Here’s Your Itinerary: How To Make It Through A Half (Or Full) Day Interview

I’m very happy to say that as of yesterday I  accepted a position at a different company. (Yay!!) I had actually applied for the job back in October, but fate had it that the interview came knocking at the perfect time four months later. Right when I thought all was lost and my current company as becoming more toxic than ever, I received the e-mail asking if I was still interested in the job.

I very happily replied yes and waited for my confirmation e-mail to see what time my interview would be. When I opened it up it said “Here is your itinerary.” YOUR ITINERARY! What was I doing? Going on a trip?!

I scrolled down and was immediately overwhelmed to see that between the hours of 9-12:30 I would have seven interviews with nine different people. I mean, one interview with one person, or even one panel interview, is hard enough. How on earth do you even prepare for that many interviews? Clearly I was stressed. I like to be prepared for everything and I just didn’t know how to this time. My Type A personality quickly was getting the best of me!

Now, I’m lucky because my brother-in-law has actually gone through many interviews like this. I e-mailed him begging for tips. Here’s what he told me (with my additional comments underneath his).

Inteview

There is no preparation. It’s like an exam. Either you know your stuff or you don’t. Zen out and accept that you may not be able to answer everything and that no amount of last minute cramming of “new material” will help. The more you worry about the material the bigger of a problem you are creating for yourself because you’ll just be more anxious.

He hit the nail on the head with this one. I reviewed my projects so that I could explain them without a hitch, but I avoided trying to come up with ways to explain portions of the job description that I wasn’t as familiar with (besides just a little reviewing to make sure I understood what was being asked of me). Some were asked about and some weren’t. The ones that we did discuss, I was able to rock! Overall, I was less stressed because I knew what I knew and I let go what I didn’t.

Have faith in what you do know.  Whatever it is that you do know, you need to be able to communicate it effectively. You need to communicate your knowledge, your skills, and your character effectively.

Confidence is key. It’s going to be a long day and you need to show every interviewer that you’re knowledgable, interesting, and consistent in your answers!

Say “I don’t know” if you don’t know. I interview a lot of people and one of my pet peeves is when I give a tough question and the interviewee won’t just say “I don’t know”. Sometimes, the questions are designed to be hard so if you don’t know, don’t dance around it and be frank so you don’t waste anyone’s time. If you really think it’s an interesting question, you can say “Hmm, I don’t know, but I’ve never thought about it like that…” or “I don’t have a background in that topic, but it’s interesting, how would you approach it?”  or “Oh, that’s an interesting question; I’ve honestly never thought about that before”.

There was one portion of my interview where I really didn’t know what the guy was talking about and I asked him if he could show me an example. When he did, I was very truthful and said I had never done anything like that, but thought it was a great idea to make sure everyone was on the same page (it had to do with writing up spec sheets. Yeah, I know, over my head too at first). However, I think he appreciated the fact that I was being honest. A the end, I just reiterated that while I had never done that specific thing I would be more than eager to learn how and do it to the best of my abilities.

Make it conversational.  The more you treat it like a grilling, the more it will feel like you’re over a fire. I treat every interview like a conversation and treat every question like a conversational discussion. The interviewer is a conversation partner and not a superior or an interviewer. This also leaves a lasting impression on them because they feel like you are someone they can easily talk to.

While I was nervous at first about doing this because I knew I was meeting with the director and assistant director of the department, it actually was quite easy. Conversation just flowed and we were able to laugh and joke while still answering all the questions. This is important during an already overwhelming day because it helps you feel more welcomed by your hopefully future colleagues.

Dress sharp, watch your posture, and give a strong first impression.  Harvard studies have shown that posture has a strong influence not only on how others perceive your but also how you perform. Stand up straight. Sit straight.  Shoulders back. Project confidence but also look relaxed. Use hand gestures to help communicate.  Make eye contact. Using full body communication is important but remember not to fidget. Basic stuff.

Yes, do all of that!

Remember names and call people by names. When you meet someone and greet them, they will present themselves and always call them by their name immediately. Interviewer: “Hi, I’m James”; you: “Hi, James, I’m Lindsay, pleased to meet you”. It’s subliminal, but people like to hear their names and it helps you make an impression in your brain so you know who he was. At the end, repeat the interviewer’s name: “James, I really appreciate your time”.

This was a great tip! I made sure to do this every time and you could see the appreciation on people’s faces. Before the interview, I also had written down everyone I was going to be meeting with and at what time so I already knew their names in advance. One meeting ended up being changed, but that meant I only had to learn one new name instead of nine.

Don’t forget to drink water.  When you talk a lot, your mouth and throat will get dry and if you don’t hydrate, it will impact your ability to speak.  Hit the restroom when you get a chance, even if you don’t “need’ to go because if you get the urge during a discussion, it will distract you.

I was asked multiple times throughout the process if I needed water or the restroom. Take the option at least once. It’ll give you time to put yourself back together and make it through the rest of the day.

Create mental checkpoints.  One thing that happens with me is that because I treat an interview as a conversation, it is easy to lose the original question or topic in a long discussion. So, you have to make a mental checkpoint and be able to bring the discussion back to the original topic to answer the question.

Don’t let yourself ramble on too much even if you think it’s interesting. The key to getting through long days is to focus and keep your eye on the prize. More in-depth questions should take about 1-2 minutes to answer. If they want clarification, they’ll ask for it.

Have copies of your resume. Also consider making yourself some business cards with your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. on it (whatever is professionally appropriate).

Don’t assume that everyone you interview with will have copies of your resume. While all my interviewers did, I brought extras just in case. I also brought a portfolio of my most important work so that I could provide them with tangible proof of the projects I’ve done. I think this really helped me put my best foot forward.

And here are some extra tips from me!

If you’re told your going to have a half or full day interview, but you don’t receive any other information, ask for the schedule. I was lucky that they immediately sent me the schedule so I was well aware of the names, titles, and times I would be meeting with people. If they don’t send you this information, though, it’s perfectly okay to ask for it. This will allow you to better prep for your long day.

Use LinkedIn to your advantage. Once you know people’s names, look them up on LinkedIn. It’ll give you a better idea of who these people are and their actual job duties. Plus, you might find something cool that you have in common that you can bring up in passing conversation.

Be “on” the whole time. What I mean is don’t let your guard drop. You need to treat every interview as though it’s just as important as the first. Even though I know it’s super tiring (trust me, I couldn’t wait to be finished), you need to impress everyone. That’s because in the end they’ll all have a say in whether or not you get the job. So, if one or two people thought you were absolutely horrible because all of a sudden you got tired and sloppy in the interview process, that could really impact your chances of getting the job. Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize. Afterwards you can go home and put your sweats on and lounge while you obsessively think about what you should have said differently.

Now, it’s your turn! What other tips do you have to make it through a grueling full day interview?

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