Interviewing for a job can be nerve-wracking. You may feel uncomfortable “selling” yourself or fielding unexpected questions. Or the prospect of having to meet and impress new people may be enough to trigger anxiety. However, interviewing is a skill you can learn. With the right tips and techniques, you can become a master at sharing your value with potential employers, presenting yourself effectively at interviews, and getting the job you want.
Interviewing techniques tip 1: Interview for as many jobs as you can
Let’s assume you have focused your search on certain types of jobs and types of employers. You have developed a preferred list of both. You have scanned the horizon, conducted research, compiled your questions, and engaged your network for assistance. Your resume is in order.
Then job openings start to pop up through your web searches and referrals from your network. Some seem close but others don’t quite fit. You quickly skip over those jobs that are “beneath” you, have titles that appear to be foreign, or are in fields or industries you’re unfamiliar with. You have decided to be focused and only apply for positions that exactly match your search criteria.
But limiting your job search limits the possibilities. Once you create too many filters and requirements, you can easily overlook opportunities. In this type of market you have to get out there and actively uncover opportunities. Don’t dismiss opportunities to interview based upon superficial and narrow criteria. You never know when an interview for a “not-quite-right” job will result in a surprising match, a referral to another opening, or an entirely new position tailored to fit your unique experience and abilities.
Interviewing techniques tip 2: Develop a compelling story
We tend to conclude that our lives are pretty much the same as other people’s, that they’re average and boring. As a result, many people don’t tell their own story well. But your story is so much better than you think. The way your life has evolved; the things you’ve learned; your achievements, failings, and dreams—these things are unique to you and much more interesting than you realize. Sharing your well thought-out story is a powerful interviewing technique.
Your story is what helps people understand who you are and where you are going. So learn to tell your story and tell it well, especially for interviewing and networking purposes. Putting together your story takes a lot of work and practice. However, the benefits to you and to your career are enormous. Your stories:
- Give you confidence
- Increase your self-awareness
- Bring humanity to your resume
- Make you memorable and set you apart
Practice makes perfect
Once you’ve developed your story, the next step is to practice telling it—saying it out loud, ideally to others. Don’t wait until the interview to tell it for the first time. Try reciting it into a tape recorder or sharing it with a confidante for feedback. Get over your feelings of story inadequacy or thinking that a job well done speaks for itself.
As you become more comfortable in how to tell your story, you will see that your life has not just been a string of random events. Your story has a past and it has a future and the road ahead becomes clearer when you understand where you have been. The ultimate test will be the next time someone says, “Tell me about yourself.”
Interviewing techniques tip 3: Tailor your story to the job
Applying your story to a specific employer or job is the next step. Lining up the stories that apply to the opportunity at hand is critical. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and pose the questions you would ask. Which stories are relevant to this job interview? Think about personal stories that show how you handled change, made choices under pressure, or learned lessons from mistakes and failures. You should also think about stories you can tell in the interview that reveal your skill set.
Learning and appreciating your story is a prerequisite to any interview process. Don’t rely on your ability to think on your feet. Anticipate the questions and have answers at the ready. In the end, this is about making a great and memorable impression that demonstrates competency and ability.
Interviewing techniques tip 4: Manage stress
Interviewing for a job can make anyone stressed. In small doses, that stress can actually be beneficial, helping you perform under pressure. However, if stress becomes constant and overwhelming, it can impair the way you communicate during an interview by disrupting your capacity to think clearly and creatively. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to misread an interviewer or send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals.
If you can’t quickly relieve stress in the moment and return to a calm state, you’ll almost certainly be unable to take advantage of the other interviewing techniques and tips. All our best intentions go out of the window when we’re overwhelmed by stress. It’s only when you’re in a calm, relaxed state that you can think on your feet, recall the stories you’ve practiced, and provide clear answers to an interviewer’s questions. Therefore, it’s vital that you learn quick stress relief techniques ahead of time.
Interviewing techniques tip 5: Be prepared
Interviews range from conversations lasting a few minutes to several formal meetings, sometimes with more than one interviewer. Interviews allow you to demonstrate that you are the right candidate for the job, but you are not alone if interviews make you nervous. The better prepared you are, the more relaxed and comfortable you will be when the questions start coming your way.
Interviewing techniques tip 6: Anticipate likely questions
To get to the motivations and working style of a potential employee, employers often turn to behavioral interviewing, an interviewing style which consists of a series of probing, incisive questions.
Sample behavioral interview questions include:
- Describe a situation in which you didn’t meet your stated goal, how did you handle it?
- Tell us about a situation in which you encountered resistance from key people, how did you convince the person or people to do what you wanted?
- Describe a situation in which you took the initiative to change a process or system and make it better, how did you identify the problem? How did you go about instituting change?
Interviewing techniques tip 7: Ask questions during the interview
Being prepared and asking great questions about the position and the employer shows your interest during the interview. You can’t just be an effective responder. You need to assert yourself, too. By the time you reach the interviewing stage, you should be clear about what you want and what you offer to the company.
Try to be thoughtful and self-reflective in both your interview questions and your answers. Show the interviewee you know yourself—your strengths and your weaknesses. Be prepared to talk about which areas would present challenges and how you would address them. Admitting true areas of weakness is much more convincing than claiming: “I have what you need and I can do anything I put my mind to.”