There is nothing more tormenting than to watch an interview crash and burn — at least not during the interview.
Unfortunately, many people seeking long-term careers struggle to perform during a job interview. A recent string of interviews convinced me that I should offer some help. I have been doing interviews for a decade now and this is my attempt to give you the best shot at landing your next job.
Remain Calm and Rehearse
To be honest, you are going to get nervous. But try to remain calm. The questions you will be asked are not just to see how you will answer them. Your interviewer will want to see the confidence you have in your answers. It shows experience. But life experiences are never neatly packaged as answers to questions, so you have to rehearse your interview responses. You’ll find that by rehearsing your responses, you will feel more confident and present more confidently.
Rehearse your responses!
How to Rehearse
You will get any number of interview questions thrown at you. The Muse has one of the best list of questions and answers available. Please look over these and prepare responses to each. Here are the three steps I recommend:
- Write out your answers in a way that you would speak.
- Adjust those answers to be concise.
- Practice answering interview questions out loud, preferably with a friend or family member.
Why Rehearse this Way?
Each of these is important. The two reasons you write out your answers in the way you speak are because you need to have your answers written out for review and you need to sound natural when you give those answers — too sterile and your responses will sound insincere.
The reason you want to be concise is that rambling gives your nervousness away. A concise answer, which I will further discuss later, is a confident answer. Lastly, practicing your answers out loud is true practicing. You aren’t going to answer interview questions in your head, so you might as well hear how you sound answering them before your interviewer.
This is the most important thing I will tell you — tell stories! Here’s what I mean. Imagine you were just asked, “Tell me a time when you had to deal with conflict with a customer and how did you handle it.”
How you answer a question like this reveals if you will win or fail the interview.
An inexperienced interviewee will answer like this:
“Well, there was a customer mad that they had to stand in line too long and I just told them I was sorry for their wait.”
Is that a bad answer? No. Should you answer like this? Absolutely not.
A better answer will go something like this:
“My former job was in retail and sometimes, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, the lines can get backed up. On one particular occasion, a customer waited in line ten minutes before checking out at my register. He was quite expressive that he should not have to wait so long to purchase a few items. I apologized to him, but he kept complaining. So, I asked if he would like to speak with a manager so our store could have his feedback for improvement. He said yes, and I paged to manager to the front to speak with him. The customer left feeling better after getting his frustration off his chest. People want to be heard and valued.”
This is the most important thing I will tell you — tell stories!
I know, I know — I just said to be concise earlier. But go ahead and read this out loud and you’ll see that the answer is only about 35–40 seconds at a natural speed. That’s fine for an interview. Plus the response is packed with information.
Breaking Down the Response
Here are the elements I included in my response:
- I related with the interviewer(s) with “as I’m sure you’ve experienced.” Said with a humble smile, this is relatable. Said the wrong way, it might come off as, I know you know ___. So mind your tone.
- The story showed that I recognized the problem the customer was experiencing. I knew the customer had a right and legitimacy in his complaining.
- I showed that I tried to address the problem first by apologizing. I didn’t push the customer away as “someone else’s problem.” This also shows that I can communicate with customers/clients/patients/etc.
- I escalated the issue up the proper chain of command. This reveals I understand boundaries and I can properly communicate within the company.
Not all of your answers need to be like this. Only use stories to describe scenarios that demonstrate how you perform in a workplace. Some questions are simpler, but if you hear the phrase “tell me about a time” in any question, paint me a picture.
Superficial Matters, Matter
Coming prepared to an interview means that you are prepared beyond simply answering questions. You need to consider your arrival time, dress, and follow-up.
As a rule of thumb, always arrive 15 minutes early for an interview. Even if you have to wait until your appointment time, get there early. It shows the hiring team that you want the job. If you are unsure where to go, drive it the day before. Walk into the building! Your interviewer may never see these efforts, but it will save you the embarrassment of getting to an interview late.
How you should dress depends on the type of job you are seeking and the general culture of the workplace. If you are interviewing for a mid to high level position, business or business casual is expected. If you are interviewing for an entry level position, business casual, even if you are just going to wear jeans and a t-shirt on the job. Culturally, dressing nice indicates respect for your interviewers and even yourself.
A thank you card is a simple way for you to stand out.
By follow-up, I mean sending a follow-up thank you card to the office or an email to the interview team. Send it the day after your interview if the hiring decision is in the future. Send it that afternoon if they want a decision by the end of that day. A thank you card is a simple way for you to stand out. Everyone I know has always loved. It tells me that you go above and beyond. However, just remember that follow-up is just icing on the cake. If your interview was horrible, a thank you note will not make up for it. But if there are 3 good candidates and you send my hiring team a thank you note, we will remember that. Even if we don’t hire you, we will tell another hiring team about you. Good people are hard to come by and I want as many as I can in my company.
Go Get Hired
I hope this quick article will help you in landing a great job. Remember, your interview is about learning about you. A good interviewer will be looking deeper than your answers, but I cannot promise you will have a good interviewer. So, be prepared and relatable and smile! You are your best salesperson and I believe in you. Now go out there and interview with confidence!
If you have any questions about interviewing, please let me know in the comments. I would love to help you out!