Nervous About An Upcoming Interview?

First things first; congratulations on the interview! Give yourself credit because you’re up against a lot of other people all competing for employment. So well done!

That credit your giving yourself is important because its external validation that  you’ve done a good job responding to the employer’s needs. Employer’s need people who can be productive and add to the success of the organization, so just getting to the interview is a good sign that they like what they read.

Okay, so you’re nervous. There are two kinds of situations where nerves can have you feeling anxious . The first is where you haven’t prepared at all for the interview. Not only did you not prepare, your plan is to wake up and wing it, counting on your natural ability to charm and think on your feet. If this has worked in the past, it will likely work again. Wrong. Employer’s are better qualified than before, better trained and can size up these candidates quickly. Your nerves will go through the roof as you slowly become more and more exposed as having not invested any time at all in doing some basic homework. You’ll be nervous, and for good reason as you’ve brought this on yourself.

The second kind of nervous is the good kind; yes you read right…there is a good kind! This is nervous excitement! You’ve prepared yourself as best you could, read up on the job posting, their website, you may have talked to some employees and you really want this job. The possibility that you’re soon going to be hired for a job you can do well, doing work you’ll enjoy and in a situation you’ll be successful at is so motivating! So this nervous excitement as the interview draws closer is fantastic.

As someone who loves interviewing, I’d be more worried for you if you felt no nervousness at all – that would be a huge warning sign that you’re running on autopilot and aren’t as invested in the job or company to the extent you should be.

Now, what to do to help you get those nerves under control. First off, breathe… Stress is a physical thing, and a few deep breaths; in through the nose and out through the mouth will help you give your body oxygen when it needs it to relax. Now stand up for a moment. Seriously. Place your hands on your hips and spread your legs, with equal weight on both feet. You’re in the, ‘Superman’ pose. Head up and looking straight ahead, chest slightly out and hold this for two or three minutes. Do this before the interview – say in the washroom or reception area and you’ll feel confidence growing. Odd thing is, it works.

Now, first impressions are important so choose clothing you feel comfortable in that fit the job you’re applying to. Check them a few days before so they are clean, ironed and you’re ready. On the morning of the interview, shower, brush the teeth, do your hair (off the face as a general guideline for women) and give yourself enough time to get where you’re going anticipating delays.

It’s always good to bring multiple copies of your résumé (for you and for them), pre-determined questions you want answered, paper and pen for notes, the job posting and your references to offer at the end. Depending on the job, you might want any certificates or proof of licences and education requirements too.

Smile at the first meeting, offer a firm handshake and look the interviewer(s) in the eye as you do so. When you walk, don’t amble or shuffle along, walk with purpose and be aware of slouching shoulders.

As for answering questions, use the STAR format. Well, I endorse it at any rate. Essentially you answer by sketching out SITUATIONS you found yourself in so the get a framework for your answer, present the TASK or problem to overcome, move to the ACTION you took in rising to the challenge and finish with a positive RESULT that came about because of what you did.

This format is neat, tidy and concise. It will help you PROVE you’ve done what you claim you can do. I can’t stress enough how specific examples you give are essential to a successful interview. Without specific examples in your answers, you’re hoping they’ll believe you’ve got the experience and skills you state you do, and you’ll come up short.

The tone of your voice is important too. Nervous people often talk quicker and their voices are slightly higher. Slow your words down, pause every so often to emphasize certain things you believe are critical, and your voice suddenly gets more interesting, more meaning is attached to your words and the overall impact is a more attentive audience.

As the interview wraps up, ask for their business card. All the information you need to follow-up with a thank you note or phone call is on that card. Do send a card of thanks! Many don’t bother these days and that’s even more reason to do it. You stand out and that’s what you’re hoping to do.

The most important thing you can do is leave a lasting positive impression. Why hire you? What makes you the right fit? Answer this now, before you get to the interview. It’s not about what you want, but how hiring you is in the company’s best interests.

Reframe The Job Interview

Looking for a job, writing resumes, going to interviews, worrying about whether they will call you or ignore you; this isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. In fact, most of those I know see the process as a roller coaster of ups and downs, built up expectations and dashed hopes. In short, a stressful experience to be ended as soon as possible by getting a job.

When I ask job seekers to share with me what they find most annoying or unpleasant about looking for work they almost always tell me it’s the job interviews. They typically say they hate them, (and hate is a pretty strong word). Why does this word get used over and over to describe the experience? Typically it’s because of those feelings of nervousness, feeling judged, evaluated, setting themselves up to be accepted or rejected.

Imagine how the experience of the job interview, and more importantly the anticipation of the job interview became something to look forward to however; something you perceived as an enjoyable experience. If job interviews were fun wouldn’t you look forward to them even if, yes they still caused you some nervousness?

