Job InterviewThis is a guest post by Vicky Oliver.

The job interview is the most nerve-racking exchange of dialogue any of us will undertake. Those 45 minutes of intense scrutiny are pivotal. Your career, and your livelihood, depends on whether you can remain upbeat, exude charisma, and answer to the questions asked with aplomb.

But how, you wonder.

Always remember that an interview is just a lively conversation, with you, the interviewee, providing the bulk of the liveliness. Your interviewer will steer the conversation by asking most of the questions. But be ready to take the conversational lead when the occasion calls for it. Whether your gift of gab labels you as a wallflower or an extrovert, you need to become hyper-aware of the ebb and flow of the discussion, and discern when to jump in or keep silent. Resolve to be fully present and pay close attention to what your interviewer is saying.

The most successful interviews are those where you feel you conveyed everything you wanted the employer to know about you, but where you also had a surprisingly interesting conversation.


Use these tips to polish your repartee for your next job interview:


1. Prepare for the pre- and post-interview banter. 

Those few minutes of chitchat before and after the job interview are telling to the interviewer. If you seem to be either tongue-tied or too talkative, you could leave an impression that you’re not the right fit for the company. Be gracious, and show your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and interest. Curb any tendency to launch into a long anecdote, and try to follow the interviewer’s lead. For example, if she says, “I’m happy you found the place,” smile and answer by giving a compliment: “Yes, your directions were perfect. You have no idea how unusual that is. Thank you.”


2. Before the Job Interview: know your material. 

In advance of your interview, research the company thoroughly. Commit the company mission and job requirements to memory. Paradoxically, learning the material verbatim will help make you sound spontaneous rather than like an automaton. Spend an equal amount of time “soul searching” about why this particular company should hire you. Investing the time it requires to both understand the corporate culture and how you might contribute to it will give you confidence to rattle off your accomplishments rather than grope for answers.


3. During Interview: don’t become defensive. 

Not all interviewers are good at asking questions, and some are flat out indiscreet. You may be asked an inappropriate personal question, or even one that’s illegal. The easiest way to field the question is to just answer honestly if you have no problem with it, but keep your answer brief. If the question is problematic, politely state that you don’t think the question is job-related and try to redirect back to a topic more on point.


4. Look for commonalities. 

If your interviewer has family photos of ski trips and you’re an avid skier, ask where the photo was taken and mention that you’ve skied there if you have (or hope to, if you haven’t). Or, if there’s a book on the table you’ve read, feel free to say what you learned from it. When you can make a connection around a common interest, you make a notable impression.


5. Show you have a sense of humor. 

While you don’t want to be slapstick or tacky just to prove that you’ve got a sense of humor, letting your interviewer see that you have a witty side or you don’t take yourself too seriously can be an asset.


6. Don’t commandeer the interview. 

It’s wise to arrive with some questions to show that you’ve prepared thoroughly, or even to follow up with a question that crops up spontaneously. But refrain from pummeling your interviewer with questions or concerns. Listen attentively, and if there’s a break in the conversation, mention that you have some questions and ask if it would okay to bring them up.


7. Don’t overstay your welcome. 

Once the interviewer signals that your meeting is over, stand up and shake the interviewer’s hand, politely inquiring about your next steps. Never try to prolong the interview by slipping in another tidbit about your skills or background, and don’t stand around trying to chat up your interviewer to show off your charm. Chances are, there’s another candidate waiting in the reception area and the interviewer is on a tight schedule. Overstaying your welcome could become an annoyance and undo the good impression you want to leave.


About the guest post author:

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books: 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005); Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One)(Skyhorse Publishing, 2015); Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008); Power Sales Words: How to Write It, Say It and Sell It with Sizzle (Sourcebooks, 2006); and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010).

She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media target, having made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit