Avoid the Interview Horror Story

Interview horror stories abound – whether it is an interviewer asking impossible brain teaser questions, an unexpected situation throwing the candidate for a loop, or even the candidate “blanking” out and being incapable answering the simplest of questions.

Thankfully, the amusing anecdotes are more often the exception than the norm.

My job involves pre-screening applicants and making recommendations to my client companies as well as providing coaching for candidates selected to move on in the interview process. Based on my experience, the following suggestions will help you put your best foot forward when interviewing for any professional position.

Being prepared is number one on the list for a reason! It sounds simple, but it is the single most important way to make a positive impression on the interviewer.

Start by researching the company. With access to websites, LinkedIn, blogs, and other business sites, there is no excuse for not having a great understanding of the company. Second, review the job description for the position you are considering. Understand how it fits in company structure and know the requirements for the role. And finally, be prepared to discuss how your skills and experiences align with both the company and the job. Your goal is to paint a picture so the hiring manager can see you performing the functions of this job. If you can’t, you probably are either not qualified or not prepared.

Repetition is the best way to get better at anything.

Rehearse answers to common interview questions and you won’t stumble when the interviewer asks “what is your greatest weakness” or what seems like a wide open question, “tell me about yourself.”

Companies are increasingly using diverse interviewing techniques to choose candidates. Two that I see most often are behavioral interviews and web-based (or video) interviews.

In behavioral interviews, the hiring manager is looking for examples of how you reacted in past work situations for insight about how you might respond in the future. When prepping for behavioral interviews, I suggest that you spend time recalling (and writing down) successes, challenges, and accomplishments from previous positions. By doing so, you have examples fresh in your memory to draw on when answering questions like “Tell me about a time that you handled a stressful situation” or “Give me an example of a goal you reached and how you achieved it.”

Web-based or video interviews are also on the rise since they save time and money when companies are screening numerous candidates or interviewing people in multiple locations. Like all interviews, companies vary on their video techniques. Some have a set up pre-recorded questions and the candidates use a webcam to record and submit their answers. Others use Skype or similar tools for a live conversation. In either case, practice is absolutely essential. Make sure you know how to operate the webcam and check the internet connection, the positioning of the camera, the lighting, and microphone (or voice) volume. If the interview is the pre-recorded type, record yourself multiple times in different lighting, from different angles, etc., to figure out the best arrangement for your room. If a live interview, arrange multiple practice sessions with friends to get comfortable with being on camera and to get feedback about how your image is received – knowing where to look, what to wear, and how to adjust other variables is invaluable!

At this stage of your job search, professionalism is reflected in everything from what you wear to whether you follow up after the interview.

During the actual interview, the hiring manager will not only evaluate your credentials but also how you conduct yourself. Carry yourself with confidence, smile, and make eye contact. Even if you have successfully memorized an answer to every possible question, your delivery needs to be natural, not robotic. Hopefully you can relax enough to ask questions or laugh at appropriate times, all of which will give the interviewer a glimpse of your personality.

Wrap up the interview in a way that suits you. One of my favorite approaches is for the candidate to ask whether the interviewer has any concerns or hesitations about their ability to do the job. Just recently, one of my candidates asked that question and was able to clarify his answer to a previous question that the interviewer misunderstood. Had he not asked, he would not have received the job offer.

Even perfectly qualified candidates who follow all of these recommendations don’t always get the job, but not getting a job offer does not equal failure. As a recruiter, I have to trust the process and encourage my candidates to do so also. Learn what you can from each situation and move on to the next opportunity with a positive attitude.

Hopefully along the way you will gain great experience and not more horror stories!



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