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.

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Anyone Getting Asked What Animal They’d Be?


“If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?”

Even though I know the purpose behind this question, I cringe every time I hear it. For starters, it’s old, tired and used so often as an example of a bizarre question that I wonder if anyone out there actually asks it any more. If you’ve been on the receiving end of this question recently, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Okay, so the point of the question; I mean, what purpose does it serve? Fair enough. That’s a good starting place for any potential question coming your way – know what’s behind the question; the purpose it serves. This type of question was often included in an interview to see how a candidate thinks on their feet when given something unexpected.

These days many people prepare for their upcoming interviews by enlisting the help of a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Career Counsellor etc. These people typically help by readying the applicant to succeed by having mock interviews. They anticipate questions that employer’s may ask, then coach their clients on how best to go about answering those same questions.

As an employer, it makes sense that in evaluating the applicants they interview, they want to see a person think and respond as themselves, not someone who is just regurgitating what they’ve memorized or been told what to say. To safeguard against this possibility, they may throw in the odd question that no one could reasonably be expected to ask. For decades now, some interviews have used the animal question or some version of it such as, “What fruit would you be?”, “What colour would you be?” or “What superhero would you be?” and of course “Why?”

Some think it is imperative to choose an animal that has qualities that relate to the job being applied to. A commissioned Salesperson choosing an aggressive animal, someone being expected to make a long-term commitment choosing a dog because of its loyalty etc. As for colour, fruit, superhero etc., it’s the same idea – pick one that you can relate to the desired qualities of the job you are applying to.

Me? I’ve found very few employer’s are using these as much anymore. Their questions are limited by the time set aside for interviews, and the information they need is better obtained asking directly relevant questions.

When I’m conducting mock interviews with those I serve, the closest I come to this is my last question which is simply, “Impress me.” I find it serves the purpose of being unexpected and as I observe their reaction I can see it has the desired impact of having them pause to think. It then gives them the latitude to tell me whatever they feel would best sway my opinion of them in their favour. Think of it like being asked what your greatest accomplishment has been, what you’re proud of, what I would truly find remarkable or something to note about you as we draw this interview to a close. In other words, it’s a chance to make a last impression on me the interviewer. And yes, relate it in your own way to the job you’re applying for now.

The animal question specifically though? I cringe. The way to answer this is easy. Answer quickly instead of stalling for time and stay away from anything questionable such as a weasel, snake or rat. Even if you like these personally, stereotypes don’t endear them to a lot of interviewers. Or be contrary and provocative if you wish and take your chances.

The thing about this question is its comparatively weak and has questionable benefit to anyone contemplating whom to hire. If you nail all the other 8 questions asked and bomb the animal question, you’ll likely still impress. Conversely, answer the animal question well but fail to impress when asked the more relevant questions and all you’ve got is the knowledge of what you’ll choose to be if/when you get asked to choose your next life form. How likely is that to happen?

There are all kinds of versions of the bizarre, unexpected question. “If you were a brick on the wall, which would you be and why?” is another. These also get asked if the interview suspects your answers sound too rehearsed, too practiced, anticipated and the answers simply robotic. So yes, they serve a purpose beyond just playing head games with poor unfortunate interviewees. Most interviewers respect their own time – and yours by the way – far too much to add unnecessary questions.

So I wonder, as an applicant in an interview, when was the last time you got asked such a weird question? Could be this question and others like it are out-dated and not worthy of being delved into much anymore, or perhaps they are confined to certain types of jobs.

Do they ask potential Brokers and Financiers what currency they’d choose to be and why? Has Richard Branson ever been asked to choose between being a Snail or an Aardvark and explain his rationale for making such a choice? I doubt it.

I ponder if Donald was ever asked, “If you could be a playing card, which one would you be and why?” Maybe he answered belligerently that he’d be a Jack of course because they are the ‘trump’ card? Ooh, a groaner!

