Interviewing: The Art of Being You
by Taylor Slattery | July 21, 2022
In preparation for an interview, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you make the best first impression possible. Naturally, you’ll want to appear professional, so making sure that you’re well-groomed and dressed appropriately is your first opportunity to communicate to your interviewer just how seriously you’re taking this opportunity. Next, you’ll want to have done your research. Showing up to the interview, you should have a solid understanding of exactly what it is the company does, the details of the role and how your experience, in particular, would lend itself to the job.
Be prepared to frame your past experiences in relation to the specifics of this role as well as more general questions regarding your process, how you handle deadlines, and your future goals. You should also have a presentation prepared in case they ask to go over your portfolio, which, if not in the first interview, will definitely happen. At the very least, have a list of the main beats in mind so you can stay flexible and adapt depending on the amount of time you’re working with. In some cases, an entire stage of the interview process is dedicated to going over your portfolio, while for others it might be something your interviewer will suggest if you’ve got some time left over. This will vary from company to company and the size of the department.
Say you’ve done your due diligence, you’re looking and acting the part, you nailed the presentation and you’re confident that you’ve secured your spot in the next round of interviews.
Imagine your surprise then, when in the final minutes of the interview, your interviewer asks, “So what kind of music do you like?”
Leading up to this moment, you’d read through dozens of sample interview questions and rehearsed your answers just to be caught off guard by a question about your musical taste. A large part of your time is spent finding new artists and curating playlists but your interests are so varied that when confronted with the question, you struggle to find an answer. Your mind starts scanning through the past couple of weeks, looking for some sort of pattern, but failing to find anything, you simply answer, “everything.”
They respond with a short, “cool”, thank you for your time, and the interview ends. The second it does, the names of your favorite artists start flooding into your head and you’re kicking yourself for not thinking of them sooner. And rightfully so.
Unbeknownst to you, your interview actually loves all the same acts and even has tickets to see one of them next week. Had you mentioned their name, their eyes would have lit up because they thought they were the only ones who knew them. You’ve just missed out on a major opportunity to bond with your interviewer.
This might sound like hyperbole, but trust me when I say that it’s not. These seemingly irrelevant, small-talk questions can hold just as much weight as those that directly relate to the job. Think about it. What sorts of questions would you have for somebody before deciding to commit to spending lots of time with them on a daily basis? They’re evaluating you as a whole person, not just a prospective employee. They want to see if you’re cool, if you’ve got anything in common, if you’re someone they can get along with.
Imagine how impactful it would have been if when asked who you listen to, you had said, “Lil Onion” (hopefully not real, but probably is), who, despite being relatively unknown and having only a few thousand streams on Soundcloud, just so happened to be from your interviewer’s hometown and went to high school with their sister.
To be clear, without all of the other pieces in place, none of this will matter, but once you’ve got everything else comfortably dialed in, take some time to make sure you know you. Treat it like a first date. Run through your favorites—sports teams, bands, books. With all else equal, connecting with your interviewer on things they can relate to on a personal level can make all the difference.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.