When going to an interview, it is important to have the right state of mind and to focus on what is important. The thing that is the most important when attending an interview is not how you answer questions. It is the impression that you leave behind. That being said, answering questions “correctly” will of course impact on that impression. The word “correctly” was put in quotes because there are no perfect answers to questions, although there are wrong answers.
Put things in perspective. By the time you are called for an interview, the employer will already have gone through your resume and cover letter. He or she knows the basics about you: your background, your work experience, your general interests, why you want to join the organization, etc. Whatever the employer knows up to that point, however, is only one-sided. The employer only knows what you have decided to reveal. Based on the information that you have provided, however, he or she decided that you were “worthy” of a meeting. This is the employer’s way to show an open mind. “Here’s your chance” he or she is saying. “Show me what you’ve got” or “prove to me that you are as good as you pretend to be.”
This is partly how the stress builds up. You are starting to feel the pressure to “impress.” Knowing that other candidates have also been called for an interview, you feel even more pressure. This is where you realize that the application process in an ensemble. Everything has to fit together. Your resume and your cover letter have to impress, yet truly reflect who you are so that when you show up on Interview Day, you can be yourself. (Tips on how to handle stress during job interviews can be found in another article on WorkBloom.)
The first thing about making a good impression is to be positive. If you are negative and over-worry, that will show. Condition your mind to be positive and optimistic about your future so that when you see the interviewer for the first time as he or she walks towards you, that smile that is on your face is sincere.
First impressions matter. Why? Because they create biases. If you make a bad impression upfront, you will have to combat that bias. It’s like running uphill. On the other hand, if you make a good impression, you can ride on it. It’s like running downhill. That being said, make sure to dress professionally, smile, give a firm handshake, and introduce yourself properly. How to dress properly for an interview is discussed in further detail in the “Interview Attire” section of WorkBloom.
As the interviewer walks you to the interview room, he or she might ask you a few questions about the weather or how you got there… some small talk to put you at ease. Accept the “invitation” and relax.
As the interview “formally” starts, make sure to remember that interviewing is a “communication process.” This means that you have to be “clear” when you talk. Clarity entails that you “speak clearly” and “answer clearly.” Speaking clearly means that you have to speak loud enough and pronounce your words well enough so that you are well understood. Think of news anchors and how they speak. Answering clearly means that you have to satisfy whatever was on the mind of the interviewer when he or she asked you the question. In order to do that you have to practice your listening skills. Yes, listening is part of communicating. If you are not sure what was asked, ask the interviewer to repeat himself or, even better, rephrase the question in your own words and ask the interviewer to confirm that you grasped his or her question properly. The next thing to keep in mind is that questions are asked for a purpose. Try to find the purpose underlying the question. What does the interviewer want to know and how can you best answer his or her question?
Put yourself at ease as you answer questions and undertake it as if it was a conversation. To “converse” with someone is the best way to “connect” with that person. If you were not offered a glass of water and feel that your mouth is dry, don’t be shy and ask for a glass of water. The interviewer will be happy to do so. Don’t let those minor details bother you.
As the interview winds down, make sure that you have showed interest for the organization by asking a few relevant and intelligent questions. Don’t let your guards down. The interview is not over until you have left the building.
As you leave, give each interviewer a firm handshake and thank them for meeting with you. You can also ask for their business cards if you do not yet have them. Having your interviewers’ business cards is important for following-up purposes. You want to spell their name correctly and you want to send to each interviewer separate e-mails. Remember, the last step in the interview process is not when you leave the interview room. It is when you follow-up the day after the interview. Following-up is not an option. It is mandatory.
To conclude, remember that you will be chosen not based on any specific answers that you give, but on the overall impression that you leave behind. Trusting yourself is the central and most important thing you need to remember. If you don’t trust yourself, nobody will.