Interviews are fun

Frank Hutton
In an interview

For many of us the thought of an interview is something akin to a visit to the Principal's office. Whatever the reason and whatever the circumstance we still quake a little internally, if not externally.

I can still find my own colour rising if I feel slightly out of control (I have developed a patch on my neck which is prone to discolouration at the wrong times i.e. mildly stressful ones) and I can get a little warm as proceedings get established.

So what's the answer? How can you cruise through an interview feeling you're on top of the world and not appear insecure or flaky? Here's some tips to keep you on the right track:

Preparation

Make sure you know what you're walking into to aid your confidence. How many people will be meeting you? What are their names and what are their roles in the organisation? Is it a competency-type interview. What are the company's goals for the year? What is its culture like?

You can find the answers to these questions from your HR contact or recruitment consultant, from the organisation's website, from their twitter feed, press articles and so on. If possible, check what people are wearing when they exit the building for the day: is it casual, smart, in between; and go just one notch above so you fit in but are showing you're keen. Make sure you know where you are going and how you will get there (nearest parking, do you need change, train times etc.)

Practice

Think through your answers to some typical interview questions. Practice them in your head, or if possible, use someone who will give honest feedback to you. Examine the person spec (if you have one) and think how your experience and qualities match it. Get used to speaking about yourself and become accustomed to the actual adjectives you will use.

Many British people struggle with saying nice things about themselves, even if true. Don't keep the truth a secret, and avoid stumbling over it by getting used to the sound of those words. Say them out loud to yourself (best done while on your own I feel but it's your decision!) All this helps you to believe what the selection process has already confirmed - you could do this job.

Presentation

Look your best, but be in context (see note above about fitting in with company culture). If it's a relaxed laid back place, then turning up suited and booted may not help you. Do err on the smarter side if possible. Avoid extremes. White shirts can be great but avoid them if your skin is lighter; they may make you look pale and somewhat unwell. Warm colours, not too bright can give a warm feeling, subconsciously.

Try and arrive in good time so you have an opportunity to check your presentation before you go in (hair, teeth, shoes, flies!) and so you're not hot and sweating. Warm your hands up if cold. Go for a decent but not bone-crushing handshake, it really matters. And smile. Give eye contact.

No interview is ever wasted. At the very least it is an experience and a learning opportunity.

Keep to the facts

Once you're under way and things are going well, you are likely to relax. It's likely to be the best and most powerful time of the meeting; but don't let your brain become disconnected form your tongue. Don't be tempted to over embellish facts with mild untruths. You can always use the same experience as an example of a different strength or achievement.

Don't feel you need to keep adding material. Don't wander off into areas of discussion where you know your knowledge is limited. If you're stuck in an area, ask them a question, then ask another about that answer and keep going until you understand the situation well enough to make an answer/contribution yourself.

Questions are great at giving you authority and power in an interview. Many less experienced interviewers love the chance to talk. Just make sure they stop long enough to allow you to say something meaningful.

Understand your body

You are human. An interview can be a stressful situation for some and the 'fight or flight' instinct comes into play. As most of us don't run out of the door at that point or attack our interviewer, the energy manifests itself in different ways e.g. sweaty palms or all over (me!), shaking, increased colour or blushing, tendency to gabble etc.

My advice is to work with it rather than against it.  If you know you shake, avoid asking for hot tea in a cup with a tea spoon which will accentuate it. Keep your hands resting on your lap or table top. Don't give yourself the chance to fiddle with your pen.

Sweaty palms are not noticeable until you shake someone's hand so find a way to wipe them discretely just prior. Don't wear hot clothes if you know you'll heat up. If you know you tend to gabble, practice using short sentences in an early stage of the interview and deliberately leave gaps. It won't sound weird to the interviewer, just thoughtful. Learn to slow your breathing. All these things are normal (even for me!) so don't worry about them, just adjust your clothing and behaviour. If you want specific advice in this area, email me

Believe in you

Your interviewer has made time to meet you; time they have little of. You're already a  winner in that respect and ahead of many, many others. Your interviewer is hoping to find the answer to their problems so they will be encouraged and pleased to find someone pleasant, confident and relaxed.

So go in confident and ready to talk about yourself in positive terms.  Your confidence will give them a reassuring and powerful message that you're a good person to have around. So believe in you and understand you were good enough to get that far and are definitely qualified to be sitting in that room, and probably doing that job. You just need to convince them to pick you above someone else, perhaps equally well qualified. And actions (and subliminal messages) speak louder than words in that direction.

So there you have it - interviews done the right way can actually be quite exhilarating. A little like downhill skiing, there's a touch of danger involved but it's all the more enjoyable for it. I'm always happy to help and of course, in my professional capacity can provide direct one to one coaching in the techniques I'm talking about. So do get in touch if you've got a crucial one coming up.

No interview is ever wasted. At the very least it is an experience and a learning opportunity. Enjoy what it will bring you and just practice the areas in which you discover yourself less accomplished.