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How Not to Be a Complete Nerve Wreck in an Interview

How Not to Be a Complete Nerve Wreck in an Interview

Talking about yourself is something that should be easy, yet it’s not. How do you respond to this question in an interview.

So, tell me about yourself?

Do you find you are a nervous wreck when responding? If so, fear not, because you are not alone.

Interviews are such a pain.

People struggle during job interviews. For some reasons, we treat the interview as if something our life has to depend on. We fear failure, yet if we just relaxed, we might find that the interview could actually be conducted as if it were a normal conversation.

During a stressful time, a leader I respect once asked me, “Did anyone die?” He was able to immediately put things in perspective. This simple, yet powerful advice assisted me in a recent job interview with a Fortune 500 company.

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Along with putting things into proper perspective, there are certain things we can do to ensure we are able to answer this seemingly simple (yet enormously difficult) question; a question typically asked right at the beginning of the interview.

So, how to answer tell me about yourself?

Most interviewees don’t understand the real questions behind “tell me about yourself”.

Jane Copland provides fantastic practical tips for success in landing your dream job. She remarks that in order to avoid the trap of freezing or rambling, we should study common interview questions and prepare our response to them. She encourages us not to memorize our answers, simply practice the key points. If we do this, we will find that we feel more confident and bring out our best. [1]

By following Jane’s advice, this interview question can be broken down into three subordinate questions:

  • What is the underlying meaning to this question? Here they are really looking for the qualities you possess; for which you could immediately use.
  • Why are they asking this question? They are wanting to know how you fit into their organization. This is where you need to demonstrate that you know what is important to them, not you.
  • What response are they secretly looking for? Are you a “change agent”? Meaning, can you bring value to their organization and foster change. Can you hit the ground running and improve their bottom line? That’s what they really want to know.

Once we understand the real questions, we can then develop a strategy to ensure we don’t blow the interview with the first question.

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Here is a quick list of things you should do… and those things you should never do.

Follow this process and find the perfect response.

I used this powerful 4-Step Method in a recent interview with a Fortune 500 company. By simply following these 4 steps, I was able to walk in the room with an unwavering high level of confidence. The following sections will break down each step, with tools and practical examples.

1. Spend more time on research.

The first thing you should do prior to the interview is to thoroughly research the company. To be able to answer the “Tell me about yourself question”, you must be able to customize yourself to the type of person they are looking for. Use these tools and demonstrate that you can improve their bottom line immediately:

  • 80/20 Rule. Find the 20% of the items that bring in 80% of the company revenue. Make sure you are familiar with their critical 20%. This shows you understand the company.
  • Know the financial health of the company and look for “opportunity areas” to attack. Do this by looking at their financial statements or quarterly reports. This will allow you to back up your assertion that you can make them money, because you can demonstrate how.
  • The best way to prepare for a job interview is to read a book that is popular in your profession. Better yet, read a book penned by the CEO of the organization you are interviewing with. You will be amazed at how little people read, especially books in their own field. This simple act will put you ahead in your profession. I personally re-read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt before a job interview in the process improvement world. I am able to grasp the books core principles. Typically, they think they are my creation.
  • Read blogs from the professionals. I find myself reading the tips provided at Thepensters.com. This site offers phenomenal practical advice; which is what you are in need of right now.

2. Practice everywhere.

If you fail to attempt this step, then you might as well start scheduling your next interview because you don’t have a chance at this one.

  • 80/20 Rule for preparation. Yes again, the 80/20 rule. You can also use this rule for preparation. You must have a Plan A and Plan B. Focus 80% of your effort on Plan A and 20% of your effort on Plan B. [2]
  • Practice the art of Visualization. Visualize the entire interview in your head. Visualize exactly how you want the interview to flow and how you will control the interview. You will be amazed at just how powerful this technique is. I use this for everything I do… interviews, speaking engagements, even important phone calls.
  • Practice with a friend or family member. Make sure you choose someone you trust and someone who will provide candid feedback.
  • Use an analogy when attempting to learn the technical information about the company… especially if you are not familiar with what they do. An analogy is simply a comparison between two concepts for the purpose of explanation. For example, if you are in the medical field and are trying to learn a new science, such as epigenetics, you may want to use something similar to, “Genetics is like the blue prints. Epigenetics are like post-it notes on those blueprints (usually telling you to ignore that part).” – Justin Ma
  • Use diagrams. Diagrams are a powerful technique and a great way to visualize difficult concepts. Don’t be afraid to use them.

