Job interviews are your best opportunity to make sure you’re not walking into a minefield if you get an offer. Unfortunately, most of us spend the entire thing just answering questions. It should be a two-way street. Here’s how to take control and make sure your side of the street actually gets some traffic.
It’s easy to get nervous if you’re prepping for an interview. Every tip and article suggests that you have to land every question right, prep for what you may be asked, and make sure your body language sends the right signals. Just thinking about it can be nerve-wracking. It’s easy to forget that a job interview goes both ways: it’s not just for your employer to examine you, but for you to find out if this job is a good fit for you. Just as the hiring manager will go off and decide if you’re the candidate for their opening, you need to be able to decide if that company, that manager, or that team is the one you want to spend 40+ hours every week with for the next several years of your life. Here are some real-world ways to prep, and to use that limited time in your interview wisely.
Prepare, but Only Enough to Build Your Confidence
You probably know that you should prepare for a job interview by thinking about the questions you’ll be asked. That goes double for interviews with skill-based components, like coding or trade jobs where you’ll have to prove some of your knowledge. It’s good to prepare, and you should definitely come with a few stories to tell that really show off your experience and skills. Once you have that down though, stop practicing.
Seriously. Don’t go overboard trying to come up with a canned answer for every possible question you might get. As with most things in life, you’ll be more successful if you’re confident without being arrogant. Remind yourself that your resume and skills drew this company’s attention for a reason. Think about how proud you are of your accomplishments—whether it’s your college degree, trade certifications, your work history, or the good work you’ve done up to this point in your career. Remember, the company you’re interviewing with is interested in you too, and that counts for a lot. Bring that confidence with you to your interview. Feeling like an active, empowered part of the conversation in your interview puts you in a power position. You’ll be willing to interrupt and ask for clarification, interject with a story, ask questions, and in general, be an active participant.
This attitude doesn’t come easily, and while it’s natural for some, for others it’s painstakingly difficult to nail down. If you have trouble, try a mock interview with a friend. It’s also important to read your interviewer (or interviewers) and their reactions to your confidence or your humility, and adjust accordingly. What you and your friends perceive as confident may be arrogant to someone else. You need to be able to adapt. Pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues, and you’ll know when to loosen the reins and let your interviewer take control, and when you can step in and steer the conversation yourself.