It’s a fact — job hunting is downright terrible. You spend days perfecting your resume, then you have the dreaded application process, which of course includes repetitive questions and tailoring your cover letter to each job. What’s more, if you are so lucky as to have the company contact you for an interview, it’ll add another batch of hours, work and stress onto your plate.
Having recently conquered the practice of interviewing through reading countless blogs on the subject, asking everyone I know for suggestions and frankly, lots of practice. I’ve learned a few tricks worthy of sharing.
But first things first … relax! Take a deep breath, put the stress of the job hunt behind you. If you follow these simple tips, I guarantee a smoother and less painful interview process.
1) Practice your moves
Study, study, oh and study! Research company history, mergers and acquisitions, awards and competitors. Check out the interviewing team on the company website and social media (LinkedIn is an insightful beast!). While it’s doubtful that you’ll be quizzed on company history, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate tidbits about the company within the interview.
2) Know thy self
Tailor your answers to the position, don’t give standard out-of-the-box responses. Hint — use keywords from the job description! The more you can clearly articulate who you are, why you are interested in the position and what you can offer the company, the better.
3) You said WHAT!?!
Atypical interview questions are on the rise. I got this wacky one, “How many golf balls are in this country?” Learn from my mistake and don’t get stumped. These off-the-wall questions are intended to see what you are made of. Don’t panic and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind because the question has nothing to do with the job you’re interviewing for. Instead, walk the interviewer through the logic of how you go about achieving the answer. They want to hear your flexibility and rationale, so give them a glimpse into how that brain of yours works.
4) Reuse and recycle
Utilize examples that can be reworked for any style question. If in your previous role you set up new employees’ computers, spin it to be an example of a time you went above and beyond, or completed a successful project while overcoming a roadblock. It can even be repurposed as an example of stellar inter-personal skills like concise communication, cross-team collaboration and vendor relationship management. Creating a list of multi-purpose examples will ensure confidence knowing you can answer any question presented. All you need is the ability to present multiple angles from each example.
5) It’s a two-way street
Be the interviewer and find out information you want to know about the company and the position. Do not simply listen and nod your head. When you ask questions throughout the interview it becomes a true conversation. Not only will this take the heat off you a bit (and maybe lessen the occurrences of those tricky scenario questions), the interviewer will walk away remembering you because it was an engaging and interactive exchange.
6) Enter a Zen state
Take calming breaths and allow your inner yogi out! The slower your breath and heartbeat, the increased likelihood that you’ll relax and think clearly. If you arrive feeling prepared, it’ll make it much easier to achieve the peace of mind necessary to perform well in an interview. Lastly, be positive. Positivity can carry you a long way, even through a grueling interview.
7) Each moment is an opportunity
I received a callback for an interview mainly due to making a good first impression on the front desk associate. For any job, make a prominent and lasting first impression to as many people in the organization as you can. Prepare logistics ahead of time — print multiple resumes, iron and remove pet hair from your clothes, map out your route (and practice driving it) … ensure that the moments prior to your interview will be as stress-free as possible. Demeanor is everything. Stand when the interviewers walk into the room. Shake hands. Eye contact. Give both verbal and nonverbal cues to show you understand what is being said, you are enjoying the conversation are happy and present in the moment.
8) The non-interview, interview
We do everything to prepare for the stereotypical interview, but can be caught off guard when the interviewer simply tells you about the position and fails to ask questions. Be prepared for this possibility, as it’s an increasing trend. In this case, pay attention for opportunities to showcase previous applicable experience. If they are elaborating on details from the job description, interject and share relevant capabilities.
9) Embrace the awkward
If your brain goes blank, instead of blurting something out unrelated, take a breath and ask for a moment. Even worse, one time I answered a question perfectly, however after my response, an awkward pause ensued. Unfortunately, I decided to elaborate, which got me way more off track than my first response. This taught me that having an abrupt ending to a thought is much better than rambling. We are all human beings who understand we can’t have the perfect thing to say at every moment in time. They will understand if you take a second to pause and breathe.
10) Swim to the deep end
We all know the importance of having questions prepared. Take it one step further and have difficult questions available to ask the interviewer. For instance, “Why is this position vacant?” and “What are the future goals of the company?” This will show you’re prepared and are interested in the position by skipping over the easy questions and delving further into an engaging conversation. Additionally, ask only the questions you really desire the answers to, not just the ones you think you are supposed to ask. One question I always ask is, “What do you see being my biggest learning curve with this position?” Asking a question that innately calls out your greatest weakness for the job is terrifying. On the other hand, it gives you the opportunity to address their concerns and prove that it won’t slow you down.
11) Traditional holds true
The importance of traditional interview rules still apply today. When all else fails, over-dress. Arrive 10 minutes before interview start time. Master a powerful (but not too firm) handshake. Sit up straight. Send personalized thank-you notes to the interviewers. All the customary stuff is still necessary and crucial for winning over the hiring team.
12) Don’t worry, be happy
Smile; it’s the easiest way to put your best foot forward. A smile shows presence in the moment, enthusiasm and can ease an awkward moment. A phone interview is the perfect time to practice that smile, the interviewer will hear your excitement through the line. Also let’s face it; no one wants to work with a miserable person. So smile, big and often!
Keep in mind: if one interview isn’t exactly a textbook success, there are many more companies out there. Pick yourself back up, dust it all off and regroup for the next one. Reflect on what you could have done differently, but more importantly acknowledge what you did well. If nothing else, the saying “practice makes perfect” is true. With each interview, it will become more effortless. Best of luck job hunters!
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