Not Your Average Interview Dos and Don’ts

Student Open House Brings Out The Tough Questions on Interviewing


Come prepared. Dress to impress. Be on time. Be polite. Send a thank-you note…  I’ve had these basic tips for “nailing” a job interview embedded into my brain since high school. And although those tips can be useful, showing up a few minutes late to an interview isn’t the only thing that can lead to a “thanks, but no thanks” response from a potential employer.

Fahlgren Mortine recently hosted its first-ever student open house, an event for college juniors and seniors across central Ohio who are interested in learning more about agency life and professional development. After an agency tour and a case study presentation highlighting one of our award-winning campaigns, the students then heard from some of our senior leaders during a resume review panel. It quickly became apparent that students know the fundamentals of interviewing, but they crave the real-world insight. “Which is more important – the resume or the interview?” “What can I do during the actual interview to make a lasting impression on a hiring team?” “How important is personality and culture-fit during an interview?”

The open house was not only eye-opening to the students in attendance, but it also gave me the opportunity to take a step back and remember what it was like to be on the other side of the interview process. After hearing the discussion, I took note of a few tips that can help students – or anyone– ace their next interview.

Tell your story, not your resume. An interview is meant to be a conversation, not a 45-minute elevator speech where you recount the content of your resume. Talk about your experiences. Give examples of relevant work. Showcase the story of your growth that is your resume, rather than recite the bullet points they’ve probably already read.

Take notes during the interview. Truthfully, I had mixed emotions about this one at first. As an interviewee, I would sit down and give nothing but my undivided attention to the hiring manager. But how impressive would it be if as a candidate, you took note of things the hiring manager said and then referred back to them when asking brilliant questions at the end of the interview? Exactly. Consider me a newfound believer in interview note-taking.

Battle royale: confident vs. cocky. There’s a fine line in this timeless cliché. Although you want to express why you would be a great fit for the position, avoid telling a hiring manager all the great things you can do for their company. For a hiring manager, they may misinterpret this as a sense of entitlement. Instead, ask what it is they’re looking to gain from this new hire, and then speak from examples in your experiences to show you have what they’re looking for. This shows a willingness to learn and desire to grow, as opposed to already having all the answers.

Questions are the answer. At the Open House, a student asked our senior leaders what their biggest pet peeve is during a job interview. Across the board, each and every one of them said, “When candidates don’t ask questions.” Always, always, always bring a list of questions to the interview. And if every single one of your questions is answered during the interview, think of some new ones. Not having questions at the end of the interview can lead the hiring manager to believe you haven’t thought enough about the position.

It has to be the right fit for you, too. This is by far my favorite piece of advice. An interview isn’t just about them seeing if you’re a fit for them – the company has to be a fit for you, too. If you feel out of place during the office tour or if the entire interview doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. A wise man once said, “I firmly believe that the best culture leads to the best employees, and the best employees lead to the best clients.” Granted, that wise man is Neil Mortine, but I still really believe that what he said rings true for interviewing. The environment and culture of a company should attract its best people, and the best people are the ones who knew a certain environment was a fit for them during the job interview, just as much as the company did.

Although job interviews may always be a heart-racing, palms-sweating, please-make-them-like-me process, we should all remember there’s more to getting hired than your newly-pressed suit and hand-written thank you note. It’s an experience that should bring out the best version of you professionally through telling the story of your relevant experiences and asking thoughtful questions.

And when it’s a fit, take it from me, you’ll know.


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    4 thoughts on “Not Your Average Interview Dos and Don’ts

    1. Love these tips. Agree with the pet peeve about questions – it’s something that so many students and candidates can improve upon and so easily!

    2. I remember your interview, Caroline! You’re an excellent “what to do” example :).

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