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Tips for Acing Competitive or Informational Interviews

The day I graduated from college, I took off with a backpack full of clothes, a pair of old running shoes, and a Let’s Go Guidebook and headed toward the Southwestern Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. I immediately fell in love with the South Island and decided that I would channel my past four years of higher education into a job working as a jet boat assistant in Queenstown. Needless to say, I called home to tell my parents of my grand plans and found out that their intentions for me appeared to be quite a bit different. So, after six weeks of wandering somewhat aimlessly, I was nicely reminded to get my rear end back on a plane. My time had come to get a real job and so I headed off to Washington, DC and started sending out resume after resume. Looking back I wish someone would have sat me down and politely explained the unspoken rules of interviewing.

I now have the opportunity to meet with plenty of young job seekers for informational interviews and have gathered some entertaining stories through the years. I have compiled a few tips to consider when you are interviewing for a position or simply meeting someone for an informational appointment.


  1. Wear sunglasses during the interview (on your head or on your face).
  2. Take a call on your cell phone.
  3. Talk about how intoxicated you were during the weekend.
  4. Snap your gum or slurp on your coffee.
  5. Wear crazy jewelry, green nail polish, an unruly hairstyle, or noticeable eyebrow piercings.
  6. Forget to ask questions. But avoid questions whose answers can easily be found on the company website.
  7. Ask questions about salary and benefits unless you receive a job offer. It is presumptuous and annoys the person across from you.
  8. Challenge the interviewer to a competitive match (I once had someone show up with a little Ms. Pac Man game and challenged me to play with him because he had read that it was my favorite pastime).
  9. Give overly rehearsed and prepared answers. You come across sounding scripted and unauthentic.
  10. Ask to borrow cab fare.


  1. Research the company you are meeting. Understand their competitors and their clients.
  2. Practice interview questions with a friend or relative, or practice answering questions alone in the car. Folks may think you look strange, but it is well worth the extra effort.
  3. Be aware of your body language. Don’t slouch. Maintain eye contact.
  4. Be on time for your interview (or even a little early).
  5. Avoid nervous habits such as tapping your fingers, pulling on your hair or playing with a pen.
  6. Keep the interview positive. Please do not make negative remarks about any previous jobs, employers or colleagues.
  7. Use proper English—avoid slang or jargon. If possible, practise and write synonym for the most spoken english words.
  8. Treat the receptionist the same as you would the CEO.
  9. Follow up with a handwritten thank you note. This is not only proper etiquette and a common display of appreciation, but it also allows you to reaffirm one or two key points you talked about in the interview.
  10. End quickly and courteously. Do not linger. Thank your interviewer for the meeting with a strong handshake and a smile.
This list could go on forever – there is literally an endless array of “dos” and “don’ts” for an interview – and not everyone agrees on every aspect of that list. However, some basic “interview etiquette” tips that are important to remember are listed here.

If you want more, don’t forget to check out Andrew Hudson’s job site. He is always full of great tips…

~Laura Love

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