3. Follow this powerful formula.

If you are looking for a powerful way to guide your interview and answer the question, “Tell me about yourself” then I highly recommend you use one of the following formulas (or a combination of them all):

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  • Present -> Past -> Future. You start with the present (where you are right now), then discuss the past (experiences you have had and skills you have gained), then finish with the future (why you are excited about this opportunity). For example, I might use: “I am currently a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, where I improve overall performance for our organization. Before that I commanded 170 people where I launched 15 improvement initiatives. While I enjoyed my time as a Soldier, I would really like the chance to develop a deeper understanding as a practitioner in process improvement. This is why I am extremely excited about this opportunity with you.” [3]
  • Rule of 3. Since we can only hold a small amount of information at one time, it is important to understand and use the Rule of 3.

4. Work on your plans beforehand.

Use Implementation Intentions. These are “If-Then statements.” They are preplanned responses to make sure you are directing your internal and external behaviors toward the overall goal – in this case landing the job and explaining “Who you are.”

For example, I use the following Implementation Intention during my interviews: If or when scenario x happens, then I will perform y. More specifically: If or when I am asked to prove a principle (i.e. I can improve their bottom line), then I will respond with a detailed roadmap on how I can improve their bottom line. This means that I must have plenty of detailed roadmaps handy.

If you are trying to understand the critical functions of a company and you come across something you do not understand, try chunking the new information or idea. Think of a puzzle, simply break the term down into components, then break those components into further sub-components.

5. End it well and make sure you look good.

Lastly, make sure to follow-up with the interview panel. I highly recommend you send a personal “Thank You” letter. If you do not receive the job, ask them what improvements they suggest.

Don’t forget, when you are preparing for your interview, make sure you are dressed to impress. Don’t look like a bum! Finally, remember this advice when you are preparing for your next interview.

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“If we all threw our problems into a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

Hence, don’t forget to put things into perspective and remember that there will always be another interview.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

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Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020

How to Make Time Go Faster When You’re Having a Bad Time

How to Make Time Go Faster When You’re Having a Bad Time

Standing at the front of the room, your heart is pounding as people stroll in, and you’ve been up since 5 am rehearsing. You’ve spent weeks preparing for this moment. Your slides are perfect, and you’ve memorized your talk.

As the clock shows 9:30, you begin with a customary “good morning” and then zilch. Nothing. Your mind goes blank. Suddenly, time seems to stop. Everything goes into slow motion, and you can feel your face begin to burn.

For anyone who has done presentations in front of a live audience, freezing at the wrong time is a nightmare waiting to happen, and when it does, if feels like time has frozen. The feeling of helplessness drags on, and you just wish the clock would fast forward so you can escape from the nightmare.

Of course, the reality is that time does not speed up or slow down. Time is constant; only our perception of passing time changes[1]. This is a good thing, too. What is happening is that your fight or flight response is kicking in, and you have become hyper-aware of your situation. Your brain is recognizing you are in danger and responding in the best way it knows how.

This perceived slowing down of time is an illusion[2]. It is your brain creating and processing more memories of your current environment and searching out the threat it has detected. It’s searching for the predator that has decided you look like an exquisite meal, and it is doing this incredibly fast — much faster than it typically would. It is how we protect ourselves, and, in most cases, it is a beneficial response.

However, in many cases, it can be torturous to be in this situation, feeling helpless and frozen and being hyper-aware of our unfortunate situation. So what can you do to speed up the perception of time?

