by Mary Blake
You landed an interview! Yay! Sure, you were nervous, but you had done your homework and felt primed. Of course you knew they would ask you “why did you leave your last job” and “what is your greatest strength” but were you expecting to role play a scenario about an angry customer? Did you have a script in mind for a question like, “how would an enemy describe you during battle?” Or did you feel prepared to write out the steps on how to cook a hard-boiled egg while wearing a blindfold?
The point is you have to be ready for any question, no matter how absurd or unrelated it may seem. Employers want to see how you communicate under pressure and how you manage yourself in a difficult and unexpected situation. To be truly ‘ready,’ you must practice many different situations and questions so that when you do have an interview you will feel equipped to handle whatever they throw your way. There are a few things you can do before you even have an interview scheduled:
- Ask friends or old co-workers to do some mock interviews with you. Let them make up the questions and tell them not to share them with you in advance.
- Video tape yourself during the mock interviews and watch it back to see how calm or nervous you appear. Pay attention to your verbal and non-verbal communication. Do you fidget? Say, “um” or “like” frequently? Look off to the side? Once you see yourself, you can try to make changes such as keeping your hands in your lap, sitting still and maintaining good eye contact.
- If you can’t seem to remember your responses to common interview questions, write out the answers and then write them out again…and again.
- Do an internet search for questions that interviewers ask candidates in that field to make sure you are considering anything.
Remember that while every interview can be different, ultimately the purpose of each is to determine if you are the best candidate for the job. So, while some interviews and interviewers are very formal, others may be more laid back, casual and social. But even with a seemingly friendly interviewer don’t be taken off guard and say too much. Focus on answering the question asked and don’t give out too much personal information. And, if you are thrown a curve ball question, it is fine to say, “I’d like to take a moment to think about that.” You not only buy time to collect yourself and formulate a response, but the hiring manager will appreciate your thoughtfulness and care in answering. And though it can be nerve-wracking, don’t rush to fill pockets of silence! If you feel you’ve given a complete answer, stop there. It is better than babbling on, which waters down your initial response and can read as insecure.
Speaking of nerve-wracking, one of the most daunting interviews can be ones where you are faced with a panel of people. All the same rules from above apply, but just remember to address the person asking the question first, then make eye contact with the other members one at a time as if you were speaking to each of them personally.
These things do not come naturally to all people, especially if you have not had to interview in a long time. But just like riding a bike, some practice can help you get back up to speed.
By Mary Blake, Associate Senior Manager Supported Employment
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance.