Thursday, October 28, 2010

Interview preparation - speak up!

I want to follow up from yesterday's comment about interviews. If you don't like talking about yourself or your skills and talents at interviews, try the following suggestions, and let me know how it goes.

To get some idea of the more tricky questions, you could Google 100 most difficult job interview questions or 20 most challenging interview questions. No matter how bizarre they seem, they will have been asked at sometime in an interview, and it’s a good idea to be prepared! I guarantee it’ll help you when you get a really curly one thrown your way. Your brain will kick in with “ah, yes, I know how to handle this kind of question”, it's prepared and is less likely to freeze with fear. 

Take a deep breath, pause (this is a very important step) and slowly and calmly begin. You’ll appear more confident and assured if you don’t rush, even though you may be quaking inside.

The importance of pets!
The next step in interview preparation is to answer the questions aloudIdeally you’d have an honest, yet tactful adult to assist, but for many people, that isn’t possible. In this case I often suggest to my clients that they practise in front of their pet if they have one; failing that, a compliant child or baby will do. 
I’m not being flippant. It really does help.

A respectful adult can, however, give valuable feedback, not only about the content of your answers, but also about your body language, which as you know is incredibly important in the whole process. It’s often stated that the interviewers opinion about a candidate is made within the first 30 seconds of an interview. That’s pretty scary stuff, particularly when you’re nervous already. So any constructive and supportive steps you can take are worth working on, well before you arrive.

Acknowledge your strengths 
It feels awkward for many of us to tell someone that we’re good at things, particularly those of us from cultures where we’re encouraged not to brag or gloat about how competent we are. This is a definite negative in an interview and you can lose your dream job if you don’t overcome that childhood training.

If you’re good at something, you need to share this at interview. If you think of it as sharing and informing, it might be more comfortable than if you think of it as ‘selling’ yourself. ("Selling" has a lot of negative overtones, more suited to a product, and it’s no wonder we feel uncomfortable with it, after all few of us want to be seen as a commodity).

There are a couple of things going on in the ‘talk it aloud’ practise, not least hearing your own voice stating your positive qualities in a confident, unapologetic tone. It helps you hear the um’s and ah’s, and to practice until these are, if not eliminated, then at least less frequent. If you sound like you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect the interviewer to?

Sometimes it’s easier to say to your pet: 
“One of the things I’m really good at is ….”, 
“I want to work at (insert name of company here) because ….” 
“How would my friends describe me? My best friends describe me as loyal …. "

It’s ok to repeat a question occasionally if you go blank, it lets your brain catch up.

When you hear yourself speaking, you’ll detect if you’re convincing or not. The benefit of pets is that they don’t bore quickly and you can rehearse frequently. And if you think you’ll become stale, remember the fantastic actors in long running shows who can move us to tears even though they may have preformed the same show for weeks or months. It can be done!

Your interview questions
Remember to think of some questions you want to ask the interviewer/s. Again, Google is a great resource.This invitation usually comes at the end of the interview just as you’re breathing a sigh of relief that it’s almost over. If you haven’t thought it out, (and asked it aloud in the privacy of your home to your cat) you’re likely to blurt out the most inane thing like I did some years ago - my stomach still sinks at the memory.

In summary:

  • prepare
  • educate the interviewer/s about your skills and strengths
  • practise, practise, practise - aloud!
  • arrive early, breathe deeply and give it your best

Good luck!



Helen Ginger said...

Excellent advice. Very good points. If you have a recorder, you can also tape your practice and listen to how your voice sounds and whether you have long pauses of hesitation, etc.

sue said...

Helen, excellent reminder thanks. How could I have forgotten? Usually for the tech savvy I suggest they use their latest whizbang gizmo to video themselves, but for some inexplicable reason forgot that as well.

sue said...

to see how this technique is used by an author, have a look at the post by Hart Johnson at