 

Have Anxiety? The Pain Of Job Interviews


If you’re like many people, you probably don’t practice your interview skills when you are employed. It naturally follows then that you can go for years between job interviews. As with most things, the length of time between when you last went through job interviews and the present is likely to affect your confidence in your ability to do well.

So if it’s been some time since you last had a job interview, it’s completely understandable that your skills are rusty. Maybe things have changed a lot since you’re last series of interviews; maybe you got interviewed and hired with the first job you applied to last time around and so you’re even under the mistaken impression that job interviews are a breeze and getting a job is actually quite simple.

For most, job interviews aren’t something to look forward to. Whether you’re out of work entirely or looking to move from one job to another or one company to another, thinking about job interviews alone can be stressful. That feeling of being under a microscope and being examined, interrogated, drilled, pumped for information, testing your computer software skills, having to prove you’ve got the skills and that your personality is the right fit so you don’t rock the atmosphere of the workplace – it can be very intimidating.

Now, consider the plight that those with clinical anxiety feel. It’s like taking all the above and adding this extra level of nervousness, anxiety and pressure. You can’t just say, “Get over it” and expect a person to respond, “Oh okay. You’re right. (Breath)… I feel so much better.” Don’t kid yourself; people with acute anxiety face a real personal challenge with job interviews and it takes a great deal of energy to deal with the lead up to a job interview and keep putting out that energy long enough to survive until it’s over.

Now unless you live with anxiety yourself, this might be hard to truly comprehend. The best way to develop some empathy for others experiencing anxiety and facing the prospect of job interviews is to first imagine something you feel anxiety over yourself. Think of your fear of heights, being a confined space, out in the woods alone on a pitch black night; whatever brings on the nerves for you. Now, further picture yourself having to experience your greatest fear a number of times; doing the thing you want to avoid, not in some effort to overcome your fear, but rather as something you must do – and do alone – to get something that you must have. For people with true anxiety, that’s the interview experience.

And this is what empathy is all about isn’t it? Listening to someone else talk about their fear and then going to a place in your own mind where you can get in touch with that same feeling. While you might not feel the same way about job interviews yourself, you just might be able to feel something close to what their feeling about some other event or situation.

I tell you this; many of the people I support and partner with as they prepare for job interviews have heightened levels of anxiety. In some cases, I can see clearly where the anxiety stems from, but not always. How a person imagines the interview often is different from my perception of the job interview. Take the people who have repeatedly been told they aren’t going to amount to much; the ones who have been put down, seldom if ever complimented and given words of encouragement. The prospect of going head-to-head with a job interviewer – or worse a panel of job interviewers – is daunting. Yes, feeling you have to sell yourself and prove you’re the best person when you’ve been told repeatedly you’re not by those closest to you is almost insurmountable.

The job interview therefore can be a pain; not figuratively but literally. As the body experiences the stress you feel, it attempts to regulate itself and get back to normal; whatever your normal is. A little stress every so often it can handle, increasing levels of stress coming every so often it can also deal with. However, heightened levels of stress on a fairly regular basis it can’t, meaning living this way on a daily basis could have you headed for a breakdown or illness of some kind. It’s like the body says, “If the brain can’t figure out how to deal with what I’m feeling, I’ll just shut down for a bit and heal”; so you get a cold or just have to lie down and rest for 2-3 days doing next to nothing.

This elevated state of anxiety can and does affect how and when you sleep, what you eat and how frequent. It can impact on your ability to keep food down, cause you to feel aches and pains, stress points, get headaches, become irritable, experience mood swings etc. Do you see how the prospect of a job interview on top of these can almost be paralyzing to some people to the point where they say, “I just can’t do it”; and they’re right.

This doesn’t mean of course people with anxiety should get a free pass. They know job interviews are necessary to pick the right candidate. Often, people with interview anxiety are the best ones for the job. It’s just getting past the interview.

