If there’s one job search activity that poses a challenge, it’s interviewing.
Interviews can feel clumsy, tiring, annoying, boring. They can also be exciting inspiring and energizing. Some interviews can be Ok, not very memorable. Whatever your experiences with interviews, they are an integral part of the job search process... might as well learn how to make interviews work for you.
Here are 3 approaches to interviews that can help preserve your sanity and emotional well-being. They are:
- take the lead in the interview
- asking questions back to the interviewer
- bring honesty into the conversation
Take the lead in the interview
The thing about interviews is that they are inherently a conversation. As a human, you have had thousands of conversations in your life. Perhaps you are a pretty great conversationalist.
When it comes to interviews, you are not the only human feeling nervous, the other human that’s tasked with interviewing you, is possibly also nervous. Which means, you have a chance to show your work experience simply by taking responsibility for the success of the conversation, by taking the lead.
Taking the lead in the interview means you bring awareness to the conversation. Which means that you notice when to ask relevant and interesting questions. It can mean knowing when to keep an answer short or when to spend a few minutes expanding on a situation. It can also mean bringing up relevant topics that are important to you and are worth mentioning in an interview. These topics can be your values and professional interests or unique situations where you learned relevant skills or experiences.
In short, leading the interview means you are alert, enthusiastic and seeking to connect with whomever you’re speaking with.
Asking questions back to the interviewer
Although job interviews can feel like an exam, in reality it’s a conversation. Although the conversation is higher stakes than a coffee chat with your friends, the setup is the same, two people talking with each other, getting to know each other, sharing experiences.
Just like in a conversation with your friends, you can ask questions back to your interviewer that they have just asked you. This shows that you are paying attention to the conversation and are showing interest in how things work in the company you’re interested in. A win-win.
How does this sound like? Let’s pretend you are asked “Tell me about a time when you failed at a project.” That’s a great open-ended question that you spend a few minutes responding to. Once you are done with your response, you can ask “I hope that answered that question. I’d love to know, what is the company culture around failure?”
By asking such a question back to the interviewer, you are able to deepen the conversation about a topic that is clearly of interest to the interviewer, which is a smart move on your end, because people love talking about the things that interest them!
Bring honesty into the conversation
Honesty is a funny element in conversations. We all crave it but also stand a few feet away from it sometimes, often during important conversations like interviews.
Honesty in interviews is about vetting the company so that it aligns with your needs and interests. If you don’t share what’s important for you, how can someone know how to support you in doing work that’s meaningful for you.
Saying things like, “I want a job to pay my rent”, may be off the mark, as this kind of statement is not relevant to the conversation of WHY you want this particular job. But saying things like, “I am looking to work at a company that cares about work/life balance”, is honest and clear way to express your value of work/life balance.
In your conversations with companies, try introducing a topic of importance for you, it can be a personal value or professional goal. Do your best to learn about what the company culture is like around this topic of interest.
For example, you get asked about why you left a job. You can say almost nothing, such as “I was looking for a change.” Or you can say something more honest such as “I was burnt out and decided to take a break.” If you can find small ways to bring honesty into the conversation, you are more likely to connect with who you’re speaking with.
👋 Hi, I'm Anna. I am a Product Manager and a Career Coach for navigating your career in tech. I support people in tech find their first or next job and build meaningful careers. My events are meant to create community and support during your job search.
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