A critical mistake you can easily make is relying solely on your quick-thinking and natural charm to get you through a job interview. More often than not you’ll be asked increasingly tough questions that will expose your lack of research and clear understanding of the company or job you are applying to.
At some point in the interview, you’d likely get this feeling of having your bravado take a hit, then another; your armour of good looks and charisma whittled away by thought-provoking questions or perhaps puzzled looks from interviews to your answers. Your antiperspirants kicking into overdrive in an effort to combat the increasing wetness of your armpits, and your frequency of looking interviewers in the eyes diminishing as your confidence unravels and embarrassment takes its place.
The danger is not so much blowing this interview – which you would think is the worst that could happen. No, the worst thing that can happen is that your self-confidence erodes so much that it carries over into future interviews. As you prepare for the interviews to come following such a poor one, you could become anxious about repeating the experience and essentially paralyze your ability to perform well.
No you don’t want to embarrass yourself, wasting both your time and the time of the people who granted you the interview. What you do want to do – presumably – is account for yourself with a positive interview where you planned for success.
So now the question is how to prepare for the interview. So let’s look at some of the key things you can do to increase your chances of success.
First of all know why you want the job, and more importantly why you want the job with this specific employer. There are likely similar job titles with other organizations, so what is it about the combination of this job with this employer that has you excited about the prospect of working in this position?
Related to the first very closely is the question of what you have to offer the employer. What makes you the ideal candidate? You know your background more intimately than anyone else, so how will you market yourself to address the needs of the employer? Are you an experienced problem-solver? Maybe you’re a seasoned or skilled negotiator with a proven track record of bringing people together in a non-adversarial atmosphere? If you don’t know what you have to offer an employer, you can hardly count on them to identify it for you.
Here’s something you’ll probably find reassuring – maybe you never even realized; you can predict the questions you’ll be asked with a fair degree of certainty. It’s true! Pull out a job posting – any job posting that lists qualifications or areas of responsibility. In all likelihood, you’ll find yourself being asked questions that seek to draw out your previous experience and qualifications that are listed in this job ad. So if it says you must have experience working in a team, prepare yourself with some examples from your past that demonstrate when you were a productive member of a team. If it calls for customer service skills, have several examples ready that prove or demonstrate your excellent customer service.
Now let’s look at social media. Do you love it, hate it or are you indifferent to it more out of ignorance of what it could do for you? One tangible thing that might ease your own anxiety or give you an edge over your competition (and don’t we all want this?) is to look up the people who will be interviewing you on LinkedIn for example. You can search by the company, probably find the profiles of some people in HR, the CEO or CFO. You can look up a Manager or search by their name if you are savvy enough to ask the person calling you for an interview who you will be interviewed by.
When you do use social media to look up your interviewers ahead of time, you can read their career path, maybe sock away some tidbit of information to drop in the interview such as, “Good morning Gerry, I see we share a passion for ________”. (insert the name of some charity that you and Gerry both contribute to). Sometimes just seeing the picture of the interviewers ahead of time can give you reason to relax, or give you clues on how to dress.
Before you walk into the room, have a few intelligent questions to ask. What information would you like to know that would best prepare you for this job? Are you keen to know the supervision style of your potential new boss? Are you wondering how much latitude you’ll be given to experiment, introduce cost-saving measures, or the expectation to contribute to projects outside your specific job description?
I never recommend going into an interview unprepared but I hear and see people do this all the time. “What do you know about the company?” I ask of people who are on their way to an interview. “Not much. I’ll find out more when I’m there I guess” is NOT a good answer. What you’re likely to find out is that you should have already known this.
When you prepare and do your homework, you may not even get asked many of the things you came prepared with true; however, better to be over prepared and ready for anything than counting on a wing and a prayer.