An analogy might help us out here….hmmm….what would work for us…? Ah ha! Think of going on a date with someone you’ve heard good things about. Better than a blind date set up by one of your friends, suppose you’ve got a date Friday night with someone you’re looking forward to meeting face-to-face. You’re looking forward to sitting down with them because what you’ve learned so far about them has your interest peaked. You hope that meeting them in-person they’ll live up to what you’ve found out so far. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but it’s a good nervous and the anticipation is a good thing.

Why can’t a job interview be along the same lines? You do your homework and find out about the company you are interviewing with. You hope when you sit down face-to-face that they’ll live up to your expectations. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but again it’s a good nervous. You just might make a long-term working relationship out of this first meeting. You’re hoping to hit it off with them and them with you. Just like a first date, you spruce yourself up and look your best and come ready for conversation.

Now perhaps you can’t see any parallel beyond what I’ve described. In your view, it’s not like a date because in a first date each person comes with their questions, each feeling out the other and the conversation goes back and forth. Perhaps it doesn’t work for you personally because you view the job interview not so much as a first date but more like an interrogation from some spy movie where you sit on a cold steel chair under some intense light being grilled by some thug extracting all your information in the most unpleasant of circumstances. The worst part is that by submitting your résumé, you actually walked into this interrogation voluntarily!

Job interviews are like so many other things in life; how we perceive them in our minds goes a long way to how we will actually experience them. Imagine it to be an interrogation and that’s what it will be. Imagine it to be a fun enjoyable experience and it will be as well. Now I know it takes more than just picturing it as a positive experience to make it so, but when you shift your thinking to seeing interviews as good experiences to look forward to, you’ll also find putting in the work to make the experience a positive one is something you’ll undertake with enthusiasm.

That date this Friday evening? Likely you’ll get your outfit ready ahead of time, you’ll wonder what you’ll talk about and prepare yourself with a few questions for them. You also think about what you’ll share on this first date, probably putting your best qualities on display and concealing some of your faults until you get to know them better. You’ll think about what you’ll do, wonder how you’ll get out of it if things don’t go well, or if they do, you hope they’ll like you as much as you like them. When it’s over, you’ll hope they’ll reach out and ask to see you again or be receptive to your own follow-up.

Sounds like an interview to me! In fact, what if the term, ‘job interview’ was replaced with, ‘opportunity conversation’? What if you told yourself you have an upcoming conversation about an opportunity? It’s just a small thing perhaps but it’s one step of reframing this experience from the negative event you dislike into one that you could view as positive; something to look forward to even.

Conversations are one way we find out information and confirm what we’ve learned previously. For both you and the interviewer(s), this interview is an opportunity to sit down face-to-face and get to know one another. They’ve got your résumé and you’ve got their website and whatever your research has revealed ahead of time. Now they and you have a chance to ask questions, listen and rate each other, ultimately deciding if you have a future together and if so, under what conditions.

Tell yourself ahead of time this date is going to be a disaster and it likely will be. Envision it positively and it has a chance to work out and be enjoyable; for both of you.

Growing Your Interview Confidence

Walking in to an interview you can feel understandably nervous. In fact, if you feel nervous not only is that a normal thing but it’s a very good thing! However, many people typically say to themselves, “I wish I wasn’t so nervous!”

If you think about it, most people typically get nervous when they are about to do something important; something that involves being in the spotlight. Take the athlete about to run a race, the actor about to take the stage and yes, the interviewee about to sit down for the big job interview.

Your body is producing chemicals gearing you up to handle what you’re perceiving as an event where you need to be alert and focused. It’s getting that energy all ready for you to use if needed. Ever notice how often the advice you may get to overcome nervousness is to breathe deeply and slow your breathing? That’s to calm down and relax a little; master the body in a kind of mind-over-matter situation.

Let’s look at a few things to give you reasons to feel confident heading in. First of all, and not to sound flippant, but you’ve got an interview! The fact that the list of people this organization has decided to bring in for an interview has your name on it means that at least on paper they like what they’ve read. How many resumes and applications did they get in total? We don’t know and I wouldn’t waste time trying to figure that out. However, whether it was a huge or medium-sized list of candidates, when it came down to the short list, you made the grade. Feel good about that.

Okay so they like the paper you. Why? What was it on the resume or contained in the cover letter and resume that got you the chance to meet with them in person? It was unquestionably your combination of experience and education, coupled with your ability to express yourself well which attracted their attention. That just makes sense.

Okay, so feeling a tad more confident? You should be. Still need more? Of course! Let’s look at the interview to come. From your perspective job interviews are all about getting the job. From the other side of the desk however, job interviews are really about eliminating candidates for various reasons and going with who is left. Some people will eliminate themselves from the process by revealing damaging things about themselves. They may disclose criminal records, primary caregiver roles that hint loudly at needing time away etc. This is something you control 100%.

