There’s no doubt about it, a job interview is one of the most uncomfortable experiences you will have, particularly if you are recent graduate looking to make your way into your first full-time job. There’s often a sense that you’re being interrogated by the employer, and there are even times when that is really what’s happening. But with a good interview strategy, you can take the nervous edge away from the process, and keep things flowing in your direction.
The key is not just to get through the interview, but to wow the employer. You want to be the best interview the employer has conducted for the position – even if you aren’t the most qualified. You can do this with some advanced planning.
Practice with some “dummy” interviewsYou know those employers that you don’t even want to bother interviewing with? Interview with them anyway! If you don’t have a lot of experience interviewing, these can be the perfect situations to practice in. Think of them as test runs for the employers you really want to speak with.
Approach these dummy interviews just as seriously as you would for a job you really want. At a minimum, you want to build your comfort level as an interviewee, as well as get a feel for the kind of questions asked at just about any interview. Take three or four of these non-crucial interviews, or as many as you need to get fluid with the process.
And who knows? It may turn out to be a job that you end up actually wanting.
Interview the interviewer
This is a strategy I’ve used dozens of times and it works! You should go into the interview fully prepared to conduct the interview. This will accomplish several objectives at once:
- By being the driver in the interview – rather than the victim – you will eliminate much of the tension that you feel at interviews.
- Many interviewers will be relieved (and impressed) by your initiative.
- You will be making it clear that you are an equal in the process, not someone desperate for a job.
- You will be demonstrating leadership qualities.
- It will help you to determine if you even want the job!
Taking the lead in an interview is also an excellent way to shore up any weaknesses on your resume or in your qualifications. The interviewer may decide to give you consideration based on your performance in the interview, sensing that there is something more about you that is worth investigating.
Related: Using LinkedIn to Find Jobs
Show ’em what you know by asking intelligent questions
In a typical interview, the interviewee is bombarded with a series of questions that he or she must answer intelligently. But you can turn that situation around if you ask most of the questions. This will prevent the interviewer from asking you uncomfortable questions at difficult times. Since you’re controlling the flow of the interview, you can prevent yourself from being backed into a corner.
The key to the entire process however is that you must ask intelligent questions, the kind that will demonstrate to the interviewer that you actually know what you’re talking about.
Your questions should be centered on the company, the department you could be potentially working in, and anything specific to the job. By asking questions related to the work itself, you are asking questions that will demonstrate that you understand what needs to be done in the position.
At the same time, you need to avoid the typical, simplistic questions that candidates ask, such as those related to vacation time and the retirement savings plan. These are not questions that are material to the job you will be doing, so save them for a little later in the process.
Always have a list of relevant questions
You should never go into a job interview and just “wing it”. Always be prepared in advance with a written list of important questions. The key is to ask questions that will get the interviewer talking – that will give you time to think of even more questions as they do.
Some good questions to ask:
- What are the current goals of the department?
- What are the biggest problems the department faces?
- What other departments will I be working with closely?
- Why did the last person in this job leave?
- What is an example of the best job that I could do in this position?
- What is the chain of command?
- Any questions related specifically to the work you will be expected to do in the position.
It will be easier to design questions if you do some investigating on the company. The more you know about them the easier it will be to come up with relevant questions. Also, look closely at the job description in the ad, website or actual job description for clues.
It’s perfectly fine have a written list of questions. In fact, there is nothing quite so powerful in a job interview as a candidate who walks in with a file folder and a pad listing questions, on which you also take notes in response to their answers. This casts you as a serious candidate, and not as someone who is mostly on a fishing expedition.
If you really want to wow an employer relax! Seriously – being tense is the normal state of job candidates, and if you can come in to the interview feeling at ease with yourself and the situation, you’ll distinguish yourself from the others. That alone can also put the interviewer at ease, making the interview flow more easily.
But there’s more.
Being relaxed can show that you are cool under pressure – a serious asset for a potential employer. Simply by relaxing, you can move your candidacy toward the top of the list.
If you find it difficult to relax, always remind yourself that no single interview (or employer) is a do-or-die situation. If this one doesn’t work out, you can simply move on to the next. That thought should help you calm down a good bit.
What experiences have you had in job interviews?