Many people hate going for job interviews and report that they get nervous or afraid / are scared of going for jobs because they can’t handle the pressure involved in an interview situation. I personally don’t have many issues talking to others (regardless of the situation) and I see interviews as an opportunity to brush up on my interview techniques.
I am writing this post on Sunday the 22nd of April, knowing full well that I have an interview on Wednesday morning the 26th of April (right before this post is scheduled to go live). So I thought I would run through some of the things that I do in preparation for an interview.
Evaluate the Job
The first thing which dictates to me how I feel going into an interview, is how desperate / excited / interested I am in getting this job. If I am in desperate need of a job (say I as unemployed) then I would be giving everything my very best so that I can start bringing in the bacon.
If I am interested or excited about the job then again, I will put in a lot of effort and take a lot of time to make sure I am properly prepared for almost anything that comes my way in the interview situation.
However, if I am not sure about the job, I won’t normally put as much effort into my preparation and will almost wing it. I don’t really recommend this for most people unless you are REALLY confident you know how to respond to common interview questions.
Preparation is key in most things, but with interviews it is especially true. I normally prepare by looking hard at the job description and the advertisement that I responded to. This provides you many of the key traits that the employer is looking for when selecting someone to join their team.
The trick is being able to identify the key qualities they are looking for in a person and then getting an idea of the types of questions they are going to ask. As an example – if you are going for a highly technical role, you will expect to see quite a few technical questions regarding technologies or work experience with particular tool sets. You should also expect the normal touchy feely HR type questions as well – like how well do you work with others, tell me about a time you had to deal with a disruptive member of staff, or what do you do when you have multiple competing priorities.
The role that I am going for at the moment is a leadership role, so I expect many questions like the following:
- Give me an example of how you have dealt with a difficult employee.
- How do you handle stress and pressure?
- Tell me about a situation where you served as a leader during a project or task.
- If we were to hire you, what would be your top goals for the first 60 to 90 days?
- How would you go about motivating staff?
- What are your biggest accomplishments?
- How do you resolve conflict?
- Why do you think you are a good leader?
The main thing to remember regardless of the type of interview is to remember to give examples of how you personally have achieved great things. I like to identify the problem up front, explain how I went about tackling the problem and finding a solution, and then finally let the interviewer know how it all turned out great and all the benefits the business achieved thanks to your critical input.
Practice Practice Practice
Many people either practice poorly or not at all when it comes time for an interview – and it shows.
- Make sure you do some practice!
- Identify the questions that you think will be asked (see my previous points under Interview Preparation) and have good answers ready for them.
- Get someone to ask you those questions in a one on one situation (your partner, neighbor, friend will do) and answer them as if your career depended on it. At first you will feel like a complete clown, but I promise this is the most critical part of your practice. Doing it in front of a mirror or running through your answers in your head just doesn’t work as well.
- Repeat – do it over 2 or 3 days. Get intimately knowledgeable with your answers and refine them as you go. Often you will find you say something one way, but after a few goes you might change it to better reflect your point of view or the situation once you hear it aloud.
My wife and I always practice interviews together and it really does help. I remember the last time she went for an interview she was really nervous. We went through the steps above and she absolutely nailed it. I remember she came out of the interview and told me that we had already practiced the majority of the questions and as soon as she was asked she was like – “YES! I know a great answer to this one” There was no ummming or aaaahhhing, she immediately felt comfortable and almost like she had the upper hand in the interview.
Even if you do happen to get a question that you haven’t practiced, normally most questions can be related back to a few key topics and one of your pre-practiced answers will normally have the information that the interviewer is looking for, you just need to be able to dissect the relevant parts and deliver it depending on the situation.
Go in there and own it. Be confident, but not a smarty pants, and act like you are thinking hard for a second or two when they ask you one of your rehearsed answers so that you don’t look like you are reciting something from your year 2 book review. Be calm and friendly and try to enjoy yourself. Don’t rabbit on with your responses, don’t talk over the interviewers, and be sure to ask any relevant questions at the end of the interview. If you don’t get the job, see it as an experience and ask for feedback, if you do get the job, then that’s great! Hopefully this helped 🙂