Job Interviewing Techniques for Making a Great Impression

When I was pursuing my journalism degree at Mississippi State University, I took an interviewing class my senior year. No, not interviewing as in chatting with Meghan Markle while she spills the Heinz Beanz on her in-laws. I’m talking about job interviewing. The class was offered through MSU’s Communication Department and was taught by Dr. Hank Flick.

After all these years, I still remember some strategies from his interviewing class—strategies that he insisted will help you make a great impression. I can tell you from my experience they worked for me, so I’m going to share with you seven interviewing techniques from Dr. Flick’s legendary class.

Tell a story

Sometimes an interviewer will ask a question that makes you recall a story that happened to you. Should you share it? Yes! This will add to the conversation a human element, color, and possibly humor which can break the ice. Make sure, however, that it directly answers the question and you don’t ramble. Start off by saying, “Let me tell you a quick story.” When you finish, wrap it up with a one-line takeaway to circle back to the question.

Ask “Did I answer your question?”

If you answer a question and feel that you didn’t quite hit the mark (or if the interviewer appears confused), ask if you answered his or her question. A lot of times the answer will be “yes,” but if not, this will give the interviewer a chance to follow up. This shows thoughtfulness on your part, and it gives you a second chance to respond with more clarity or additional information.

List separate parts of a response with numbers

Oftentimes our responses to a single question come in multiple parts. Take the following example:

Sounds great, but the next example sounds better. First state the total number of parts to your response then number each piece. (Read it out loud.)

Hear the difference? Enumerating your responses makes them sound more organized, and each number punctuates its corresponding part. You can use ordinal numbers instead of numerals. So instead of “one,” you can say “first,” and instead of “two,” you can say “second.”

This strategy can be tricky. For some questions you’ll immediately know if your response has multiple parts and how many. Other times you’ll know you have several things to say, but you don’t know how many until after you start talking. You can’t predict the questions they’ll ask you, but you can help yourself through research and preparation. First, search online for common interview questions as well as those specific to the job your seeking. Write your responses, and identify any that can be broken into numbered items. Practice responding to these questions until you know the answers by heart.

Tell the interviewer you’re going to take notes

Before COVID-19 it was easy to let someone know you plan on taking notes by showing up with a pen and notepad. During the pandemic many companies have conducted interviews over the phone or video platforms. If you have a phone interview, it’s not necessary to tell the interviewer you’re going to take notes, but you can during a video meeting. Let the interviewer know at a convenient opportunity, such as before you answer the first question. The following is an example on stating your intention:

This lets the interviewer know you’re listening and participating. You’re also acknowledging the potential typing noise and the fact you’d be looking down while the interviewer is talking. People will notice your thoughtfulness and consider your outward thinking as a value.

When the world conducts in-person interviews again, I encourage you to tell the interviewer that you’re going to take notes even if you have a legal pad with you. Again, it reveals participation and thoughtfulness on your part, and the interviewer won’t mind.

Name names

When you mention another person in your interviews, such as a former co-worker, manager, or even a neighbor, say the person’s name. Take a look at the following statements:

The second one adds more concreteness to your response. Acknowledging someone by name also indicates that you make personal connections with people. Dr. Flick told us to use first and last names, but in my opinion you can use your discretion here. Since using last names sounds more formal, it’s appropriate to include them for co-workers of higher rank or people you didn’t work with often. If you think you’ll be accused of name-dropping, don’t worry. It’s only name-dropping if you’re talking about someone famous. Most of us have never worked with Bono, and even if you have, no one will believe you anyway.

Interrupt

Use this one with caution. The rule of thumb is to interrupt when the opportunity warrants it. Let’s say an interviewer misremembers something on your résumé. In this situation, gently interrupt, clarify the point, then briefly apologize for interrupting. The following dialog illustrates such an opportunity:

There’s another scenario in which interrupting can help you bond with the interviewer. Let’s say you’re building rapport during the meeting. The interviewer says something that strikes a common chord, and you can’t help but to interrupt in agreement. Take the following exchange:

“Sorry!” serves as a polite “Please excuse my excitement.”. You don’t know for certain how the other person will react to your interjection. Usually people are happy to find common ground with a stranger, but in case you’re interviewing with a sour sort, the quick apology acts as insurance.

Interrupting shows engagement and in some cases enthusiasm. Don’t, however, interrupt for the sake of it, and apologize succinctly because we know your mama raised you right.

Custom fit a response

Sometimes an interviewer will ask something that doesn’t exactly apply or you’d like to expand on the question. Take this opportunity to phrase your answer so it slightly reframes the question. Let’s first consider the following scenario:

Now review this one, which is very similar:

In the second version the interviewee (you) responded with “practical class” instead of “favorite class.” There’s nothing wrong with echoing the interviewer, especially if the question resonates strongly with you. In this example, however, it’s possible that you didn’t joyfully leap out of bed for any particular class. Responding in a way that’s relevant to your experience allows you to be authentic. Let’s also look at the following exchange:

As in this scenario, if your desired response stands to increase the scope of the question, then you should answer it as such. You deserve to fully illustrate your talents and qualifications, and interviewers want you to convince them that you’re the best candidate.

Don’t be afraid to tailor your responses when it’s appropriate. It not only shows authenticity but also dynamic and adaptive thinking on your part.

Now go get that job

Your résumé or CV will showcase your work experience and skills, but in an interview these tips will help you demonstrate interpersonal qualities like thoughtfulness, authenticity, and enthusiasm as well as adaptive and organized thinking. I encourage you to practice with a friend or by recording yourself with video software. Good luck on landing your next job. It’s yours for the taking.

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