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How to Succeed at a Job Interview

Going to job interviews is uncomfortable and stressful for everyone because, out of necessity, the people doing the interviewing will be judging you. I know that going to job interviews is stressful because I've gone to many of them. But eventually I became a manager and moved from the receiving side to the giving side of the job interview. I've been on both sides, so I'm in a position to advise you about how to succeed at job interviewing.

In the old days when you went for a job interview, you were interviewed by only one person, and if they liked you, you were hired. Today, you're more likely to be interviewed by several people, and that's just in the first round. If you advance past the first round, you'll be called back to be interviewed by several more people. And many of these people have read books instructing them to ask stupid canned questions like:

What challenges did you face and how did you handle them?

What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?

Tell me about yourself.

In my opinion these questions are non-productive and I've never used them, but you should be prepared to answer them. How do you answer these canned questions? By reading books, or visiting websites that give you the canned answers. Job interviewing is really game, isn't it?

Proper Interview Attire

You should already know this, but the best way to dress for a job interview is conservatively. Unless your going to an interview for a creative artist job, or rock band job, dress conservatively. This means lose the lip or tong ring and boys lose the ear rings. It's not that any particular interviewer is a snob, it's just that there are may conservative people out there, and in the job position you're applying for, you'll be representing the company when you interface with these conservative people.

Overcoming Job Interview Anxiety

As I said, I know that going to job interviews is stressful because I've gone to many of them. You may be too anxious to even travel to the interview location, much less actually submit to the interview. When you're anxious at a job interview, you may say stupid things or exaggerate your abilities. The secret to overcoming job interview anxiety is to decide that you're not actually trying to get the job.

You're not trying to get the job. You're only trying to learn how the company operates, how they do business, how they make their money. Pretend you're an entrepreneur who would like to get into that same business yourself. You don't care how they judge you or whether you get the job or not. You're playing a head game on yourself to be sure, but if it helps you overcome job interview anxiety, so what?

I'm not saying you be callus and self sabotaging. I'm just saying that if you pretend that you're not actually trying to get the job, you will not be nervous, you will not be inclined to say stupid things and exaggerate your abilities. Instead you'll be asking questions to learn about how the business operates. The interviewer will see you as a person who is seriously interested in the business. Your enthusiasm about the business may actually get you the job.

If you're so anxious about a job interview that you can't even get yourself to travel to the place where the interview is to be held, don’t think about the process in its entirety. Divide the process up into steps. For example; step 1 wake up at the proper time in the morning, step 2 get cleaned up and dressed, step 3 relocate yourself to the company’s building, step 4 enter the building and ask for the individual you have the appointment with.

Don’t think about the entire process; just think about the individual step that you're working on. Imagine you may or may not even take the next step. For example, don’t even decide if you'll go to the company’s building or not until after you've gotten cleaned up and dressed. Then when you're ready, decide, yes, I will travel over to see what the company’s building looks like. But I may or may not go inside. This is just a head trick for those who are really nervous about going to job interviews.

The Actual Interview

Once you meet the individual, or individuals who are actually going to perform the interview, make sure you communicate your qualifications and desire to do the job. Very few people are good interviewers. I've been to interviews where the interviewer talked on and on about themselves and the company and never let me get a word in. There was no possibility that I'd get the job because the interviewer didn't learn anything about me. If that happens to you, you may need to be a bit discourteous and interrupt the interviewer to tell them about your qualifications and that you want the job.

As I said, very few people are good interviewers. Many interviewers have read books instructing them to ask those stupid canned questions. Make sure you read these books, or visit the websites, and be prepared to give the canned answers. However, there are some interviewers who will ask specific job related questions. That's what I used to do when I was a manager giving job interviews.

I was the manager of an electronics engineering department, and I can assure you that no job candidate ever correctly answered every job specific question that I asked (and I wouldn't want them to because that would mean my questions were too easy). Just answer job specific questions the best you can, and make a note of the ones you couldn't answer in case they come up in future interviews.

It may surprise you to learn that I didn't always hire the individual who gave the best answers to my job specific questions. There are many other factors to consider when hiring someone. If the candidate lives a long distance from the company, will they be able to make it to work on snowy days? One individual gave correct, but excessively academic answers to my questions. I didn't hire him because I've known people who could study the hell out of a problem, but never actually produced anything. I needed an applications engineer, not a research scientist.

If You Don't Get the Job

If you don't get the job, don't think it's because of some problem with yourself. There are many reasons why you may not get hired. Sometimes the department manager who interviews you, doesn't want to hire someone who is so good that they may make him look bad. Sometimes the interviewer has just learned that the department's budget will be cut. Some companies perform continuous interviewing just for the purpose of determining the status of the job market, so they know if they have to give their employee's raises, or if they can easily replace them.

When you go to an interview or interviews where you don't get hired, you're not wasting your time. You're learning about different companies, the job market, and the interviewing process. There are many varied reasons why any specific individual may not be hired. It usually has nothing to do with the individual. View it as a numbers game. If you go to enough interviews, eventually everything will fall into place and you'll get the job.


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