About That Flub In THE Interview…


Everything was going so well wasn’t it? I mean there you were, surprisingly confident about how things progressed. You’d done your research and it was paying off as the right answers just kept coming into your consciousness at the right moments. It was getting easier as the conversation went on; your sweat glands seemed in check for once, your usual stress level was lower than usual. Then, just as all seemed right with the world for once and you could do no wrong, it happened; you sputtered, lost your momentum, panicked and drew a blank.

You’ve just experienced what is for many their biggest fear when imagining what’s the worst that could go wrong in a job interview. Sometimes it’s drawing a complete blank altogether and the other situation is when you’re 45 seconds into your answer and suddenly it hits you that you’ve got a better reply to the question asked of you and would really like a do over. Now you’re conflicted in not knowing if you should continue to fumble and bumble your way through or ask if it would be okay to start again with a different approach. Yikes!

There is one basic truth that you should remind yourself of both before and during the job interview; all interviewers want to see and hear you at your best. They want you to succeed quite frankly. It might not always appear this way, but unless they’ve got some deep-seated personal issues where they get their jollies bringing in people for the sole purpose of humiliating them, they want to spend their valuable time interviewing the people who are most likely to impress them enough to extend a job offer.

Generally speaking therefore, if you are running along smoothly in a job interview and suddenly realize that you’ve got off track in your answer to a question, you can certainly pause and regroup. I mean wouldn’t you do the same if you were at home having a conversation with someone and the same thing happened? Sure you would. You’d pause and say something like, “Wait a second, let me start again” and you would.

In a job interview however, we tend to think that it has to be a flawless execution (wait a second, perhaps I shouldn’t use the word, ‘execution’ in connection with a job interview?) from start to finish. We imagine that from the first moment we make eye contact with the interviewer(s) until they close the door behind us at the end, that everything has to be perfect; 100% error-free. One little slip up might be all it takes for them to reject us. Were that the actual reality, hardly anyone would be successful in their interviews. Why put that much pressure on yourself?

Most interviewers – the good ones at least – know that no matter how much they reassure an applicant and encourage them to relax and be themselves, people are still nervous, feeling a little anxious or even, ‘under the microscope’. What they ideally want to see and hear though I remind you, is the authentic you.

Okay so you’ve drawn a blank. It’s not likely to happen throughout the interview if you’ve prepared, so it’s likely either a question you hadn’t anticipated or a case where you’ve prepared so well, you’re just having an issue recalling the right experience from your memories. One strategy is to repeat the question; slowly. This buys you a moment to think and you come across as reflective; carefully considering your best response. Remember you shouldn’t be attempting to recall a memorized answer word for word but rather the right example from your past that demonstrates your experience with respect to the question posed.

Most people assume their short mental lapse is much longer and more pronounced than it actually is. Those 6 seconds of dead air where you’re thinking seem like 6 minutes, and you hope you don’t appear as lost as you feel. Taking a deep breath will calm your mounting anxiety because stress is a physical reaction. Smiling after the deep breath gives the impression you’ve got one – possibly two possible options of answering the question asked and you’re actually just deciding between the two ways to respond. You’ve just bought yourself a full 10 seconds of precious time which is usually all you need to organize your thoughts and continue.

Let’s suppose you’re concerned about that dangling wisp of hair that’s covering half your face….I’m sorry, I’m going to take another approach at this point; allow me to begin again. Now if you’re in the middle of responding to their question and it occurs to you that a better response has occurred to you, (such as the way I intentionally started this paragraph off track), stop, apologize, regroup and restart. It’s normal, it’s natural and more to the point, it’s acceptable.

You’re human right? You’re going to make some small mistake perhaps; some of the interviews I’ve had went smooth as can be and didn’t always result in a job offer. Sometimes I’ve been sure I blew my chance and days later received a job offer.

Consider this…making an error in an interview and demonstrating how you recover your momentum and confidence demonstrates first-hand your ability better than just talking about it. You could actually point this out in the moment and that might be the most impressive thing they take away.