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1. Have a Backup Plan

If you cast your mind back to the situation at the start of this article, your brain has frozen and your carefully crafted words are lost somewhere inside your head: What do you do? Most people panic, and, despite their careful preparation and rehearsal, one part they did not rehearse is when or if something goes wrong.

Freezing on stage can happen to even the most seasoned presenter, and having a script or a set of queue cards on hand can quickly refresh/reboot your brain to get you back on track and avoid the torturous feeling of being in a slow-motion crash.

Steve Jobs was a very experienced presenter. One of the best. Yet even though his preparation was meticulous — often taking as much as six months to put together a keynote presentation — things still went wrong. In this famous clip of a keynote Steve Jobs gave back in 2010, the WIFI network was very slow. When you watch the clip, it feels like it goes on forever, yet it only lasts around two and a half minutes. For a presentation that lasted about two hours, two and a half minutes is around two per cent. Not at all long, yet for Steve Jobs and the audience, the whole incident felt a lot longer.

Fortunately, as a seasoned presenter, Steve Jobs broke the tension and the feeling that time was slowing down by using humor and eventually moving on to the next part of the keynote. He had a backup, and his backup was to quickly, and without fuss, move on to the next segment.

Always have a backup plan and an exit strategy. Be prepared for the worst and be ready to switch to your backup plan if things do go wrong.

2. Focus on What You Have Control Over

You have control over three things: your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions. Nothing else. You cannot control events, how other people judge you, or whether another person will get upset by what you say or do.

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Most bad days are a result of the way we react to something we have no control over. A client takes their business to your rival. You had no control over that. That was a decision your client made based on a set of circumstances and the way they felt about those circumstances. The only control you have in this situation is how you feel about losing a client. You could be angry; you might look around for someone to blame or for an excuse. But in the end, none of that will change the fact you no longer serve that client.

In these situations, always begin by reminding yourself about what you have control over. Are there any positive action steps you can take that will solve the problem? Are you allowing your emotions to influence your mood? Are you thinking negatively or positively about this situation?

In all these scenarios, you can instantly decide to change your thoughts, your feelings, and the action you take. You have to make that decision.

If you do lose an important client, and there is no solution, you can use the experience to learn. Use it as an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and implement changes to the way you do things that minimize the chances of a similar situation happening with your other clients in the future.

Dwelling on the loss will prolong your suffering, slowing down perceived time and making you feel dreadful. Using the situation to learn from your mistakes will help you to get back on track and keep time moving forward at a pace you are satisfied with.

3. Take Full Responsibility for the Situation

Accepting full responsibility for your life allows you to overcome adversity and difficulties. While a massive viral pandemic may not be your fault, what you do in the circumstances is your responsibility.

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Being in lockdown, where you must remain in your home, is something beyond your control (see number 2), but what you do with your time, how you manage your work, and how you maintain your health is your responsibility.

Governments may order you to stay at home, but what you do with your time while you are at home is something you are responsible for.

In these situations, you have a choice. Use the extra time you have positively, or pass responsibility for your life to the daily negative news cycles.

When you take responsibility for your life, you take back control[3].

Complaining about the situation only ensures you stay stuck in the same miserable place. Accepting responsibility for your life gives you so many more options.

You could take that online course you have been thinking about doing, or paint that picture you have wanted to do for years. You could clean out your old clothes, do the spring cleaning, or clear out your garage. There are hundreds of things you could do that, before this global pandemic, you always complained you had no time for. Now you do have time.

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Busying yourself with these tasks turns any bad situation into an opportunity, and time will no longer seem such a drudge; instead, it will feel like a godsend.

Key Takeaways

There are many inevitabilities in life. One of those inevitabilities is that you will have bad times. Dwelling on your lousy situation, complaining, and reliving the experience over and over will only cause time to slow down perceptually.

Accepting the inevitable, approaching it with a “cest la vie” mindset. and looking for the positives will soon pull you away from the difficult times and back to more fertile areas where you can thrive and grow, and time will begin to feel much faster.

More to Make Hard Times Go By Easier

Featured photo credit: Johnny Cohen via unsplash.com

Reference

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