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How to Shine in a Job Interview

How to Shine in a Job Interview

Interview nerves? Here's how to shine.

    Does the idea of interviewing for a new job put you on edge or scare the living daylights out of you?  Does it make you want to stay under the duvet and hide?

    You’re not alone.  There’s a lot riding on landing that job whether you’re currently unemployed or not, particularly in the current climate.  Here are 9 ways to give a naturally confident interview that really allows you to shine.

    1. Don’t Over-Prepare

    You certainly need to know your stuff before heading into that interview room, but whatever you do, don’t over-prepare.  You need to know your onions (so to speak) as well as having some knowledge about the company’s products, services, market position, opportunities, etc, but preparing answers for every possible question and memorising every fact will drive you crazy and make you ultra-nervous.

    Knowing your subject isn’t a case of simply repeating information verbatim, and if you go to an interview planning on spouting facts and figures there’s a risk that you’ll sound too rehearsed or stilted.

    Interviewers want to see how well you think on your feet as well as how knowledgeable you are, so leave room to move.  You don’t have to be word perfect, you don’t need to know everything or have a slick answer for every question.  Trust yourself to shoot from the hip.

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    2. Don’t sweat it

    Focusing on the things that make you nervous will only ever give you more drama, and that’s exactly what you don’t need.

    Yes, interviews can be nerve-wracking, but it’s okay to be nervous. If you weren’t nervous it would mean you didn’t care, so how about finding a better way for you to care about this?  How about directing that energy in a more useful way to up your game?  How about using that nervous energy to demonstrate your enthusiasm and energy?

    Remember, the simple fact that you’ve been invited to interview means that they’re interested in talking to you and think you might be right for the job. That’s a good thing, right?

    What difference would it make if you knew that whatever decision they make is just fine, that no matter what happens it’s no reflection on you or your ability? Shifting how you perceive the risks of the interview can feel pretty liberating, allowing you to shine.

    3. Blow Your Own Trumpet

    You have to blow your own trumpet to show how much you can add to an organization.  Fail to do that effectively and it’s game over.

    So get clear on what your strengths are – the skills, talents and experience you’ve applied in the past to get great results.  Get clear on what you’ve achieved and your role in those achievements.  Get clear on how capable you are, and how you want to continue to develop your capability.

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    That’s the information and evidence they’re looking for.

    4. Don’t jump into the first chair you see.

    Don’t rush into the room and grab the first chair you see – it’s not a competition.  Let the interviewer find their place first.  If you’re in a meeting room don’t sit next to them on the same side of the table, and don’t automatically sit directly opposite them.  If you can, try to sit diagonally from them – it provides a good space between you but doesn’t act like a wall.

    5. Don’t go in just 1 direction

    Go down a single track during your interview and talk about one area of skill or experience and it could easily leave a big enough gap in the interviewers’ mind to wonder if you’re the best candidate.  Show a range of skills and experience, and show that you can get on with people as well as tasks.

    But going in 1 direction isn’t only about what skills and experience you choose to show and tell, it’s about what you need from the interviewer.

    An interview has to be a 2-way street to avoid miscalculations of culture and fit.  It’s a process to see how well you fit in the role and the organization, and if the role and organisation is a good fit for you.  It’s not simply about the interviewer pulling out the information they need to make their decisions, you need to get the information you need to make your decision.

    6. Smile

    I’ve interviewed a good number of people in my past, and there was always one thing that made a candidate stand out head and shoulders above the rest – the fact that they were enjoying themselves, not just in the interview but generally in their life.

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    An interviewer doesn’t want a one-dimensional person, and often the personality of the candidate can override any weakness in skill or experience.

    So don’t think that you can’t enjoy an interview.  If you look like the interview is torture or if you’re just generally down-beat, you won’t get hired. Simple as. If you’re enjoying and engaging with what you’re doing and where you are, it speaks volumes.

    Smile.  (Just not too much that you look like a grinning maniac).

    7. Leave your stuff outside

    Carrying any uncertainty, doubt or problems into the interview with you will limit your ability to interview well, so put that all to one side before you start.  Picture the interview room as a safe place with people who want you to get the job, and remember that the interviewer wants to see the best of you, not the worst.  They’re on your side.

    8.  Don’t let your body talk for you

    If your shoulders are hunched, you’re slouched in your seat, you’re wringing your hands, continually scratching your head or if your eyes are darting around the room then your body language will be screaming “Danger!” loud and clear.

    Having a relaxed but confident body language communicates a relaxed and confident individual. You’re free to move in your seat and use your hands to demonstrate key points, just watch you’re not waving your arms around like you’re swiping away fruit flies.

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    Remember eye contact too – it’s about building rapport and connecting with people. Without eye contact there’s no connection, so be sure to look your interviewers in the eye as the interview progresses.  Like everything, there’s a balance to be struck, so don’t stare fixedly at your interviewer like a wired Will Ferrell, this isn’t a Saturday Night Live skit.

    9. Embellish and polish

    There’s a saying that suggests that an interview is 2 people in a room lying to each other. Some interviews might be like that, but not the ones that end up with a great deal for everyone.  Don’t lie.  It’s like dressing a cow in a duck costume and asking it to quack – it’s not going to fool anyone.

    But while you shouldn’t lie there’s nothing wrong with a little polish or embellishment.  Tell them how proud you were of a team achievement.  Don’t cover up a weakness or failing but spin it into an important lesson learned.  Show them how darn excited you were to get involved in a particular project.

    This doesn’t mean that you’re misrepresenting yourself, it simply means that you’re selling yourself and giving a great interview.

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    Steve Errey

    Steve is a confidence coach who helps leaders build confidence.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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