First and foremost, could you please
repeat after me? “I am the expert in me.” Because, you are the
expert in you. Job interviewing is not a quiz with objectively right
answers. It is an assessment of how willing and able you are to
undertake an exceeding complex assignment of doing a year’s worth of
work for an annual salary.
You know everything about you, your
career, your abilities, your challenges, your desires, and how this
position moves you along your career and life goals. Own your mastery
of this subject. Soothe any nervous thoughts by constantly reminding
yourself, no one else in the world can do a better job at answering
questions about you than you.
If you do nothing else, empower
yourself to show up with unshakeable confidence that you know the
subject of this conversation inside and out.
It is also important to understand that
job interviews are the epitome of ‘grading on a curve.’ You are
competing against the other interviewees, not the job description. At
this point in the process, you’ve all met enough criteria to be
worthy of an investment of time. Therefore, treat an interview like
an opportunity to demonstrate your character and the special sauce
you will bring to the role, and you will differentiate yourself from
the other candidates who are solely there to answer questions.
Next, I am going to pivot in an unusual
way and state an uncomfortable truth. The job of any interviewer is
to make you feel at ease, so that you can get past the obviously
standard nerves, in order to be able to be present to the
conversation and answer honestly without fearing the person will
If the interviewer makes you feel like
you are a fraud right from the outset, know one thing. They are the
person who is actually failing. You were chosen to interview, from
likely hundreds of applicants, in the broken system we currently
have. Any interviewer who does not treat you with respect and work
hard to accurately assess what you have to offer is burning their own
company’s money every second that they intentionally or
unintentionally shut you down from being exactly who you are.
You will encounter bad interviewers. In
this scenario, it is more important than ever that you lean in to
getting answers to your questions about whether you want to work for
this organization. I don’t agree with the knee-jerk conclusion that
you dodged a bullet, because primarily people conduct interviews like
firing squads because that is how they were treated at the start of
their career and they haven’t given any thought to doing it
differently. Give the person the break you hope they give you, and do
your best to create a conversation, you have the power to change the
dynamic if your strategy has you well-prepared to ask questions about
I spent two decades working as an HR
Systems Consultant. Often, I would interview more each year than most
people do their whole career. Because I was always interviewing, and
getting jobs, most of my friends and colleagues naturally came to me
when it was their turn at bat. Just about everyone I helped mentioned
in their debrief that they remembered something I said that shifted
them out of getting anxious, nervous, and performing badly.
I also learned that the interviews I
had as a consultant were far different than most people’s experiences
interviewing for a full time job. The permanent role interviews
focused predominantly on someone’s past, whereas consulting
interviews spent more time in discussing the upcoming work.
Both sides win when most of the
interview is a conversation about the work to be done in the role.
Build your interview preparation as if
you are a consultant being interviewed to accomplish something
specific in the next 12 months. This should generate hundreds of
questions focused on the upcoming year. At every point you can in an
interview, you want to guide the discussion to being about how you
will perform this role, rather than blathering on about what you did
in the past and trusting the manager to connect the dots. (You might
want to re-read this section. I demonstrated how to present your
credentials to support how you approach a challenge right now.)
I guarantee, if the other three
candidates spend the interview solely answering questions about their
disparate pasts and you work to make the conversation about the
future work that the manager needs to get done, you have done
everything possible to stand out in the exact way that will secure a
job offer – unless bias comes into play.
I want to sum it all up with a very
actionable tip. No one has ever said that job interviews are not
‘open book.’ You should be bringing along extra copies of your
resume, as these days companies will often try to get you in front of
as many colleagues and decision makers as possible, if things are
going well. So in that folder you can also carry your well-prepared
set of questions. And the top bullet points that you want to make
sure you cover when selling why you are the best candidate. If you
have your preparation written down and available, you have basically
created a ‘get out of nervousness free’ card. Plus, you are
demonstrating how much preparation you have done. And you are
demonstrating that you aren’t beholden to appearances and are willing
to get out pen and paper to write down important points.
I always write down names and titles,
especially in group interviews. I always take notes as if I was in a
standard meeting. And I always have a written summary of the
important projects, skills, interests, human connections, and
intensely personal reasons that I know I can success at a job.
With this strategy, you will be more
prepared than the other candidates to demonstrate the single most
important characteristic necessary to get a job offer – that you
can be trusted to do the job. Creating this feeling in everyone you
talk to is far more important than any skill or experience.
- Own your self-expertise
- Outshine the other candidates rather
than discuss how you match job description bullet points
- If you encounter a bad interviewer,
work to guide the conversation in a way that will help them do a
better job learning about how well you will be able to do this job.
- Pepper your experience into answers and
questions that focus on the tasks and deliverables of the upcoming
- Regard a job interview as just a draft
conversation of how you and your hiring manager will communicate when
you are officially working together.
- Bring all the supporting documents you
need to feel prepared to have a business conversation in which you
can close the deal – get that offer letter in the mail.
Demonstrate that you can be trusted to do the job & you will be given the opportunity to do the job.