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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 August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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