I got an email from someone asking for some quick interview advice. Here’s what I wrote back and now I am sharing it with you!
Be A Real Human Being: This isn’t anywhere close to exhaustive, but the overwhelming research shows people who "like" the person they interview will score them higher. So, be friendly, courteous and gracious. The whole "interview" process is designed to be mundane and eliminate outliers (aka personality!). You being YOU is the secret sauce to keep yourself from being just a resume.
Ask for Clarification: Second, you would never be afraid of asking a friend for clarification on anything before answering their question, so don’t be afraid to ask them to restate the question if you see two diverging alternatives for answering. (Even though its my (the interviewer’s) fault for not being clear, it gives a feeling that the candidate isn’t listening when I ask a question intending one answer, but the candidate HEARS it differently and proceeds to tell me a completely different answer). One way to approach this is to say, "I can see a few ways of answering that. Do you mean x? or y?"
Who is Who? I would find out about the people interviewing you and keep track of who they are in the organization. Build some kind of org chart mentally (or on paper) to help you know who is who. Ask them "Can you tell me your role here?" and compliment them genuinely on things such as how hard portions of their job must be or things they lightly brag about "Wow, you reduced call times by that much??!! That’s amazing!" What you are looking for is to understand who is the decision maker, who is just there for advice (normally the direct-reports of the hiring manager), who is there for compliance (HR), and who is there to just watch over everything (bosses of the hiring manager). As if you were in a poker game, every one of these people (including you) has certain cards in their hand they can play at any time. Knowing who is who helps you know what you should answer to each of these people. FWIW, I wrote a blog post on this concept a while ago…
If they ask you for questions, be ready. Like a good debater (since it’s election season), take notes of things you’d like clarification on and ask mid-stream or at the end. Also, ask for a TOUR… something like, "Is there any way I can see where everyone is working?" this will help integrate you with the environment and also you will likely be introduced to a few people here and there along the way. That’s a key.