You need not be perfect, it’s how you recover.

 

 

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.

 

Ever Get Mad At Yourself After A Job Interview?


There are situations in life that make us sometimes stop and say, “What a dumb thing to say! What was I thinking?” Usually these are relationship situations; boyfriend to girlfriend, parent to child, employee to boss, and of course the classic job applicant to interviewer scenario.

You know what I’m referring to if you’ve been in a job interview and you get that question where your mind goes blank. You’ve anticipated the question before and just as your mind was trying to articulate a response in your head, your tongue is in a different time dimension and blurts something inane out slightly before your brain can send it a message to zip it. Then you’re scrambling trying to go with whatever you said and that wonderful answer you once had is hanging in the universe somewhere forever probably with all those emails that mysteriously go missing.

Equally worse is a question you haven’t even remotely prepared for which throws you for a loop. Your anxiety rises while your sweat glands kick in and in the midst of your biggest fear of failure, you find yourself pleading with your cerebral cortex to give you something – anything that will get you past this interview question remotely communicating anything that could pass as human intelligence. Despite your desperation, your brain screams, “I’ve got nothing!” so loud your sure the interviewer must have heard.

Well I’m not at all sorry to say that if you smugly decided to walk into that interview with no preparation or practice, the anxiety and fear you experienced was really brought on by your own actions. Not only is the one interview a write-off, but the danger here is that if you don’t learn the lesson and prepare better, you are likely to repeat this experience again and again until you do. A series of bad interview experiences will only serve to create a pattern, and a pattern will possibly lead to major damage when it comes to how you view the entire interview process.

So how can you significantly reduce your stress in advance of getting an interview? That’s a great question and is the very first intelligent thing you could ask. It starts I believe in first understanding that in order to get a job offer, the interview is indeed necessary. You’re going to have to sit down and meet people and carry on a conversation; a conversation mind, not an interrogation.

The interview is you and them discussing a job opening and while you’re busy making your case as to why you are the best logical fit for the job, they should be making the case for why they are the employer of choice – but only if you are asking them the right questions as well. Ask no questions at all or the wrong questions, and yes it will seem like you are the only one on the hot seat.

Have a look at that job posting again. See how the employer has listed all the responsibilities of the job? Doesn’t it appear fairly logical that during the interview the questions they are most likely to ask of you will be to share your experience in previously or currently doing those same things? So if you are going for a job as a Bank Teller where you will need the skills of customer service, math and personal accountability, you are likely going to be asked to give examples of your competence and experience in those three things. Best you then have a few stories ready that prove in the telling your good skills and how current or past employers have benefitted from your use of them.

Sure you might get thrown a bizarre question you could not have anticipated, such as your favourite kind of dessert, but really good employers won’t waste their valuable time with these. The exception where they might ask you the odd question is if they suspect you are regurgitating rehearsed answers to get you off and see the real you, or if you have to by the nature of the job deal with new and odd bits of information to see how you handle these things right then, right there in the interview.

You can also get someone to interview you as practice before the real deal. Leave it to them to come up with the questions, or give them a list you prepared yourself ahead of time. In your list of questions, include any question you have previously had a hard time with or totally bombed out on. Why? Isn’t this about increasing your confidence not eroding it? Of course it is, but if the tough question you didn’t answer well is likely to rear its head in the future, you should prepare for it now so you deal with it much better in the real world.

Most people avoid practicing for job interviews because they hate job interviews. Most people then don’t improve because they haven’t practiced. Most people then have a lot of job interviews which they hate. See the cycle?

Want less job interviews? Good. Practice your job interview skills and prepare properly. Ironically, just as you get better and more at ease in job interviews to the point where you might actually enjoy going to them – you don’t get anymore. Why? Because lo and behold somebody liked what they saw and heard in the interview and offered you the job!