As a graduating senior with an engineering degree, it was common for the topic of discussion among my classmates to be someone’s upcoming interview. Their nervous excitement would radiate off them and everyone would congratulate them and immediately begin offering their own version of advice. And then I would offer my own advice: “If you don’t know how to respond, smile, and start talking about Star Wars.”
This may seem like strange advice to some people. But before you completely discredit me, let me explain. When I say start talking about Star Wars, what I mean is start talking about common interests and try to develop a bond with the interviewer. In engineering, anything within general geek-dom will work. (Star wars, Game of Thrones, epic fantasy novels, Sci Fi, Firefly, gaming) I have spent time talking about The Wheel of Time books in interviews for 2 different companies. I got offered the job both times.
You want to get the interviewer to like you. Because once you’ve shown that you’re qualified, have the education, skills, and experience to do the job, the last step in the interview is to convince them that you’re the kind of person they would want to sit beside every day and share oxygen with. Because when you get to the in-person interview, they usually have decided they like you. You just need to convince them that you’re going to be more productive and a greater asset to the team then the other guys they interviewed. And part of that is making them want to get to know you better.
This only works as an answer to non-technical questions. If you are having a technical interview, you need to convince them that you know your stuff, that you’re smart and capable. That you are competent. Then work on getting them to like you.