Fully in Tact: Interview tips for the unintelligible

By Sabrina Noble
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 23, 2004

With the end of another school year approaching, many students are gearing up for interviews.

Whether for medical school, a summer job or a classy internship, interviews are the sweat-inducing sentinels of the professional world. Let's face it: They're scary as hell, especially when people don't usually like you and you have a problem remembering verb tense agreement when under pressure. But push your self-doubt aside because there is hope. Below are eight helpful tips for when you find yourself in the sterile, white-walled, fear-inducing interview room.

Dress appropriately. That means leaving the fur-lined halter top at home, along with the smiley-face shoelaces, your significant other's old Saves The Day T-shirt, piercings that imply sadomasochistic tendencies, and sparkly necklaces that frame your own initials in a cute little heart. If tattoos of nude women or skeletons making lewd gestures pose a problem, be sure to wear a formless black trenchcoat.

Shake your interviewer's hand firmly and confidently. If you are worried about sweaty palms, politely decline the greeting, saying that you have an indomitable fear of germs. Then stand your full height and size the interviewer size up in the event that, for any reason, you should come to blows. If the interviewer is a diminutive grandmother type, smirk to yourself before being seated.

Remember, while you want to make a memorable impression, it should NOT be based on scar stories, run-ins with the "Po Po," or inventions you are "still trying to patent." What's funny at home may not be well-received here. After all, you've only just met.

As the meeting progresses, questions will be asked. If the interviewer should ask whether you have a criminal record, answer truthfully. If you have been formally indicted for downloading child porn in a residence hall, be straightforward. We all know already.

"So tell me a little about yourself" is one of the most intimidating interview questions, but if you don't vomit on your shoes, it can also go a long way in getting you the position. Possible "ins" include answering with another question: "Well, what do you want to know, hmm?" or, "Why don't you tell me since you think you know so much?" Other possibilities include: "I feel I'm an able individual who finds you incredibly attractive," or the popular, "Let's not talk about me. Let's talk about how I can make you a millionaire." Unless you're the porn dude from No. 4, in which case you keep your mouth shut.

Make sure that you're informed about what the job entails. If the interviewer lists tasks with which you are unfamiliar, such as using PowerPoint, answering a multiple-line phone, filing in alphabetical order or parking your car within the white lines, promptly admit that you need further training. That poses a problem; after all, you're no longer a child and you wish they wouldn't treat you like one. Announce indignantly that you didn't realize upon walking in that you'd have to learn new things, but quickly add that you DO know how to sue for unlawful hiring practices.

When it comes to salary, do your homework. Teaching fellowships say they have set incentives, but these can always be negotiated, particularly if you place a handgun suggestively on the table, introducing it as your "attorney and drinking buddy." Similarly, an unpaid internship never has to stay that way. Be specific about the pay you expect. Answers like "cash, money, hoes" are too vague. Above all, don't be shy; employers are looking for ambition the moment you walk in the door. Show them you're packing.

If you're interviewing for a job, be certain to inquire about things like retirement plans, 401Ks and health benefits. For example, will your plan cover breast implants? Does the 401K still apply if you're convicted of extreme embezzlement? These are all things you should know before signing on the dotted line. You wouldn't want to look silly later in an eye patch when another job's health plan would have covered that glass eye you've been ... eyeing. Nobody in the Acquisitions Department ever respects a "Pirate Peggie."

In conclusion, I think you'll see that these eight tips, if followed in your next interview, will either land you the job or land you in jail. Either way, that's something, right?

Sabrina Noble has zero interview experience. She claims no responsibility for either the success or disaster resulting from the use of the aforementioned interview tips.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.