By Sharon Fleshman
You enter an office. The person sitting on the other side of the desk gets up, comes forward to shake your hand, and invites you to sit down. While this would be considered the typical scenario for an interview, there are alternative settings that you should prepare for as well.
One advantage of a phone interview is that you have an opportunity to establish rapport without the initial pressure of a face-to-face encounter and you can refer to notes as needed. However, it is critical to understand that since the interviewer can’t see you, you do not have the advantage of using visual non-verbal cues to reinforce your answers and convey enthusiasm about the position. Therefore, you must make sure that your tone of voice is as energetic as possible. Making sure that you are well-prepared and well-rested before the interview will be helpful in this regard. It is often said that smiling and having good posture while you speak enables you to maintain a natural and upbeat tone without becoming monotone in your pitch. While notes may be helpful, do not become so relaxed as to read them verbatim. This can make you sound stilted and less engaging to the employer. If an employer calls unexpectedly and you are not prepared or in a good location to interview, always feel free to suggest setting up an appointment to have the discussion at a later time.
Video conferencing is a great option for employers who are on travel restriction, or otherwise cannot travel to campus to interview students. For video conference interviews, make sure that the space that you are in is not cluttered and does not distract from the conversation. You should be dressed professionally since the interviewer will see you. If you plan to use Skype, try to do a practice run with a friend to make sure you work out any potential technical glitches before the interview. Penn Career Services now offers video conferencing (ISDN, IP, Skype and GoToMeeting) to allow employers to interview students remotely. Students interested in reserving the equipment should contact the Career Services receptionist Joan Corbett, firstname.lastname@example.org to check on availability.
For panel interviews, you are interviewed by multiple people at the same time and will likely be seated around a table with your interviewers. This setup may seem daunting, but don’t let it intimidate you. The key is to engage everyone in the room so make sure to offer eye contact to all of your interviewers. For instance, while answering a question, look at various people and as you wrap up your answer, make sure you are once again looking at the person who actually asked the question. If you are able to get the list of interviewers before the interview, try to memorize their names and learn about their duties and backgrounds ahead of time.
During group interviews, you are being interviewed along with other candidates. This usually takes place by way of an activity that requires a group discussion, perhaps leading to a group presentation. Often with these interviews, employers are trying to sense how you would operate as part of a team. To that end, you need to strike a balance by making meaningful contributions to the discussion without dominating it.