Job interviews can be stressful because of what it is at stake: the means to make a living, a promotion, a new career. I have been through a good amount of interviews, 35 and counting to be exact. In some of those interviews, I have left the room with a big smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment. Others didn’t go as well as I was hoping they would. One thing is for sure: I have learned countless lessons from all of them. Here are some of the most valuable ones.
Interviews are two-way conversations
The purpose of in-person interviews is twofold:
(1) For the interviewer(s): It gives them the opportunity to gather more detailed information about your skills and experience, to observe your demeanour, and to get a glance at your personality and fit for the organization.
(2) For you: It gives you the opportunity to gather more detailed information about what the position entails, to assess the physical environment where you could potentially work, and hopefully to get a glance at the hiring manager’s working style
Preparedness for the Interview is of paramount importance
Preparedness is one of the golden rules. Always prepare for the interview. Learn about the company’s mission, vision, values, products and services, challenges, competitors, and latest achievements. Make sure you understand the job description of the position you are applying for and why they need someone with your abilities and experience. Last but not least, write down any questions you might have as you go through your company research.
Master the one ever-present interview question: Tell me about yourself
Every candidate gets the “Tell me about yourself” question. It may be rephrased in a couple of ways, but no one escapes the question. Carefully prepare your answer to this question and other frequent ones.
Usually, interviewers use this question as an ice-breaker and to assess some of the following:
1. What information you think is relevant to offer, considering the position you are interviewing for
2. How well you put your thoughts together to provide a structured answer to an unstructured question
3. How well you can sell yourself and, by extension, their products and services
Prepare your answer in advance. Focus on the experience and skills that are essential for the position you are interviewing for and keep your answer short, 60-90 seconds at most.
Before I forget, other versions of these questions can be “Walk me through your career” and “Can you walk me through your resume?”
Pay close attention to the Hiring Manager’s behaviour
Your potential supervisor is usually part of the interview panel. Pay particular attention to his or her behaviour. Ask yourself if you can picture yourself working with him or her. Why? You are not only looking for a job but also for a safe space where you can grow – a workplace where you feel your contributions are valued, where you can develop and apply your talents, acquire new skills and develop the existing ones. Your supervisor’s behaviour, ideas, and demeanour will significantly shape the climate and effectiveness of your work environment. Pick wisely.
It is alright if you don’t get ahead in the hiring process
The hiring decision involves many factors that are not directly related to your performance. Some of the reasons you might not be the chosen candidate are:
1. Another candidate was rated higher or was referred by an insider
2. The interviewer didn’t perceive you as a good cultural fit
3. During the interview process, the hiring manager realized the job posting wasn’t completely aligned with their current needs
If you don’t make it to the next round, don’t be too hard on yourself: gather lessons learned and move on.
Do your due diligence and assess your performance right after the interview. Make a note of the questions you were not well prepared to answer, the afterthoughts – the classic “I should have answered this or that way”-, and any feedback you got from the interviewer(s).
Job interviews can be a tough process to navigate through. Don’t get discouraged if some of them don’t go well; learn from the experience and move on. If you prepare well and make the most of the interview experience, you will eventually land that job you have been pursuing.
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