What comes to mind when you’re gearing up for job interviews?
There’s so much to think about–what you’ll wear, who you’ll meet, what you’ll say, how you’ll act, and whether there will be any curveball questions or surprises. Here’s a snapshot of some common (and a few not-so-common) job seeker FAQs:
I’m great at what I do, but I’m always incredibly nervous in interviews. How can I overcome this?
This is perfectly normal and you can use several techniques to calm down. First, visualize success and think about how great you’re going to feel after your interview. Try power-posing (hands on hips, feet apart or standing tall with your arms in an upward “V”). Tell yourself how excited you are to meet your next boss. Create a mantra such as, “I’m amazing at what I do, and I have so much to offer this company. I’ve improved my interview skills and I’ll convince them I’m the right person for this job.” Choose an anthem! I recently met someone who has an 80’s classic rock playlist she plays on her way to interviews that helps her release nervous energy and lifts her mood so she’s good to go. Finally, stand as you wait to be greeted so you’re at eye level and on equal ground with your interviewer.
What should I wear?
There are no hard and fast rules for what to wear, but make a real effort to groom and dress like you care! For many industries and roles, business casual works well. For others, such as financial services or healthcare, you’ll need to break out a suit or dressier clothes. If you’re working with a third-party recruiter, ask for their advice. Generally solid colors v. prints work best.
I’ll spend an hour with someone. How can I establish rapport in such a short timeframe?
For starters, offer a firm, dry handshake, make direct eye contact, and smile when you meet. Use the walk to the interview as time to make conversation about people you have in common, construction going on outside, interesting artwork you saw in the lobby, or even the weather. Adapt your style to your interviewer—do they seem more outgoing or reserved? Be yourself, but don’t overwhelm a quieter personality or shy away from an outgoing one. Occasionally call the interviewer by name and don’t interrupt. Your effort will go a long way in a short time to make points with your interviewer.
I’m not great at selling myself. How can I convince them I’m the right person without sounding too boastful?
Now isn’t the time to be modest. Even if you’re not a born salesperson, it’s your job to talk about your achievements and strengths. Don’t leave your interviewer wondering whether you can do the job. By practicing and telling SOAR (Situation Opportunity Action Result) stories, you can sell your strengths in a natural, conversational way that will feel less like selling and more like sharing. (Get a free SOAR storytelling cheat sheet.)
How can I circumvent a junior HR person / unskilled interviewer?
You can’t. You don’t get to choose who runs the process. If you’re not being asked questions that surface your best strengths, then it’s up to you to find ways to raise your top skills (which is also key when you have a skilled interviewer). If you’re asked a close-ended question such as “Are you a good manager?” Weave in an example or quick anecdote. “Yes—in fact in my last 3 performance reviews, I was ranked a 10 in all aspects of team management, including training, motivation, day-to-day guidance, and long-term planning.” Or you can say, “I noticed you’re looking for someone who has a strong marketing background for this senior sales position. I spent 5 years in digital marketing before pivoting to software sales.” Use time at the close of the interview to summarize your strengths, express your interests, and ask for the job.
Is it okay to ask for special accommodations?
I’ve known candidates who’ve asked to deviate from the employer’s process and request a phone v. an in-person interview because she couldn’t drive there, or he was on vacation, putting them at an incredible disadvantage. If you really want the job and to be on equal ground with your competition, then bend over backwards to get to that interview on the employer’s terms. (Lyft, anyone? Schedule your return home a day early?) If you can’t do that at the interview stage, then employers will question your interest and reliability.
Is it okay to refer to or take notes during the interview?
Yes. As with any important meeting, make some brief notes about important talking points or stories you want to highlight during the interview. It’s also just fine to take notes in case you want to address something the interviewer said or to refer to later when you’re writing your thank-you note(s). Be quick and discreet as you don’t want to note-take to distraction or break eye contact for too long.
When is the right time to ask questions?
Often, the best time to ask questions is at the beginning of the interview. Otherwise, let the interviewer lead but trust your gut and ask questions when the timing seems right. For instance, if you’re asked about your strategic planning skills, don’t wait until the very end to ask about the department’s strategic goals for the year. Say, “Do you mind if I ask a quick question?” and then find out what you need to know to direct your response. When you’re invited to ask questions at the end, have a list of more than you need (I recommend 8-10, but plan to ask 3-4) in case some questions are answered throughout.
When is the right time to follow up after my interview?
Ideally before you’ve wrapped up the interview, you’ve asked your contact about their decision-making timeframe and whether they prefer to be contacted via email or phone. Use these data points as your guide for follow-up. If you forgot to ask, then wait at least a week before following up, reiterating your thanks for being considered and checking on the status of the position. Resist checking in too often, as it takes time to run candidates through the process.
What if I don’t hear from the interviewer after several attempts to follow up?
If you haven’t gotten an answer or response about your candidacy after a few check-ins, move on! Companies often decide to put the position on hold, not fill the job at all, or they simply didn’t find the right person in the first round of candidates. Perhaps there’s a strong internal candidate, but they had to run the process to fulfill company policy. While it can be hard to move on, channel your energy into the next opportunity.
What are your most pressing interview FAQs?
I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!
Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.