Interviewing: It’s one of the most important but least predictable events that we experience as human beings. In many ways, it’s similar to dating: you have some information about the job, you think that it matches the description of the next job you’d like to have, and you generally have a sense of how things are going to go within the first 3 minutes.
Many people, particularly students or those entering the job market for the first time, tend to try and guess at what the ‘right’ answers are to a recruiter’s questions, instead of answering honestly based on their own unique experiences.
This makes for a stressful time, both for the recruiter and for the interviewee. Having spent a significant amount of time on the company/recruiting side, I want to share a few thoughts on the subject of interviewing. I know that if you take the time to carefully consider and implement some of these ideas, you will leave your next interview feeling much more confident, regardless of the outcome.
1. Give Yourself a Task for the Interview
That goal or task should be something simple: smile when you greet the recruiter and look him or her in the eye or ask this a specific question regarding overtime. Eventually you can add onto this list. If you’re a nervous person, start with something small, then give yourself credit for accomplishing this goal each time.
2. Be Prepared
This seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think ahead. Research the company. Have important projects or products been announced in industry trade publications in the past few months? Is the person you are potentially going to be assisting new to the company? Show that you have a genuine interest in working for that person or at that company. Also, be prepared to talk about yourself. What are you currently doing to keep busy while you’re interviewing for jobs? What personal interests do you have that are NOT related to the job? It’s ok to have a life outside of work. In fact, I’d be more concerned if you don’t have any extracurricular activities.
3. Know that You Deserve to Be There
For any job posting, a company may receive hundreds or even thousands of applications. If you are fortunate enough to be called in for an interview, you’ve already overcome the biggest hurdle; so know that walking through the door. Most other elements that will affect whether or not you ultimately get the offer are out of your control. If another candidate has more relevant experience or has a personal friendship with an executive in the company, you can’t help that. What you can control is the way you present yourself. Own what you are and what you’re not. Don’t apologize for experience that you don’t have. Instead, try to focus on the elements of your career or education that you feel proud of. Even if you aren’t offered that particular job, if a recruiter is impressed by the way you present yourself and your career goals, he or she will remember you for future opportunities.
4. Know How this Particular Job Will Benefit Your Career
The recruiter is almost guaranteed to ask you some version of this question. Even if the job isn’t exactly related to your dream job, find a way to relate it to acquiring skills you’ll need in the future. For example, say you’re applying to be a Production Assistant in a production office for a new TV sitcom. Instead of saying, “I’m not really sure what I want to do in the future. I think I might want to be a Producer or an Art Designer, but right now I’m willing to just take anything in the field of TV so I can expand my skill set.” Most candidates I meet with for entry-level positions will give some variation of this answer. And I get it. I gave the same answer when I was first starting out. We think it makes us sound honest and eager to learn. In truth, it makes us sound uncertain.
Instead, you can present a similar answer in a much stronger fashion, “Right now, I’m most interested in pursuing a career as a Producer or Art Designer. I had some great experiences in college working on Projects A, B and C, and learned a lot at my internship for Company X. Working in this production office will give me exposure to working with studio representatives, production houses, producers, and other professionals in a range of departments. Learning how the machine runs together will be a great first step for me in helping to narrow down my future goals.” No one expects you to know exactly what you what to do everyday for the rest of your life. But at least have an answer prepared that shows you’ve given it some thought.
5. Watch This TED Talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy
… and do a power pose in the parking garage or the bathroom before you go in.
6. Be Present
It’s more difficult than it sounds. In an interview, your brain is often swirling around in circles. You wonder, “Should I have said that?” “Why is the recruiter asking me personal questions?” or “Is my parking meter about to expire?” Do your best to be present, moment to moment. It’s not something that will happen overnight. But if you consciously make the effort to practice listening and being in the moment, you will start to become more aware of the significant difference in the impression you make – whether at an interview or at a dinner party.
Being able to confidently accomplish a task (even if it’s just smiling when you first meet the recruiter) will improve your confidence over time and let you relax more. And what I want, more than anything else as a recruiter, is to get an honest sense of who you are. Make the goal of your interview to do the best job you can, instead of making it about whether or not you eventually land the job. Trust me, I know you WANT the job. But it’s a lot easier to go into an interview when you look forward to sharing your interests and life goals, instead of fearing professional scrutiny.