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Are you nervous when it comes to job interviews? Learn tips to prepare for and ace an interview.
Why Interviewing Is Scary
Interviewing for a job can be one of the most anxiety provoking situations you can go through, especially when the job is really important. So much of your identity is hooked to your position, making applying for a job a lot like applying for a new identity. Think about when you meet someone. The question that often comes up is, “what do you do?” We answer with our job title rather than with something else like our hobbies.
When I applied for my current position, I had doubts about whether I should go through with the interview. My self-defeating negative thoughts told me I didn’t have enough experience, I wasn’t well known enough in the company, and I wasn’t good enough. The worst part was I was terrified I would go to the interview and make a fool of myself in front of people I respected. I worried they would think “why would she think she would be considered for this job.”
I considered cancelling the interview. When you have all of that going on in your head, it is hard to go forward. Yet, I am ambitious and had lots of ideas I thought could be helpful. The position was something I had in my long term plan. I also reminded myself I am really very good at job interviews and actually like participating in them (I realize this is a very strange thing about me).
Challenging Negative Thoughts
I reminded myself that negative thoughts are normal and I cannot let them get in the way of reaching my goals. The facts don’t add up to support the negative thoughts I was having.
In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg points out that women don’t apply for jobs that they do not feel 100% qualified for, whereas men do. This can easily get in the way of how a woman presents herself in an interview. It certainly could have gotten in my way if I let it. If I was having thoughts during the interview about how I wasn’t good enough or how I didn’t have enough experience, it would reflect in my answers. The interviewers would have likely lost confidence in my ability to take on the huge role I was interviewing for.
So, how did I manage this? It might sound silly, but I made a playlist of music that I listened to in my car throughout the week and especially when driving to the interview. I created a list of the songs I used on my playlist, which you can get here. Not only did I listen to these songs, I made them stick. I thought about how the songs applied to me. I thought about why I would be a good fit for the job. Essentially, I changed the direction of my thoughts to be positive!
I’m not talking about silly affirmations. I did not say “I’m awesome and they will love me” without anything behind it. I’m not sure I would have believed that. Instead, I thought about accomplishments I have had in the past and how those accomplishments would be applicable. I thought about how the experience I did have would be beneficial to the position rather than thinking of what I didn’t have.
How Do I Prepare For an Interview in a New Field or Company?
At times, the position applied for is in an unfamiliar industry. In these situations a flexible thinking process is essential so you can relate what you are asked to what you are familiar with. When interviewing for a job in a new industry, it can feel like a new language and the questions can seem confusing especially if you don’t know the specifics of what the interviewer is asking.
Doing a bit of research prior to the interview can go a long way to helping increase familiarity with the important topics to that company. You do not have to necessarily know everything; however, being able to relate these topics to what you know is helpful.
As an example, a few years ago I applied to be a supervisor of a psychology unit in an unfamiliar setting. I had never worked in this setting before and there was limited information out there on what the job would entail. I had some ideas, but mostly from the media. I had to knuckle down and do some research before interviewing for the position. My research entailed asking people I knew who worked in the field what it was like, doing internet searches, and I found a book related to that field. Yes, I did my homework. Yet, I didn’t know whether I would be qualified for the role, especially since I was going in as a supervisor.
During the interview, I was asked about my philosophy around something very specific to the company’s niche. At the time I did not know what it meant; however, I thought about what it might mean and then related it to how this topic applied to an inpatient psychiatric facility in the community, which was somewhere I did have experience. I answered it from that perspective. I did not focus on my limitations.
I’ve seen people struggle with this in interviews as an interviewer myself. They say things like, “well, I’ve never had that experience so I am not really sure what I think about that” and then get stuck in telling the interviewer why they are not ready for the job. Don’t do that! What I did say was something along the lines of “while I haven’t had this experience from the perspective of your company, I have experienced this in such-and-such a way.” I then went on to talk about my philosophy. It was related and they could then see that I could think through the topic in a way that makes sense.
Sometimes that is all that is needed…for them to know you have the ability to think things through intelligently.
I had to trust that I knew what I knew in my area of expertise and believe that would be enough. After all, it is what I had.
You Know More Than You Think You Do
You have gone through challenges in your life and have learned a ton of things. When someone asks you an interview question about a topic you are not sure of, you need to reach within yourself and find a way to answer that question from your wide range of experience.
To make things even easier, in the book The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan, the authors point out that there are really only three interview questions you will be asked, and therefore only three answers you can give.
- Can You Do the Job?
- Will You Love the Job?
- Can I Tolerate Working with You?
Obviously, they aren’t going to ask you these questions specifically. It isn’t that easy. Also keep in mind that they don’t necessarily know they are asking these specific questions. But if you pay attention to these three themes you can answer any question.
The question I mentioned above was a “Can You Do the Job?” question and probably had a bit of “Can I Tolerate Working With You” thrown in.
In any interview, you are selling yourself. You are your brand. Here are the three answers given by the authors of The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan:
- My strengths match the job.
- My motivations are a match for the job.
- I’m a good fit for the company.
You can totally come up with answers that fit these three topics!
If it feels daunting to go out and do a job interview right away, start practicing. Listen to the songs. Really listen to the words and how they fit for you. Talk yourself into being a bad ass and letting your light shine through. Notice the negative thoughts you are having and dismiss them as opinions, not facts. What is an alternative way to think about yourself? Be a bit kinder!
Practice flexibility. Perhaps you could look up job interview questions and practice answering based on your current experience while keeping in mind what kind of question you are being asked and what kind of answer you should give.
Although this may sound a bit overwhelming, this is a greatly simplified way of preparing for an interview. It can change the game for you.
Let me know what you think and how you used this. If you found this helpful, please share on social media. This is a message that could help lots and lots of people.
Marlena is the blogger behind apenandapurpose.com, where she writes about using journaling for self improvement and reaching goals in life and business. Using her experience as a Licensed Psychologist with a Master’s in Business, she teaches people how to break through negative thoughts and fear to do what matters. For more about me read my about page.