I am terrible at interviews. I get nervous, lose my train of thought, say awkward things and have trouble forming coherent sentences. The usual comfortableness I feel with others fades away as soon as the torrent of questions begins to weaken my resolve. If I’m lucky, what I say will at least sound intelligent, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Especially between all the um’s and awkward silences.
In an effort to overcome this, I decided to research ways to excel at interviews, as well as asking friends for their advice on what has worked for them. Hopefully my findings can help others who experience the same kind of painful interviewing experiences that I do. Here are some tips broken down into a comprehensive, numerically descending list (because I love making lists):
5. “My advice to someone would be to know the company you are interviewing with. Do your homework on that company.” – Arla Boss
It is imperative to know exactly who you are working for. If they start asking you questions about their company and you have no answers because you didn’t do your research, it may seem like you just don’t care. Trust me, I’ve had it happen, and it’s embarrassing. Employers want to hire people who care about their company and share the same values. Being prepared is essential.
4. “Above everything, show that the two things you care about most are accomplishing the task at hand, and meshing well with your fellow coworkers. Managerial staff always look for those two things when they are hiring a new employee. Will they get the job done effectively and on time? And will they cause a problem with other employees?” -Riley Milligan, Sales Director at Seattle Athletic Club
While it is important to have the necessary qualifications to perform the tasks and duties asked of you, it is just as important to be a team-player and get along well with others. No one wants to hire someone with a crummy attitude, even if their resume is stacked with skills and degrees. It is important to a company and their culture that their employees get along, bounce ideas off each other, and motivate each other. They are looking for the right “cultural fit”. This is the time to let your charming personality shine through!
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This is a question interviewers love to ask, and one you should always be prepared to answer. You could try Michael Scott’s technique (see video above), or mention weaknesses that don’t pertain to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a graphic designer, you don’t have to be great with numbers. Don’t be fake or dishonest, but try to answer their questions in clever ways. Think of all the questions they might ask you and prepare your answers in advance. Don’t over-prepare though, you want to sound natural!
2. “In my experience, a large majority of the interview is based not necessarily on the answers you give, but the way you present yourself, self-confidence, grooming, attire, and personality. You are in a way advertising yourself and your capabilities. Show them what you have to bring to the table that your competition doesn’t.”
– Sarah Taylor
Confidence is key. This is a problem that I struggle with, but with more interviews and more practice, it gets better. Employers don’t want someone who is unsure of what they’re doing, or even unsure of themselves. They want someone who is willing to take the reins and perform. When you are at an interview, you are essentially selling yourself. “Dress for success” is a common term, but one that is so true. If you go in looking like you sleep in a cardboard box in an alley way, then you probably won’t make a very good impression. Be creative, and be memorable! Employers usually interview many people for a position, and it’s easy for them to forget the people who were ordinary. Make a great first impression and show them that you are in demand. Rather than be desperate to get the job, they should be desperate to hire you for the job. Show them that you aren’t ordinary, but extraordinary!
This is the most common advice I hear, and probably the easiest to accomplish (unless you hate smiling, then you clearly have other issues). Be friendly and warm. Make eye contact. Be a person that people will want to work with. If you go through the whole interview looking like you are miserable, they definitely will not hire you. If you are applying for a job in the customer service industry, be sure to amp up the smiles and energy! But like I said before, don’t overdo it. Be natural.
And most importantly, be yourself. If that doesn’t work, then you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. The right place for you is where you will be accepted and where your talents will be appreciated. Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve.