One of the things that most people can agree on is that we generally avoid voluntary situations that cause us stress, discomfort and anxiety. After all, if you had a choice, why would you or anyone else enter into something you expect will be uncomfortable; something designed to expose your flaws, where you’ll be judged, evaluated, and there’s a greater chance of rejection than there is of being selected.
If you’re in market for a new living room chair and you enter a showroom, you sit in a variety of chairs but are usually looking for one that is comfortable, seems a good fit for your frame, and one that you can imagine sitting in nicely for a long period of time. Don’t you want your next job to be equally a good fit? Of course you do.
How you perceive that interaction with the interviewer(s) is largely going to determine your attitude and in turn, your overall performance. So if you see the interview as a negative thing, you’ll probably avoid mock interviews and practicing because it resembles too closely the real thing which you dislike. So I’ve assembled a few selected things you can do to help you through this process:
1. Reframe the interview as a conversation. See the job interview as a conversation between you and the company representatives. It’s a friendly chat where you center your conversation around the job opening and your suitability. Talk with enthusiasm, stay focused, smile and be genuine.
2. Be in control. Remember that you decide what you’ll share, how you’ll share it, and whether you want to be branded as serious, humourous, personable, shy, etc. Only you know what you are feeling inside because they’ve never met you before. You get to ask questions just like them, and you’ve got a decision to make at the end of the interview as to whether you want the job, just as they have a decision to make to offer it to you. You each have power, don’t give yours away.
3. Be prepared. Know some basic information on the mission or values of the company. Do some research and demonstrate to them that the job is important enough to you that you took the time to learn a few things before you walked in and sat down. This will also ease your jitters if you get asked what you did to prepare for the interview, or what you know about the company and/or position.
4. Come armed with documents. Bring along a few copies of your resume and put yours in front of you during the interview. Refer to it and draw the interviewers attention to past accomplishments. Have your references at hand, a list of 6 or 7 questions to ask to choose from, and of course any letters of recommendation or examples of your work in a portfolio such as a report you did, or a workshop you’ve put together; a book you created etc.
5. Be friendly. Anyone and everyone you come into contact with should get a smile from you, a courteous, “Hello”, or a firm but not bone-crushing handshake. These people might be asked their opinion of you after you’ve completed the interview, and they could be if your hired, your future co-workers.
6. Use examples. No matter the question, draw on your past experiences to demonstrate your skills and abilities. How you have acted in the past is generally seen as a reliable indicator of how you will perform in the future. The more you use specific examples and give just enough detail so the interviewer gets the situation you were in and how you performed the better. Even if you have limited work experience, draw the connections between what you’ve done in your personal or volunteer time that relates to the question asked.
7. Anticipate the worst. Some people have a question that is awkward to answer, such about why you left your last job if you were fired, or describing your last boss if you didn’t get along at all. Okay so you have the choice to ignore thinking about this until the actual interviewer poses it, which usually turns out to be a disaster, or you can craft an answer ahead of time if the question comes up, and then deliver it with confidence and less anxiety.
8. Know yourself. Get an objective handle on your strengths, areas to improve upon, your values, things you believe in, the kind of Supervisor you work best under, what motivates you and what you will find stimulating or boring.
These 8 tips are only a very few of the things you should consider thinking about before you start the interview process. You should not feel powerless in an interview, and in fact the interviewer would probably like to see you as your normal every-day self so they get a good read on what you’ll be like if they hire you. Pretending to be someone you aren’t will only cause you grief if you do get the job and you may be quickly let go prior to passing your probationary period.
Although interviews for jobs you really want can be stressful because so much is on the line, the interviewer represents a company who also is under pressure to hire the right person for the job, and that might mean more than one interview is required. If you land a 2nd interview, do a little more homework and take comfort that you impressed people enough to move closer to the job you want.