As a psychotherapist and executive coach I'm in a unique position to help clients develop smart strategies for winning job interviews and understand what's going on in their heads and what's holding them back. As we enter the summer, recent college graduates will be applying to jobs and landing interviews. The difference between being called back for a second interview or rejected is well within your control and lies in how you present yourself. So whether someone is a recent graduate, a high level chief executive, or any other type of contender for a job, fear and uncertainty underlie most interview anxieties. Now, perhaps more than ever in this post financial crisis climate where jobs are still scarce, it's so important to approach every new interview with optimal confidence and smart strategies.
To that end, here are my tips for landing that new job:
- Change the way you think about interviews. For many people they get worked up to the point that they feel like they're prepping for major surgery or headed to court to learn their fate. Instead of seeing interviews in such a daunting and negative way, regard them as merely a Q&A opportunity: One where the prospective employer learns about you and you learn about them. By seeing it as a conversation where you get to know each other, you'll eliminate the high stress that people often bring on themselves while prepping.
- Keep your negative thinking in check. Know that self-doubt and fear will render you helpless while a strong belief in who you are will lead to success. So, if you find yourself thinking negatively, reframe it. For example, "I'll never get this job" serves no purpose whatsoever and should be replaced with "They called me for the interview so they're impressed by my background. I'm going to do my best to bring this background to life for them."
- Embrace your nerves. That's right, nerves can be good and at a physiological level there's not a big difference between nerves and excitement. In both cases the heart rate and breathing increase in order to get blood and oxygen to different parts of the body so that it can perform either in the face of danger or excitement. In the case of the interview, it's clearly the latter.
- Use imagery before the interview. Close your eyes, relax, and see yourself entering the interview and responding to questions with confidence. Really feel it. Remember, if you can see it in your mind there's a greater likelihood of it actually happening so bring this mindset into the interview.
- Provide real-life examples. When asked questions, bring things to life by providing specific examples from your previous work or education. This accomplishes two things: builds credibility and makes you relatable. When asked about your strengths, illustrate them through an example. "As a student I developed my leadership skills as president of my sorority. I was responsible for heading monthly meetings, providing direction to the club and management of operations."
- Don't B.S. If you get stumped by a question, rather than fumbling your way through it, simply acknowledge that it is a question you haven't previously considered. Explain that you'd like to provide a thoughtful response and ask if you might come back to it later.
- Turn your biggest weakness into your greatest strength. When asked about weaknesses, make sure you talk about what you're doing to improve them. For example, if you've had difficulty staying organized in the past, you might talk about how you're now working with a coach or how you recently read a helpful book on time management. More importantly, bring the focus back to the job and how the new and improved you will help them.
- Talk proudly about your strengths and accomplishments. People will often downplay their success because they feel they're bragging. A strong belief in your skills and who you are could land you the job, whereas a watered-down version of yourself won't.
- Towards the end of the interview, gently ask the interviewer if they'd have any hesitation in hiring you, and if so, what might it be. This is an assertive way to elicit any unspoken issues that they might have and provide you with an opportunity to clarify or give more information.
- Take every interview opportunity that comes your way. With each new interview you'll hone your skills and get more comfortable. You'll learn what works and what doesn't work and you'll be able to apply it to the next interview.