Watch that first question designed to put you at ease and share whatever is on your mind. “Tell me about yourself” is not permission to relate your life journey, nor your hobbies and obsessions. Look at the question as your opportunity to immediately impress them with how well you line up with their needs. Focus on your relevant education and experience as they relate to the job. If your experience is in the same field, extol that. If your experience is diverse, it still impressed them enough to get the interview so exploit that diversity as not only qualifying you but giving you that broader perspective which will enrich the organization.

They like you. It’s up to you to keep that impression going and this is where the things they couldn’t tell on paper are important. A smile, good posture, good manners, proper clothing, a warm handshake – these are some of the small things that reinforce their good opinion of you or can create doubt in their mind. By being aware of the little things you can focus on the bigger things; like the quality of your answers.

I know people who,  having a tendency to be overly serious, intentionally wear novelty underwear to their big interviews. Why? Once or twice during that stressful interview, that pops into their head which causes them to smile and that break in the tension comes across the table as a welcomed facial expression instead of the tense, foreboding look they might have had otherwise. Hey, whatever works.

Getting your body under control is important too. Why is it for example when we say, “Don’t sweat! Don’t sweat! Please don’t sweat!”, our sweat glands suddenly kick into overdrive and we become our own personal rainforest, dripping in a puddle or pool of our own making. If you’re worried about this, baby powder helps – a light dusting on the chest and underarms. Getting there early enough to give yourself the once over in the washroom is good too. Then you can sit back and relax in the waiting room rather than rushing in under pressure.

If you prepared in advance and have gone over the stated needs in the job posting, you should be able to predict many of the key things they will want to verify. This means your preparation was time well spent and you can and should have some confidence in yourself too.

You prepared well, you’re dressed well, you know you’re qualified or they wouldn’t waste their time seeing you. Enjoy your time with them and converse with them, showing some enthusiasm for the job and the opportunity. They actually want you to succeed and show them your best. Let your competition view the interview like standing before a firing squad; that’s their choice!


It’s The End Of The Job Interview…

Unless you’re blindsided with an abrupt end to the job interview process, I’m guessing you can sense when things are wrapping up. Whether you hear the interviewer say, “Just one more question…”, or “Well that just about does it” you can sense the end is drawing near. So in those last couple of minutes what should you do?

One thing you shouldn’t do is plan on playing things by ear and winging it. The people who tend to make things up on the fly typically don’t succeed well; these are the folks who 5 minutes after they’ve left the interview room say to themselves, “Oh I forgot to say…!”

What you say does depend on two critical things: 1) As the interview winds down are you still interested in competing for the job based on what you’ve heard and experienced and 2) Has the interview gone positively or not up to that point? This is the challenge for any applicant; continue to answer the questions and stayed focused on the process you are involved in while simultaneously detaching yourself so you can constantly evaluate how things are transpiring.

Let’s assume first that the interview is going well and that you really like what you are hearing and seeing from the employer. Your confidence is high and you want this job more than you did when you first came into the room. Ah yes, the ideal scenario! In this case, you want to leave expressing your enthusiasm for the job and what it entails. As you wrap up, what you really want is to know how the process moves forward. Once you walk out of the interview you’re in the dark otherwise.

Certainly offer your hand with confidence and a smile, making contact as you do. Leave them with a final closing statement: “You’ve done an excellent job at raising my anticipation and excitement at the prospect of joining your team. I’m confident that in choosing me as the successful applicant for this position we will have a productive and mutually beneficial relationship. I look forward to hearing from next Tuesday as you’ve said. Thank you!”

There’s assertiveness in the above statements. It’s not all about you or them but rather the start of a mutually beneficial relationship. You’ve complimented them on raising your anticipation of working there and who doesn’t like to hear they’ve done a good job themselves? You’ve also reaffirmed the timeline they’ve indicated and used your manners by expressing your thanks and appreciation.

Let’s look at another scenario. You’ve become disenchanted with the job opening as the role is explained to you or you’ve picked up that for whatever reason this isn’t going to be a good fit. Should you continue with the interview and waste both your time and theirs or sit through what are the final few minutes out of some kind of respect for the process? My advice is to end things and leave with dignity and class. “If I may, I have great respect for your time as you go about finding the right person for this position. For this reason, I feel it only fair to say that from what I’ve learned today, this isn’t going to be the best fit for either of us but I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have met you.”

