I had three job experiences prior to graduating college. Although each interview was different, they all had one thing in common: stressing me out. I remember asking my mom and dad for advice. Unfortunately, for none of these positions did I experience the interview my parents prepared me for. Studying up on how to answer rigid questions did absolutely no good. The truth is that the workplace for us is very different than it was for our parents, especially the structure of interviewing.
Considering the positions I had applied for in college (hostess, receptionist and cashier) their laid back interviews don’t come as a shock to me. What comes as a shock to me is how closely these interviews compare to the ones I have for full-time jobs after college. A case worker, marketing coordinator, English teacher, store manager (yes, I’m much like you – I don’t have it figured out yet. Feel better?) all consisted of interviews that could be better described as a conversation with a friend. During an interview for a sales position, one of my interviewer’s went on for ten minutes about his fifteen year old son recovering from a baseball injury.
From my experience, I will say that if your interview felt more like a flow of conversation rather than a list of questions it’s a good thing. Do not limit your thoughts about interviews by thinking you are only there to impress someone and prove yourself. Instead, think of an interview as nothing more than the opportunity to make a connection with a new person.
Below are 5 tips that I have learned from being an interviewee.
1. Don’t be shy. No employer wants to work with someone they can’t communicate with. Showing communication skills is probably the most important part of an interview. If you can’t carry on conversation without prepared questions then you aren’t going to be very interesting to work with. Interviewers aren’t just looking for geniuses who have all the skills and credentials, they want someone who can work with others and ignite new ideas and energy in those around them. With that said, don’t try to be anyone else but yourself. After all, there is no one else like you and that is what makes you interesting!
2. If you have something to say, then say it. Don’t fear that your comments or ideas will be stupid. The fact that you tried to contribute means more than anything to an employer. Even if the interviewer corrects you, you’ll have an opportunity to show them how well you take constructive criticism.
3. Ask meaningful questions. We’ve all been told in college to come up with at least two questions to ask the interviewer. When an interviewer offers to answer any questions it is obviously not a good idea to come up blank. But I have found that planned questions like, “Can you describe a typical day in this position?” won’t do much for you either. The best questions to ask are the ones that come up during the conversation. For example, if the interviewer briefly mentions their current project then ask something about that project later on. Coming back to a topic mentioned earlier shows you have great listening skills and are truly interested in understanding what they do.
4. Show your style. Don’t overdress to the point that you don’t feel like yourself. Since men don’t have quite as many options to choose from, this is especially for the ladies. There have been too many times that I have tried to fit the mold of a company through my outfit. The key is to dress professional while simultaneously incorporating your own style. If you don’t feel like yourself in a pencil skirt and suit jacket then don’t wear it. I have found that my outfit choices have made a significant impact on how I perform in my interviews. It is always easier for your true personality to come across when you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing. One thing that I have regretted most after an interview is feeling like I wasn’t myself.
5. There is something to take from every interview. No matter what, you will learn something new from each interview you have. Even if you know the job isn’t for you the moment you walk through the door, give the interview your best effort rather than shutting down. Every connection you make could benefit your future or open another door. Even if you lose interest in a job during an interview try to switch gears and use it as an opportunity to practice being calm and talkative. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose because they already lost you.