Muffin Career Q & A: Interview Tips

This question was submitted by Chris T: "Things to keep in mind while being interviewed?"  This is for the first time job seeker, while in high school, college, or starting your career post-university.

  • Don't be afraid if you are not completely qualified. Even before applying. If you've gotten an interview, be confident they are interested in you. But see below:
  • Watch out for the sh*t jobs. If it stinks like sh*t, it probably is. Watch out for fast talking people that will tell you anything to get you into an interviewwhen it's backbreaking work, or its paid by commission (sales) and your take home earnings may be low.
  • Commit. When scheduling, be absolutely sure you can make it. Having to reschedule will reflect poorly. Be respectful of other people's time.
  • Do not discuss wages in exact numbers. Use ranges to be assured the job has the earning-potential that you are comfortable with.
  • Print out your resume the day before.  Printing/computer problems could make you look unprepared.  Also, you will look more "together" if you have at least 3 copies available.  Simple white paper is acceptable, but resume paper can still be impressive.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.  You may need it if you get lost to ask for directions, use it for Google maps, or use the address book for filling out an application.
  • Know who you are interviewing with. Make sure to memorize or have on hand the names of the people you are coming to see.
  • Have a check list in mind of questions you have about the job
  • Know where you are going and where to park. If you aren't sure about parking or location, ASK.  You can always call the receptionist ahead of time and ask anonymously if need be.
  • Allocate appropriate travel and parking time + 15-30 minutes.
    • Have a printout (or in your phone address book) of the names, addresses and phone numbers of where you last worked. 
    • Have a printout (or in your phone address book) of the contact information from 3 references. Generally a phone and email address is appropriate.
    • If you were ever fired or let go from a previous job, keep it positive.  They may ask you on an application "Why did you leave?", which can be worded to your advantage.  School, illness, scheduling conflicts or wanting a career change can all be voiced positively.  Here are some examples for "Why did you leave [previous job]":
  1. "I was returning to school full time" (for a summer position)
  2. "Scheduling issues"
  3. "Looking for a career change"
  4. "Left to focus on family/health"


  • Arrive 15 minutes early, unless they specify. If you are 30 minutes early, you may look anxious. Go to a cafe or kill time by reviewing your resume.
  • Always accept a drink when offered.  You never know when you might get cotton mouth.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Present a copy of your resume at the start of the interview, unless they have a copy printed out.
  • If you are asked to give a summary of your work experience, start with the most relevant and most recent first, and focus on it.  Be brief about other job experiences that are not in the same industry, but point out the relevent experiences.
  • Open ended questions are not a trick. Here are some questions they may ask that helps them determine how you communicate and are not meant to trip you up:
  • Do your best to remember EVERYONE's names that you interview with.  If appropriate, ask them for a business card, or write them down.  Asking them how to spell complicated last names is okay.
  • Bring up your questions near the end, or when they prompt you. Here are some examples:
    • When are they looking to hire / fill the position?
    • What is the pay range? (if not already stated)
    • What is a typical day like for this position?
    • What is a typical day like for the person who is interviewing you?
    • If salaried, what are the benefits?
  • Shake hands.
  • Follow up with a thank you within 24 hours. If you have an email address, send a very short email thanking them for their time.  You can also highlight the skills you feel you have that are appropriate to the job, but be concise.

If you don't hear back, it is normal. Don't feel you didn't do a good job or weren't qualified as hiring managers and human resource people are too busy or don't always communicate with a candidate they did not hire.  If you are extremely curious, you should always contact human resources, not the manager or interviewers. In many cases positions are put on hold, another candidate was hired for some reason, or you may not have been the right fit. 

Getting hired for a job is stressful, but keep moving in a positive direction and don't give up! 


"Eighty percent of success is showing up."  - Woody Allen