You may find this catches the interviewer by surprise and they might ask what’s changed. The situation is reversed now from what is often the case where the applicant is rejected and wants to know why or what they could do in the future to better compete. In this situation it is the interviewer who might want feedback. It’s up to you what if anything you say, but I will tell you that I’ve counselled people for some time to use this strategy and every so often if the employer is really impressed with the applicant up to this point, they make some concession in a negotiating effort to retain the person’s services. More responsibility, a title that fits better, re-packaging the compensation package.

One thing to bear in mind as well with the above is that while this particular opportunity didn’t come out in the end as the best personal fit, you might wish to apply for a different role with the same company or re-think things in the future and reapply for the same position. So best to ease out of the interview process with gratitude for their time and with some class.

Every so often when I hear from a person who has just left an interview, they tell me that they forgot to ask something which is really significant to them. They had expected to ask a certain question if the information wasn’t given to them but they completely forgot. What to do? Why not pick up the phone, ask to speak with them directly and ask your question? You can do that? They won’t think you’re daft? No. Interviewers will generally appreciate the fact that you’re still very much actively engaged in the thought process. In some cases you might email them with your question. Express your thanks first for the interview, indicate your keen interest and ask your question.

By the way, if you feel you’ve messed up and are losing the job you really want, be frank with the employer. Give them your best pitch with sincerity and learn from the experience; as you should with every situation.


When Is The Job Interview Over?

Before we can talk about when the job interview is over, we need to talk about when it starts. There’s some strong difference of opinion as to both its beginning and end. My position is that it doesn’t begin when you shake the hand of the interview and say, “Hello”, and end when you shake their hand a second time and say, “Goodbye”.

So let’s begin. The start of the interview? Well to me the start of the interview comes the moment you have any interaction with the company of which they become aware. So if you walk in their front door and ask about volunteer opportunities, your employment interview has just begun. You see even if you have no immediate plans to apply for a paid position with that organization, it may well be that you change your mind as you volunteer there in the future and become aware of job postings. It could also be that they eventually discuss an employment opportunity with you without even posting a position.

Your first impression of the company – how you are greeted and treated – is also the organizations first chance to form an opening opinion of you. If you are of the opinion that you can act one way and then a year later suddenly transform yourself into someone else when there is a job posting, you’ll never pull off coming across as genuine. By that point, they’ve formed strong opinions on your punctuality, your level of interest and commitment, your attitude, your ability to work with others, your reliability and your skills. In short, your job interview started a year ago when you first started volunteering.

How am I doing? Have I got you saying to yourself, “Okay sure I get it, but I thought you were talking about the actual job interview.” I am! You see I’ll bet that in that formal sit down interview, you’ll be discussing your performance in your role as a volunteer. You’ll cite examples of your abilities you’ve experienced while volunteering for the organization. So yes, you’ll be bringing in your shared experience as proof of your strong application for the position.

And if you’re not volunteering? You start making an impression on the people who work there right from the first time you identify yourself on the phone with your manners, the words you speak, the tone of your voice, the presence or lack of a sense of humour. If it’s a written application, your cover letter and resume get to the organization ahead of you and will give them all kinds of evidence of how well you write and communicate; your professionalism or lack of it. Your interview has already begun. The face-to-face meeting is a continuation of your interaction, just moving to a different phase.

So when is the interview over? Just like the beginning, I don’t think the face-to-face formal meeting represents anything but a change in the dynamic of the overall application. Most employers tell me that they put a lot of weight on what a person does or doesn’t do after they shake hands and walk out. If they go home and do nothing, they probably aren’t all that committed to really wanting the job. They most likely are applying for other jobs with other organizations. If on the other hand they follow-up with a short note of thanks for the interview, subsequent questions or additional information to support their application, they really want it as demonstrated by their continuing effort. In short, the interview process continues.

Look too at the selection process at its conclusion. One person gets the job and all the others are passed over. Does it end here then? For 9 out of 10 people it does. That 1 other person though? That’s the person who continues to want the job and wants a second chance. They follow-up expressing both their disappointment and their continued interest in the position should it or a similar opening come up.

They also request feedback, suggestions, advice and then act on that advice so they can in a future discussion, explain what they’ve been doing to better position themselves for success by heeding the advice they got in the past. For them you see, the interview isn’t over, it’s still going on.

Do you see the difference in perception? Do you see that there are some who see the interview start and end as a date and time on the calendar. These folks say, “I have a 45 minute interview this Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.”.  Others say, “I started my interview 6 months ago and I’ve been invited to a formal discussion this Tuesday at 10:00a.m. as the next stage in the hiring process.”

Oh and guess what? If you don’t like interviews and think that when you get hired they are thankfully done with – I disagree. The day you shake hands and accept a job offer is the first day of a long process as you are now interviewing for the job you officially apply to down the road as a promotion. In short, every day at work is an ongoing interview.

I hope you zeroed in on that last sentence. If you are headed off to work today you’re being watched, evaluated, judged, gauged and affecting others opinions of you as you build your reputation. You my dear reader are in an interview. Hope you used deodorant before leaving home!



Job Interview Anxiety

Many people experience unwanted anxiety when they are told they have successfully applied to a job and have been granted an interview. What they feel often becomes crippling; the mounting pressure building until it is almost paralyzing making the person incapable of making a genuinely good first impression.

For those of us who actually look forward to job interviews and don’t feel this same apprehension, try equating the fear and anxiety experienced by others as the same dread you might feel yourself in some other part of your life. Suppose you opt to renovate your bathroom, need your fan belt and brakes replaced or even having end-of-life discussions with your own parent. There are undoubtedly areas in your own life where you feel anxious, stressful and some kind of mounting pressure.

The key difference between all those other examples I listed above and a job interview, is that while you could get someone else to fix your car, renovate the bathroom or address end-of-life issues, you have to enter the interview room by yourself and succeed in it by yourself. So is it this feeling of performance some fear and in that performance the dread of failing that is at play? Perhaps, but not entirely.

Some other issues that cause anxiety have to do with being judged. You are judged to have performed well enough to get the job, or perhaps to get a second interview – ironically in this situation as having performed well but now having additional anxiety over a second interview and feeling increased pressure to perform a notch higher. And while some people think the level of anxiety rises when the importance of the job itself is higher, there are a great number of people who feel immense anxiety when going for what are generally considered to be entry-level jobs. To them, their anxiety is just as real as the high rollers going for corporate executive jobs.

I hear many people say they wish they could by-pass the job interview entirely and just apply for a job and be told when they start. Wishing and hoping for this to happen however is more fantasy than reality. Employers look at the interview as their chance to meet a potential employee, hear them speak, visualize them in the workplace working alongside other employees, checking for the chemistry that will exist if they are hired etc.

One piece of good advice to consider is to be genuine in the interview. Sometimes you might hear this expressed as, “just be yourself”. If you can be genuine in the interview but at the same time ratchet up your professionalism, you stand an excellent chance of finding the right fit. By ratcheting up your professionalism, I simply mean that there are times when you are on your best behaviour in life but true to who you are, and the job interview is one of those times. If the employer likes you for who you are then you’ve found a good fit. If you are genuine but the employer passes you over for someone else, it may be that the job wouldn’t have been a good fit for them, for you or both.

Now back for a moment to fixing your car, renovating your basement or having that end-of-life discussion etc. mentioned at the outset of this piece. Were you in any of those situations, good advice would be to do a little reading, (possibly a lot of reading!) on the subject you were about to tackle. You might want to experiment on cutting a piece of pipe and soldering it back together before you shut off the water and cut your bathroom sink lines for the first time. That experimental run through builds one’s confidence to repeat that success on the important job. In your mind, you can easily recall the success you had earlier, and so you go at it with confidence.

Job interviews are much the same. Reading up on the company, knowing the job you are applying to, and having a few mock interviews to build your confidence has the same impact; your confidence rises and your anxiety decreases. The mechanic who has installed thousands of brakes is confident and feels very little apprehension and anxiety when compared to the rookie apprentice doing it for the first time when the customer is in the waiting area.

Does it make much sense then to put off practicing and going through a few dry runs before going to the interview you place so much importance in? Probably not if we are being honest. The people who tend to, ‘wing it’ usually do poorly. Charm and good manners might get you past the, “Tell me about yourself”, question but that’s it. Without practice and confidence, we’d see that same person grow increasingly anxious under scrutiny; and that anxiety tends to manifest itself in sweating, fidgeting, finger-tapping and losing good eye contact.

So, read up on the company, go over the skills and qualification in the job posting, practice your interview with someone who will give you honest feedback. Breathe! View this interview as a conversation you are having about an opportunity. You have needs and so do they. You need a job, they need a qualified employee.

Build your confidence on small successes. Smile. And the more interviews you get, the better you’ll perform.

All the best to you today!

“Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?”

If you find yourself asked some version of this question in a job interview, you should have a solid answer prepared in advance as it’s more than predictable. But in order to answer it well, as with all questions, it’s important to know what the person asking it is really hoping to hear.

For starters, the question is designed to see if you even have any plans for your future or not. You might be one of those many who don’t have any plan whatsoever and just drift along from day-to-day, from job to job, from place to place.

On the other hand, you might be one of those folks who has a master plan for their life, and if so, the interviewer is interested in knowing how the job you are applying for fits with your plan. Remember too that companies have short and long-range plans themselves; or at least they should. One of your own questions near the end of the interview might be to spin this question around and then ask the interviewer where the company is headed over the next 5 years, and this could provide you with information that you need to determine if your goals and the direction of the company over that period would best serve each other.

