My interview secret(s)

Job hunting books and websites are packed with checklists that are supposed to help you succeed at interviews.

Maintain a firm handshake! Be on time! Be positive! Don’t answer your cell phone during the interview! Dress appropriately!

Thanks – how helpful! You left out how I shouldn’t wear nothing but a shaving cream bikini to that interview for the bank manager job.

The fact is that job interviews are largely horrible, tremor-inducing affairs that rank right up there with visits to the dentist on the “stuff I want to be doing right now” meter. They are the gauntlet of the job interview game. And no simplistic checklist is going to really help you get through it.

So here are what I think are the two most important things to keep in mind about job interviews. First: relax!

A tall order, right? When I was interviewing for journalism jobs, even though I had at that point been a reporter on a daily newspaper for six years, at every interview I was a twitching, sweaty mess. My heart was beating a mile a minute, and I probably appeared to be having a heart attack in the reception area.

What was happening was, I was psyching myself out. They won’t hire me, and then what will I do? They’re going to see through me – I’m not much of a reporter. What if they ask a question I can’t answer? I need this job so bad!

I never did get another job in journalism.

Years later, when I was interviewing for tech temp jobs, I had no problem with interviews, and ended up landing most of the projects I interviewed for. Two things changed: first, I was much more confident in my abilities as a web geek than I was as a reporter.

But even more important, I started to look at interviews differently. I realized that if I got to the point where I was in the door being interviewed, I had already climbed most of the way up the mountain. They already *liked* me. That’s a great accomplishment, especially these days. And I started to look at interviews as just as much me evaluating them, as they were evaluating me.

This isn’t about arrogance. You’re still selling yourself and your abilities, and there are competitors also cooling their heels in that reception room. But it helps immensely to realize how far you have already come, just by getting in the door. It makes it a little easier to think of the interview as a conversation between people with similar interests, and less like a Klingon pain stick ceremony.

Well I’ve spent so much time talking about relaxing, I forgot about the second thing I want you to remember about interviews. That will have to wait for next time…

 

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