There are several ways to reduce pre-interview anxiety to a manageable level. Here are ten concrete steps to present yourself in a confident, assured manner while increasing the probability that you’ll be invited back for subsequent interviews, or for raising the probability of a formal offer being extended to you.
First, be prepared. Your degree of preparation speaks volumes about your interest level and conscientiousness. In addition to increasing your confidence, solid preparation will help you give articulate answers and ask pertinent questions.
To make the best case for your candidacy for a particular job, you need to be prepared with information about yourself AND about the job, company, and field. Keep this concept firmly in mind: If you don’t find out what your prospective employer’s problems, there’s no way to project yourself as the candidate best able to solve them.
Second, interview companies for your job – don’t let them interview you. In the final analysis, you don’t’ get a job, you pick one. For most job seekers, this is an important attitudinal distinction. Many of us forget that the decision to accept a position is far more critical for us than it is for the employer. If they find that they have made a mistake, they just go through the recruiting process again. For the individual, you have just invested a portion of your professional lifetime that is gone forever. When you look at it that way, the selection you make takes on a different perspective.
Third, your most valuable interviewing skill is listening. By listening carefully, you communicate respect and focus single-mindedly on the questions you are being asked, and any hidden meanings that may lurk within them.
Fourth, keep interviewing. The tendency for many candidates is to let up a little on job search efforts after they line up one or two interviews. If you let up, and the expected job offer does not materialize for one reason or another, your pipeline is empty. Weeks could go by before you are able to set up initial interviews at new-targeted companies, with a concurrent erosion of your precious cash reserves – not to mention confidence, self-esteem, and morale.
Fifth, try using props during interviews. Props are work samples and other documents that display your talents, reveal your style and make you a more memorable candidate. For instance: Fashion models, graphic artists, ad agency people typically present props and portfolios, but so do carpenters by utilizing before and after pictures of recent projects. Whenever possible, work these props into your discussion; but never force them on the interviewer.
Sixth, statistics prove the person who is interviewed last has the best chance of being hired. Why? Because the last candidate benefits from all the previous applicants the hiring authority has seen.
Previous interviews helps hiring managers to crystallize their thinking and further define the position in their mind. You only remember the great interview you had with the hiring authority. You do not want to appear pushy or desperate, so you wait … as the hiring authority meets other candidates. But as time goes on, you are getting further and further away from their new requirements.
When a representative of the company contacts you to set up an interview, simply ask what times are available. Once you have heard the times, select a time that will make you one of the last applicants to be interviewed. As soon as a firm time is established, start researching the company and analyze what is important to the hiring authority. This way, you not only increase your chances of getting the job but also having the new job start smoothly.
Seventh, candor creates trust, not suspicion. A large component of many interview questions is the search for reassurance. Hiring people is difficult and mistakes are costly. So, interviewers crave reassurance that you will fit into the organization and solve the problems you are being hired to address.
Most us have flat spots in our past, and some of the more successful people among us have been through major failures. These flat spots and failures can build strong and insightful individuals. Whether an interviewer sees this depends on how candid and articulate you answer their interview questions.
Eighth, continually build common ground. When the initial interviewer says that you are being advanced on to the second interview, try to find out business philosophy and information on the second interviewer. Ask a question like: “Does this person feel the same way about (insert your key issue) as you do?” You will get information you need to find common ground with your next interviewer. A wise strategy on your part would be to continue using this technique for each successive interview.
Ninth, write down the questions you would find most difficult to answer. Then practice answering them, using either a VCR or cassette player to record what you say. Listen for ways to make your answers more precise and effective. Additionally, get 3-by-5 inch index cards and write out interview questions. Place yourself in the interviewer’s position. What kinds of questions would you ask an applicant for this job? What would you be looking for? Repeat the process until you are completely comfortable with what you hear. This flash card and recording process is time consuming – but it will give you the poise, self-assurance, and confidence that you’re looking for.
Tenth, don’t suffer from negotiating impairment syndrome. Unfortunately, many job seekers relinquish their negotiating rights for such poor reason as:
The company said the salary was non-negotiable because the starting pay was already budgeted.
I didn’t want to offend my new employer by holding out for more money. Besides, it seemed to be a fair offer.
I can’t ask for a higher-than-offered salary right now; I just came out of a bad situation (bankruptcy, termination, or divorce).
I’ll wait until I‘ve had a chance to prove myself.
All of these responses have a “yes, but” quality. For example: “Yes, I would have negotiated, but I’m currently unemployed…or I’m a career changer…or I don’t have a college degree.”
Job seekers who give “yes, but” excuses for accepting less than they’re worth suffer from negotiating impairment syndrome, which is characterized as a denial of opportunities to negotiate for more money.
Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor
J.M. Wanes & Associates
Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, www.jmwanes.com J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.