Very few people say they genuinely enjoy job interviews. That makes sense because in the same way that most people dislike taking tests, a job interview is a test. Even those who feel confident about their professional past, are up-to-date with job requirement skills, and do not possess many potential liabilities still fear facing the unknown. Not many people are good on their feet, and they know it; and therefore, each past failure adds another scar to the wound that never had a chance to heal in the first place. While trying to demonstrate the opposite, the job candidate is shrouded in negative emotions and fears.
On the other side of the desk sits the interviewer, who in most cases is aware of not being very good at interviewing because of lack of interviewing experience—unless the person is, say, a recruiter or some part of the staffing function in the human resources department and who interviews routinely. Very few interviewers have taken formal courses about how to become better at interviewing. Typically, an interviewer is less prepared for, less interested in, and less eager about the interview that is about to take place than is the candidate sitting opposite. So, that’s the background to the candidate selection process, which is critical to each side: for the candidate, the issue is a career changer; for the employer, a crucial and important business decision.
Categorically, you can improve interview performance by solid preparation for it and by gaining an understanding of the interviewer’s needs. Both sides assess each other within minutes, if not seconds; and everything thereafter serves only as validation of the initial impression.
When the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” you should not respond with, “Where would you like me to start?” That would be considered a weak answer. Rather, you should take control and summarize in two or three sentences your professional experience in your field, give a brief example of a success story, and end by engaging the interviewer in the form of a question about the interviewer’s priorities. That question should be framed to come across as a friendly yet professional dialogue and certainly shouldn’t put the interviewer on the spot. Keep the dialogue going. Try understanding what’s behind the question and project the positive and unique qualities about yourself that you can share through your success stories.
Once the interview’s over, leave the interviewer with a memorable ending. Shake his hand and say, “Mr. Smith, thanks for your time. May I leave you with a final thought: I’m very enthusiastic about this opportunity and am very interested in this position.” Do you think he’ll remember?