Before you answer the question however, don’t assume that the best answer is to say you see yourself progressing in the company you are applying to. Depending on the job, it could be a position where they are looking to hire someone on a short-term basis only; come in and clean things up and then move on. You could be being interviewed for a project that will be over in two years, and the expectation may be that unless your services are needed to address another project, your position is terminal right from day one. You should of course know this going in to the interview based on the job posting and the homework you’ve done in preparation.

However, let’s go on the assumption that the job has no predetermined expiration. The employer may well value you highly if they believe it is your intent to stay with the company 5 years and beyond. If they value that loyalty, and it fits with your plans, then you are both on the same page, and are seeking a longer term investment in one another. How your previous employment supports such intent or not might come into question. If you’ve worked 4 jobs in the last 3 years, you’d best be prepared to explain the reasons behind the moves to the satisfaction of the interviewer.

Were such a number of jobs in a short period of time your situation, maybe you intentionally were out to get various experiences, a company you believed you’d stay with suddenly shut down for reasons beyond your own control, or they relocated and you couldn’t move with them. What you might be most interested in is latching onto a company with stability and with plans to thrive and grow in your geographical location.

One thing to be cautious of is stating that you are interested in advancement, and hence you expect to see yourself in a different job with more responsibility but with the same company in 5 years. That sounds okay to some of you readers, but with some interviewers it’s a red flag. You see a company might be wanting stability themselves in a certain role within their operations. If you plan to move on, they might just not appreciate having to go through this process again in a 5 year window or less.

Many organizations are fluid; they move people around from job to job and they position themselves to adapt to the market, consider new ways of doing things, reconfigure themselves and as such, their needs constantly change. If you are interviewing for such a company, your adaptability and transferable skills plus your continual interest in ongoing learning and new challenges will be seen as an asset.

Recognize however that other businesses – and there are plenty of them – desire the status quo. Some companies brand themselves on producing the same things from year to year with little variation. They may therefore also value employees who if happy today, will be happy in 5 years doing the same job. Are you the kind of person who likes variety and needs the stimulation of change, or are the type that appreciates doing the same thing from year to year with little change in your own duties?

I personally think that depending on what you discover from your research, a safe way to go about answering the question is to stress that your first priority is to get a solid handle on the job you are currently applying to. It may take a year or more to truly master the job or it may be the kind of job that you can fully do with high proficiency in a short time. Then if you want to, you can also state as part of your answer that you would like to be in a position to compete internally for progressively challenging positions should they become available in the future.

The reply above reassure the interviewer they’ll get a return on their investment in hiring you, that you will be happy staying in the job you are applying to today, but that you have ambitions to grow with the company. Not always the right answer, but more than not.

The Chaos Interview

If you have ever sat down with a professional to conduct a mock interview, it probably ran pretty smoothly on the side of the person playing the role of interviewer. I mean after all, if they are trying to build your confidence, they don’t want to make the interview itself go anything but well.

So given this kind of practice situation, now imagine yourself showing up ten minutes early for the interview as coached, and immediately finding the company appears to be in turmoil. Perhaps there’s extensive renovations going on, power tools are being used nearby, workman talking back and forth as they work, the reception area has been temporarily relocated to another area, and when you do get greeted for an interview, the interview is interrupted three times by various people who apologize but, “just need a word” with the interviewer. That one-on-one nice chat you envisioned is not happening.

This kind of interview can be unsettling for sure, and it may be hard to get any real flow going. You might feel that the interviewer isn’t really giving you much attention, or that you are really being seriously considered. I would caution anyone who finds themselves in this situation from getting testy and annoyed and saying something about it. This could be a wonderful way for you to demonstrate your patience, ability to deal with unexpected challenges, and of course your performance under stressful situations. If the job calls for those qualities, you can even remark on the state of things and how you are willing and capable of rising above the noise and distractions.

Interviewers, like any other occupation, have their share of good ones and poor performers. At the moment, you might not be in a position to really evaluate whether you are being interviewed by which, and in the end, you really should be focused more on being the best interviewee anyhow, not judging the interviewer.

Realize too that the interview situation I’ve described above might seem to fantastic to you personally, but it really has happened. I could also have told you about a job interview that was conducted in a janitor’s closet – that too had to do with office renovations when no other space was available in a school setting. The interviewer is responsible for choosing the location of the interview, and if you find yourself in some unusual setting or its being conducted under trying circumstances, you might also be given a little leeway that otherwise would not be extended to you.

I recall personally being in situations where the person asking me questions didn’t really seem all that prepared or quite frankly know what to ask. My strategy then changed from what I’d normally do. I ended up actually providing the information I wanted the interviewer to know based on my best guesses as to what they should want to know from an applicant. And of course I played to my strengths. The interviewer was young, didn’t seem really confident, and only had two questions ready and then actually looked lost. How grateful they were that I took control of the interview. What I wasn’t sure of right up until the moment I was offered the job, was whether the strategy I took was appreciated in truth or not.

We all hope for the traditional interview where we are greeted upon arrival, welcomed into the interview, have a pleasant conversation and the question and answer portion goes pretty much as we hoped, and we leave on good terms with a friendly handshake. When arriving at home, we hope to get that positive call within anywhere from the same day to a few days. That’s your typical and predictable interview. But it doesn’t always go as we planned.

So what can you do to relieve any extra stress that can come from something unexpected? For starters avoid making judgements and pronouncing them aloud. Saying something like, “Do you conduct all your interviews like this? This is nuts and you’re crazy if you think I’m going to sit through this!” may be exactly what you’re thinking, but unless the job calls for you to be a take charge, no-nonsense kind of person, best you not express your true thoughts and play along. Could be that the interviewer has to be accessible to others and there is no other area truly available, and rescheduling just isn’t an option.

Secondly, remember what you are totally in charge of; yourself. You control what you say, how you say it, your body language and your prior research into the company and the role should tell you what strengths you have that fit the job. What you aren’t in control of is what is controlled by the interviewer, such as interruptions, the location and the interviewers experience with interviews. Don’t sweat what you have no control over.

Summarizing why you are a great fit near the end of the interview for the interviewer may be something you wish to consider. This way, you leave feeling that although the interview may have been rocky and full of chaos, you’ve left the person with a good summary of who you are and why you are THE person to hire. Not only can this summary be verbally given, but if you really want to impress, instead of a short thank you note for the interview, think about writing an actually letter summarizing yourself so nothing gets lost.

You CAN Get Interview Questions In Advance!

While I personally look forward to job interviews, many people I help do not. Usually it’s because the job interview is viewed by them, (and perhaps you?) as a process where you get grilled causing anxiety and stress. The questions are tough, hard to prepare for because you don’t know what they’ll ask, and the questions sometimes seem like they might really be asking something deeper.

Would it help you feel less stressed if you knew the questions you were going to be asked in advance? Would this help you prepare for that meeting more effectively? I’m betting many would gladly take a peek at the questions. I’m going to advise you that you can in fact determine many of the questions ahead of time.

Okay so right off the bat you will likely get some version of, “Tell me about yourself”. This is an open-ended, unstructured question on the surface which has some saying, “Where do I start?” Think about the job requirements. If the position calls for you to work independently and be innovative, what you should answer with is that you have determined over time that you work best when counted on to work alone, and you value creativity; new ways of doing things. Then give an example to back this up from your past.

The job posting itself is where you should begin prior to the interview. The skills and qualifications the employer is looking for will likely form the basis of many of the questions asked. Even when the job posting has numerous responsibilities, you should be able to pick out the core requirements. Those core or major job functions is what the interviewer will be wanting to determine if you can handle or not. How you PROVE you can handle them is by providing EXAMPLES from your past where you in fact performed those functions elsewhere, or used those skills.

When questions start off with, “Tell me about a time when you…” or, “Describe your experience with…” the interviewer is using behavioural based questions. You’d do very well to remind yourself that the best answer you can provide is one where you share a SPECIFIC event (something you’ve accomplished) – and the more specific you get, the better. Ensure your answer is all about YOU, and YOUR achievement.

To accomplish this, an international best practice in 2014 is to use the STAR format when answering questions. It will give your answer a structure, letting you know just how much to say, and when to stop rattling on. It’s an acronym for S(situation) T(task) A(action) R(result). So you tell a story or paint a picture for the interviewer that relates a situation you’ve experienced where you were tasked to perform something where a challenge or problem required you to take action, and this action produced a positive result. Use a search engine online and key in, “STAR Interview Method” for lots of videos on the subject.

Back to the questions themselves. Suppose the job posting says you must have strong interpersonal skills and be a team player. You should come prepared then with at least three solid examples in your mind of past experiences where you worked cooperatively and productively with other people. So you can anticipate a question like, “Describe a project where you worked with others”, or “Relate a time you dealt with someone who wasn’t pulling their weight”. Demonstrating your skills by way of an example is critical.

The question, “What is your weakness?” is usually found in the interview somewhere, but it’s camouflaged these days and comes in the form of questions like, “Tell us about a time you failed and what you did”, or “How well do you know yourself?” Don’t be afraid to share an area where you need to improve because you’ll come across as devious, boastful or downright deceitful if you say you have no areas in which to improve – no weaknesses. Give an answer that demonstrates from your past where you didn’t excel immediately, share what you learned through failing, and how moving forward you’re better and more valuable because of that experience. End on a positive.

