If you are tapping your foot or fumbling with a pen throughout the interview, it can be very distracting to you and the employer. Work on controlling any nervous behavior before you meet with the employer in person. Also keep in mind that chewing gum is never appropriate in an interview.

When responding to a prompt, try to frame your answers as if you’re telling a story (which is pretty much what you’re doing). There should be a logical beginning, middle and end, and the story should focus on what’s often referred to as the STAR method:

  • Situation/Task: brief background of the scenario
  • Action: describe your actions
  • Results: highlight the results of your actions

Employers are interested in how well you can answer their questions, not how fast you can answer them. If you’re asked a difficult question, take a moment or two to collect your thoughts. Rather than blurting out the first answer that comes to your mind (which may not be your best answer), take a deep breath, think your answer through, and then deliver your response. You can buy a little extra time by repeating the question aloud while you think. By doing so, you demonstrate to the employer that you are thorough, thoughtful, and reflective.

Another common mistake job seekers sometimes make is talking too much during the interview. While it’s important that you answer each question thoroughly, it is equally important that your answers do not go on too long. While you can expect to do the majority of the talking during the interview, you do not want to bore the interviewer with very long, extraneous answers. Pay attention to the interviewer’s non-verbal cues to make sure you are not losing your audience. Remain professional and positive regardless of how friendly or laid back the interviewer may appear, your language and vernacular should be completely professional and appropriate.

Avoid using any slang, profanities, poor grammar or stereotypes. At no time in an interview should you voice any negative comments or opinions about former supervisors, professors, or classmates. This can only serve to hurt your candidacy.

Common Interview Types

Phone Interviews

Many employers will conduct their first-round interviews via the phone. These interviews typically last from 15-30 minutes, and are used as a precursor to an in-person interview. Since so much of how and what we communicate is done non-verbally, the phone interview can present some unique challenges. When you are having an in-person conversation with someone, you can take in a lot of information through their body language; are they listening, do they seem engaged, do they seem bored? With a phone interview, it is much more difficult to gauge the interviewer’s interest.

  • Make sure you are in a quiet, comfortable environment where you will not be disturbed. You can reserve an office in the Wilson College of Textiles Office of Career Services if you need a place to conduct your phone interview.
  • Use a land-line, rather than a cell phone, when possible.
  • Have your resume, notes, job description, and employer research in front of you so that you can glance at them during the interview. Do not read anything verbatim to the employer, and try to minimize the sound of shuffling papers.
  • Smile! Even though the employer cannot see you, smiling can help you come across as personable and warm.
  • Be prepared for pauses and silences. Sometimes the interviewer needs time to make notes or think about their next question. If there is an extended silence in between questions, you can ask confirming questions, such as “Was my answer clear?”, or “Would you like me to elaborate more on that?” if the silence becomes awkward.

Video interviews have become extremely common for employers, particularly if they are not local.

  • Check your technology and internet connection in advance. Interviews can be stressful enough without the extra burden of sketchy technology.
  • Make sure your setting is quiet, professional, and void of distractions. No matter how cute your cat is, you don’t want her walking by the screen during your interview.
  • Make sure you are looking at the camera, not your screen. You want to give the impression that you are making eye contact with the interviewer, even if virtually.
  • Allow for pauses before and after you speak, as video connections can sometimes have a short delay/overlap.

Each year, several employers come to the Wilson College of Textiles to interview students for jobs and internships. These interviews typically last for 30-45 minutes, and give the employer and candidate both a chance to get to know each other in a more formalized setting. Employers who wish to interview students on campus will post their open positions in ePACK, and then choose interview candidates from the pool of resumes they receive.

  • Arrive 10 minutes early; this will give time to get focused and acclimated. Bring copies of your resume, preferably in a leather-bound portfolio, and pad and pen. Optional items include work samples and letters of recommendation.
  • Make sure you eat before the interview; though you may be nervous and not have much of an appetite, you do not want hunger pains and stomach grumblings to distract you during the interview.

At some point in the interview process, you can expect the employer to invite you for a second-round interview at their location. These interviews tend to be much more in-depth than the phone or campus interview, lasting anywhere from one hour to an entire day. However, the preparation process for an on-site interview remains the same: know the employer, know yourself, and anticipate and practice possible questions.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to travel to the site. Always leave time for unexpected traffic delays, and review your GPS directions in advance.
  • Be friendly and courteous to everyone you encounter. You never know who has input into the hiring decision, or who may end up being your potential coworkers.
  • If your interview is in another city or state, your travel expenses are typically (but not always) covered by the employer. You may be expected to pay for things like airfare and hotel reservations in advance. It is important that you confirm these details with the employer in advance when arranging the interview.

Some job interviews will include a meal. Even though you may feel more relaxed in a restaurant setting, remember that you are still in interviewing mode. Employers will be assessing your conversational and interpersonal skills to determine how well you would fit in with the organization.

  • Be prepared to make small talk; sports, weather and personal hobbies are all safe topics (avoid anything controversial, such as politics).
  • The meal you order should be in the mid-price range; you may want to ask the interviewer what he/ she recommends on the menu to get a gauge.
  • Avoid items that are challenging or messy to eat, such as pasta or dishes with a lot of cheese or sauce. Cut large sandwiches/burgers in half to make them more manageable.
  • Even if the employer is drinking alcohol, it is ill advised to drink during any part of the interview.
  • The point of the meal interview is for you and the employer to get to know each other, and for him/her to see how you conduct yourself in a social setting. It is customary for the employer to pay for the meal. Make sure you show your appreciation.