Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Most of us hate interviews. We hate the idea of them and the experience. We're afraid of them. But interviews 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. Whether you get the job or not.
Here's my perspective on interviews. I hope it will help you feel calmer and more confident about your upcoming conversation.
1) It's Not An Interrogation. It's a Conversation
Interviews are a conversation between two parties that have valuable information to share. It's not an interrogation. You've done nothing wrong. (And if you have done something wrong, I want to know what you learned from it.)
Remind yourself of the power you have in these conversations. The interviewer is curious to learn more about you, and you're curious about them. Especially if it's the first round of interviews, you can't even be sure you want the job. 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 countless 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 wants to find THE ONE so that they can move from interviewing to getting stuff done. And they usually need to hire someone fast.
As a result, they're hopeful that the right person is out there and perhaps already in their interview process.
That said, they're also afraid they may hire the wrong person. Perhaps they've been burned before. Their reputation may be on the line if this big project doesn't go well.
So, if you want to do well in the interview, you have to address their hopes and fears.
How do you address the interviewer's hopes and fears?
You put them at ease by sharing your relevant 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 criteria they need you to speak about. They've told you what they want to know about right in the position description.
If you're a good match for the role, you should have several examples from your past that are relevant to share. Even if you haven't done that exact job, if you have a clear sense of your transferable skills and your ability to stretch into this new context or role, you can make the case through your stories.
4) No One is 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 taking years to prepare. 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 before 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.
The research here is interesting. Rather than visualizing the outcome or the win, you need to visualize the process it'll take to get you there.
Visualize writing out your stories, practicing your answers, meeting the interviewer in the lobby, sitting at the table awkwardly waiting for the panel to arrive, interacting with them and answering the questions with ease. You get the point. Imagine all the steps it'll take for you to feel like you gave it your best shot.
This process helps your brain prepare so that it doesn't panic when these events happen. It's teasing your mind to believe these things have already occurred, thereby diminishing fear.
So with that, 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 for my email list, I'll send you the Start With The End In Mind Worksheet to help you envision what you want to accomplish in work and life. Sign up at the bottom of this page.