Is it likely that someone going for a Customer Service job is going to be asked questions designed to get at their previous customer service experience? absolutely. So then come prepared with strong examples that prove your customer service skills. When answering, refer the interviewer back to your resume, name the jobs you had, the companies you worked for, and again use the STAR interview format to prove you have that skill.

In the past, interviewers used to ask hypothetical questions about what you would do if faced with a situation in the future. They hired people who made up great answers in the interview, but fired just as many in short order when they couldn’t deliver. That’s why interviewers now use behaviour-based interview questions, and they are designed to probe at your past behaviour. What you’ve done in the past is likely how you’ll perform in the future. Your past experiences then are the keys to your current success in getting through the interview.

The major questions you’ll be asked are in the job posting. If you need help with this process, ask a professional job coach or Employment Counsellor in your area for guidance.

All the very best!

Determine Why The Interview Question Was Asked

I’m in the process of working with a group of job seekers this week. After some time spent improving cover letters and resumes, we are collectively working at getting those resumes into the hands of employers. The end result we hope is that the interviews are soon to be forthcoming; in fact some have already started getting those precious interviews.

So yesterday at the close of day, I got out the flip chart and asked members of the group to share what they perceived as dreaded questions, or questions they don’t necessarily dread but have no good answer for. By sharing those difficult questions to ask, I can provide some insight and suggestions on how to best structure a reply.

But you know the key thing to start with is some understanding of why the interviewer is asking the question they – and possibly you – find difficult to answer in the first place. And I don’t suggest any applicant answer their question by first asking, “Why do you ask that?” No, you’ve got to figure this out internally. Once you determine why they asked the question, and what it is designed to reveal or share about who you are and how you’ve dealt with things in the past, you can structure an answer and choose what from your past you want to share.

So maybe some concrete examples would be helpful? One of those questions that someone in my group finds troublesome is the question, “Tell me about your greatest accomplishment of which you are proud.” This question is really designed to reveal a few things. First of all, the words, ‘greatest accomplishment’ and ‘proud’ are the keys. Looking at the ‘proud’ first, think about anytime you hear someone speaking of anything they are proud of and it’s clear what you are about to say should be delivered with some zest, some enthusiasm in your voice and a smile on your face. By sitting slightly forward in your chair, your body language will support your voice, and the expression on your face should radiate pride. Now this pride is not vanity, just pride in your accomplishment.

Now to address the ‘greatest accomplishment’ part of the above question. Any accomplishment worth sharing should involve overcoming something in order to actually achieve the end result. After all, if you accomplished something with only minimal effort, it may not be what you decided to share. It’s like scoring a goal in a hockey game when no one is in the other teams net. Yes you scored but the effort to shoot the puck in an undefended net is not as impressive as battling through two defencemen, then putting the puck behind a goalie to win the game for your team. Which is the greater accomplishment?

So in the answer you give, choose a work-related example of being presented with a task, taking it on with some enthusiasm, overcoming a problem or conflict, and the result being something that you personally had a huge part in which does you credit. Now if the skills you used in reaching that accomplishment are transferable and directly applicable to the job you are currently applying for, you’ve got a first class answer.

A second example. Another question put forward was, “Tell me about yourself”. This question, usually the first thing asked, is designed actually for the dual purpose of putting you at ease, and getting you to share whatever you want. Think of it as a chance to share whatever you want about yourself, but keep it relevant to the job you are competing for. It’s also a chance for you the applicant to hang yourself and remove yourself from the process.

Because the interview process is designed to move some people on, it’s also designed to rule some people out! So “Tell me about yourself”, can be an interview killer. Choose to start off with, “Well I’m a single mother of two…”, and you’ve raised the child care flag with the interview. While you may be proud of raising those two children, interviewers are now wondering about your future absences. Not only will you be absent when you are sick, you may be absent when either of them are ill, or have appointments etc. Is that fair? Maybe and maybe not. Do you have arrangements in place for care etc. Maybe, maybe not. However, WHY raise a flag when there are so many other things you could have chosen to share with the interviewer?

And finally, one person in the class said what irked her was when a second question from an interviewer addressed something she had already answered earlier. Interviewers usually have predetermined questions in order to standardize the process. So it could be that you used some example from your past to answer an earlier question, and now are being asked a question that seems to be prompting you to talk about the same issue. It could also mean that they want further clarification of an answer, or to probe deeper in order to reveal more about your capabilities than you previously shared. Instead of getting perturbed and thinking they weren’t listening, just answer the question but with more depth. And if you want, you can ask for clarification.

Determining quickly why a question is being asked of you and what it is being designed to reveal can help you zero-in on the best way to structure your answer.