Interviewing is an essential life skill. We most closely associate them with jobs, but they are also important in the college search and even for volunteer opportunities. The main purpose of an interview is for the person who will be making the decision about hiring or accepting you to learn more about who you are. In many interview settings, what you convey through your body language and actions BEFORE and AFTER the interview is just as important your answers to the interviewer’s questions. These more subtle components of the interview can be perplexing for autistic young adults. In fact, the prospect of having to interview prevents some very qualified job seekers from applying in the first place.
The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to tame the interview beast.
If you are called for an interview it means that you meet the required qualifications – well done! The company, organization, or school wants to gather more information. Here are some tips:
Before the interview
- Respond to interview requests the same or the next business day.
- Review the job posting. Make sure you are familiar with the qualifications and job description because these are sure to come up during the interview. You may want to print this to take with you to the interview.
- Learn as much as you can about the organization. If you know the name of the person who will interview you, learn their job title and their role. Research them on LinkedIn. Create as clear an understanding as possible of what your role would be within the organization.
- Find out the EXACT location of the interview and determine how you will travel to that location; become familiar with how long the trip will take and any fees (parking, bus fare) you will need to pay for travel.
- If the interview will be conducted remotely (phone or video chat) make sure you have all the information. Select a location for online interview and test out the lighting, noise level, and logging on to the video platform.
- Try to anticipate questions you might be asked during the interview. Craft and practice your responses.
- Draft several questions to ask the interviewer. Practice asking them.
- Ask a trusted adult to review and provide feedback on the questions and answers.
- Practice all aspects of the interview with that same trusted adult. This includes how you will greet the interviewer, your body language during the interview, how you answer questions, etc. Practice early and often! Be open to feedback. This will help you feel comfortable during the real thing.
- If you tend to fidget or stim when under stress, find a way to do that during the interview that is not distracting. Some people find it helpful to hold a pen or keep their hands in their lap during interviews. Practice this!
- Choose (and try on) your interview outfit. You want to dress nicely. Usually clothing that would be appropriate for a religious service is appropriate for an interview. It is a good idea to ask for feedback from a friend or family member if you are not sure about what to wear.
During the interview
- Shower and perform all daily grooming. Make sure your hair will be dry by the time of the interview. Do not wear perfume or cologne. Do wear deodorant. Proper grooming and attire are signs of respect for the interviewer and the interview process.
- Bring along a fresh copy of your resume.
- Plan to arrive at the interview location (or log on to the video call) ten minutes BEFORE your scheduled interview time. This shows respect for the interviewer’s time. It also gives you time to use the restroom and take a few deep breaths.
- Make sure you have the phone number and email address (and a way to communicate) with you just in case you encounter an unavoidable delay (a traffic accident, for example). If this happens be sure to call BEFORE your actual interview time.
- At the start of the interview thank the interviewer for meeting with you. This is something you should include in your pre-interview rehearsals. This is also a great time to offer the fresh copy of your resume to the interviewer.
- Answer the interviewer’s questions honestly. If you are unsure what the interviewer is asking, it is ok to ask for clarification.
- At the conclusion of the interview, thank the interviewer for meeting with you. If the interviewer has not already covered the timeline for making decisions, if is appropriate (but not necessary) to politely ask when you might hear about the decision.
After the interview
- Take a deep breath. You did it!
- Send a thank you email to the interviewer (or whoever your contact person has been) as soon as you arrive home. This is a sign of respect AND shows the organization that you can promptly follow through on tasks.
- Be on the lookout for further communication from the organization and respond accordingly. If you have not heard anything from an organization within two or three weeks of your interview, it is acceptable to contact them and politely ask for a status update. Unfortunately, not all organizations are great at following up with candidates to whom they do not extend offers.
- Write down any lessons learned from this interview process. Interviewing is just like any other skill and you will get better with practice.
If you’d like to learn more about interviewing and mastering other life skills as an autistic young adult, I’d love to connect.