What Mom Didn’t Tell You about Job Interviews

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It’s weird to talk about your future with a stranger, and it’s stressful to pin hope on whether or not you clicked. To reduce awkwardness in your career-talk-shtick, three job-market experts share strategies.

Do your homework, says Diane Liewehr, a certified life and career coach in Jacksonville, FL. “Research the company and the people you’ll meet,” says Liewehr. Check out the company’s website and social media, news articles and annual reports. Research on LinkedIn and Facebook, because they’re looking at your pictures, connections and posts, too. “Show that you have context for the job. That’s important to the flow of the meeting, helping the interviewer see that you connect dots and can pick things up quickly.”

Practice your speaking skills, says Leeann Leahy, CEO of The VIA Agency, an advertising agency in Portland, ME. Take advantage of your smart phone and film yourself talking about your background and how it applies to the job. Play back your footage, analyzing your body language and speech. Try to stop fidgeting and saying “like,” “um,” “cool” or “literally”. Next, line up semi-serious, warm-up interviews. “Practice so that you learn the structure of interviews and how the conversations go,” Leahy explains. “You’ll gain confidence with your presentation, answers and yourself. Confidence is key in getting a new job. Plus, you may find something unexpected about the role or the company, and it’s the right job for you.”

Adjust your attitude. Interviews are about showing a positive, team-player perspective. “Communicate that you get along with others and build relationships,” says Liewehr.  Employers are looking for commitment; they don't want folks who leave in one year. “They want to hear examples of peak performance, not over-aggressiveness,” she adds. Other no-nos: thoughtless or indifferent replies. “Employers want to see how prospects think when thrown a puzzle or a challenge,” says Josh Ellis, Editor in Chief of Success, in Lake Worth, TX. “Some are fun, some difficult and some absurd. All are meant to be jarring and to see how the candidates react on the spot.”

Look nice. Show up dressed and groomed appropriately (you know this from your research), and walk in like you are someone they want around. Liewehr says, “Comb your hair, especially if you wore a hat, don't have lipstick on your teeth, don't have scuffed shoes, make sure your socks match and don't carry more than one bag. Be polite to everyone in the building on your way to the interview because there are cameras everywhere.” Other turn-offs: chipped nail polish, bad breath and tardiness.

Be yourself. Don’t blend in with the other candidates, but don’t stick out in a bad way. The sweet spot? Come with original thoughts and ideas about tackling different facets of the job, says Ellis. Prepare questions, too, suggests Leahy.  “Too many candidates think interviews are about answering questions, but asking the right questions might be what gets you the job!” Interview the company as much as they are interviewing you.  Make sure that the culture and opportunity is a good fit.

Just take a breath. Bad interviewer chemistry can be remedied with a mindset switch, mid-discussion. “Relax and have fun with it,” notes Leahy.  “It’s not a pass/fail quiz.” Ellis says that not gelling with your interviewer could be “a sign that this isn’t a job you’d want.” Don’t overanalyze, though. Your interviewer may come away with a different impression of the meeting. “If you feel like things are off to a bad start,” Ellis says, “politely and calmly explain why you feel that way, expressing total transparency in what you believe you bring to the table. Level with people. They’ll respect you for it.”

Say thank you. Just don’t hassle the interviewer, Ellis advises. “Give it a week and reach out in email, just don’t make a random phone call. That’s invasive of someone’s time.” In any case, stay connected with the interviewer, as you never know where that relationship can take you. Literally. 

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