Updated: Nov 27, 2019
Most of us hate interviews. We hate the idea of interviews and the actual experience of interviews. We're afraid of them.
But they don't have to be intimidating. When you have the right mindset and prepare in advance, they really can help direct you along your career path.
Here's my Insider's Perspective on Interview Conversations to help you feel less anxious about your upcoming conversation.
1) It's Not An Interrogation, It's a Conversation
You are not being interrogated. You've done nothing wrong. (And if you have done something wrong I want to know what you learned from it.)
Interviews are a conversation between two parties that have valuable information to share with one another.
The interviewer is curious to learn more about you and (remind yourself of the power you have in these conversations) you're curious about them. Especially if it's the first round of interviews you can't even be certain you WANT this job yet. So don't worry about being rejected from something you don't even know you want.
Relax a bit (but not too much) and remember... you're not the only one approaching this conversation with a hope and a fear...
2) You're Not the Only One with a Hope and a Fear
This perspective was taught to me by Faye Thorek, who mentored me through the world of recruiting and beyond. I've shared it endless times over the years to put things into perspective for nervous candidates.
Here it is:
You're not the only one who's afraid and hopeful.
So is your interviewer.
Yes, it's true.
Your interviewer has hopes and fears too. Yes, about life in general (they're human), but also about finding the right person for the role.
Your interviewer really wants to find THE ONE so that they can move on from the interview stage to the "let's get the work done" stage. And they need to have done this by yesterday.
So they're hopeful that the right person is out there and perhaps already in their interview process funnel.
But they're also afraid that they may hire the wrong person.
Perhaps they've been burned before. Or perhaps their reputation is on the line if this big project doesn't go well. Maybe their a-- is on the line if the sales team doesn't increase revenues this quarter.
If you want to do well in the interview, you have to address their hopes and fears.
So how do you address the interviewer's hopes and fears?
By offering evidence. (Ok that's making it sound like an interrogation again!)
Not evidence...let's call them what they really are...stories.
3) You're Not Defending Yourself, You're Sharing Relevant Stories
You ease their fears and increase their hopes by sharing relevant stories that highlight your capabilities and past achievements.
To excel at this you need to prepare a series of relevant stories from your experience and tie them to the needs of the job.
The good news is that in most situations they have given you the exact criteria they want your stories to be about. They've told you what they want to know about right in the position description (unless it's a really vague description in which case, you have the right to ask questions).
If you're a good match for the role, you should have several examples from your past that are relevant to share. And even if you haven't done that exact job, if you have a clear sense of your transferable skills and why you are able stretch into this new context or role, you can make the case through your stories.
4) No One's a Natural. Only Practice Gets You To The Win.
Bianca Andreescu didn't just arrive at the game against Serena Williams and win.
She practiced. Relentlessly. Continuously. Over Many Years.
I'm not saying this is a long game that takes years to get ready for. Frankly, no one wants to practice interviewing for that long. We all want to skip ahead to the part where we're already in the zone of genius in the new job.
That said, a few practice runs make all the difference and will increase your confidence and sense of control.
Here are some of the ways you can practice:
Write out your stories and review them several times prior to your conversation. This way you are ready to offer the right example at the right time.
Have a friend interview you.
Go for a long walk and practice the stories as you walk. (Yes, people will stare at you, but who cares?)
Practice telling your stories and answering the questions while looking in a mirror.
5) And Speaking of Sports... Use Visualization.
Here I am talking about sports again, way outside my field of expertise.
Sports psychologists and athletes know the power of visualization. Andreescu talked about it in her post-win interviews. She visualized winning against Williams.
The research on visualization is really interesting. Rather than just visualizing the outcome (the win), you need to visualize the process it'll take to get you to the win.
Visualize writing out your stories, visualize practicing your answers, visualize meeting the interviewer in the lobby, visualize sitting at the table waiting awkwardly for the panel to arrive, visualize interacting with them. You get the point. You need to imagine all the steps it'll take for you to feel like you gave it your best shot.
This helps your brain prepare so that it doesn't go into panic mode when these events happen. It's teasing your brain to believe these things have already occurred, thereby diminishing fear.
So with that all said- go forth and converse. Be prepared, practice and remember, it's just a conversation.
Navigating your career with confidence and courage requires getting clear on your destination. The first step to do this is with one of my favourite navigational tools. When you sign up to my email list, I'll send you the Start With The End In Mind Worksheet to help to envision what you really want to accomplish. Sign up at the bottom of this page .