Interviews can be nerve wracking, of course – you’re putting yourself out there to be judged, and there are sometimes high stakes; you may really want, and need, this job.
This can create a serious imbalance: you’re giving all the power to the interview panel, letting them decide the direction of the interview and desperately running along behind them like a little puppy, trying to please.
If that is how you feel about interviews, it’s time to redress the balance of power. Replace the word “interview” with “conversation”. A conversation between people who can benefit each other. A successful interview process is win-win: the panel solves a problem they have (they need to recruit!) and you solve a problem you have (you need a job!).
If you go in to the interview with the mindset that you are offering a solution to their problem, you will feel much more confident. You’re shifting the focus from you, and your feelings of insecurity and nervousness, to them. If you approach it as a conversation, rather than an interview, you’ll deescalate those anxieties – especially if you can find a personal passion for the role you’re applying for. Because who doesn’t love conversations about their passions?
People spend weeks preparing for interview, but if that time isn’t spent intentionally with a clear aim, it’s a complete waste of energy. My clients learn to prepare fully for their interviews so they go in to them feeling confident, prepared and, dare I say it, excited! Here’s how:
They do relevant research.
It’s not enough to check out the website and see what the company’s been up to over the past 12 months. Be more specific: where are they going? What is their vision? What is your new role’s part in that? How does your prospective team fit?
Then look at the problems they have. What are the things keeping your new manager awake at night? Identify their weaknesses so you can provide the solution.
Learn about the company’s ethos. What’s their big driver? Now note down the company language: what phrases do they use? Use this language in your answers to show you’re already a good fit.
They use the job spec.
This is your Bible. It tells you exactly what they’re looking for: now you package up all those qualities and skills and present them straight back to them. Go through the job spec identifying the areas you will be asked about in your interview.
They prepare their stories.
Once you have established the skills they need to see you have, prepare three or four stories of things you’ve done throughout your career which demonstrate you have those skills. Don’t be afraid to develop these stories – no rushing! Follow the traditional story pattern that we all recognise:
Once upon a time (setting the scene)
The villain arrives (the problem)
The hero saves the day (that’s you!)
The happy ever after (the longterm impact of your actions)
Show them that you can be their hero, too!
They get organised.
Think of the journey to confidence being littered with hurdles. If you can remove those hurdles, why wouldn’t you? Plan your route (do a dummy run if you need to); arrive early; make sure all your materials are in order; check your tech if you’re giving a presentation. All these things remove unnecessary anxieties.
They warm up.
Talk and talk and talk before your interview. Sing in the shower; talk on the tube; have a good natter to yourself in the car. Don’t let your interview be the first time you’ve spoken all day.
They head to the loo.
When you arrive, early of course, for an interview or meeting, and you’re asked to wait, what do you do? You sit down, get your phone out and disappear inside the world of news or social media, right?
Instead, head to the rest room and take a moment to BREATHE. Toilet cubicles are the perfect width for some High Power Posing: stand in a star shape, with your hands against the walls of the cubicle, take deep breaths and visualise a perfect interview.
If you sit on your phone, you make your body small and closed in, lowering your confidence. Even worse, you’re probably looking at someone else’s perfect world on Instagram, which isn’t going to do your confidence any good either.
They’re unashamedly passionate.
Your CV speaks for itself, and it’s got you in the door. Now you bring your CV to life: show them you’re passionate about solving their problems. Passion is exciting – it draws people in. Who wouldn’t choose a passionate new colleague over a technically-brilliant-but-serious one?
They dress for the part.
We’re all pretty casual these days, but for interviews it’s always better to overdress than underdress. This includes online – don’t think that just because they can’t see below your waist, you can sit there in your pants. Getting dressed properly helps with your mindset. And also allows for any unexpected knocks at the door.
They give targeted answers.
Remember: an interview isn’t about what YOU want to say. It’s about what THEY need to HEAR. They need to hear that you will solve their problems, so take a moment to think before you respond: “Why are they asking me this? What do they need to hear from me?”. That way you can drive the interview in the way you want it to go, making sure they’re left in no doubt that you can fulfil the technical aspects of the role.
They accept that they’re not perfect. So, they’re not afraid to ask for clarification of a question, or to check if they’ve answered it fully. Interviewers aren’t looking for the perfect product, they’re looking for someone real, who can ask for help, who can make sure they’ve delivered. Remember, your interviewer is human too!
They’re ready with questions at the end.
There’s no damper squib of an ending than saying “er, no, I don’t think so” when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. Make sure you’ve got a few up your sleeve that show you’re excited and ambitious about the role.
Interviewing well is a skill that can be learned. If you want to learn to be prepared, confident, passionate, and specific (and successful!) in your next interview, get in touch.