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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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    1 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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