Time is valuable; you’d rather spend your time making money than looking for ways to make money. And when you’re in a lull between employment opportunities, job hunting is stressful enough without extending its duration. If you’re going to seek advice from the mountain of books available on the subject, you want to make sure it’s solid, actionable advice so you can use it, get hired, and move on with your life.
In the few hours it took for us to read Nail the Interview, Land the Job, we found it to be refreshingly devoid of fluff, with 95% of the content immediately applicable to anyone who’s looking not only to get a job, but to get the right job. After all, who wants to settle for a poor fit when it’s only going to lead to another job hunt in a few months?
Stop Playing Mind Games During the Interview
It doesn’t matter if we’re looking for gainful employment or shopping for a new suit — we’re always playing games. It’s just part of human nature. But when we’re interviewing for a new job, we want to leave the games behind and focus on presenting our best selves authentically. It may seem counterintuitive to our first instinct — to present ourselves in a way that makes us appear a perfect fit into the vacancy the company needs to fill, or “playing Charades,” as Michelle calls it — but this is exactly the type of game we want to avoid playing.
“A lot of people go in thinking, ‘Oh, this is what they’re looking for; let me show them exactly that and I’ll get the job,'” says Michelle. “But the truth is, the interviewer is trying to answer three questions:
Can this person do the job?
Does this person want to do the job?
Are they a fit with the company?
And when you go in and you try to act as if you think they want you to, they’re not really able to answer that third question because they’re not really getting a sense of the real you.”
In essence, you wind up screening for a job that’s not really a fit for you, but for the fake personality you put on during the interview process. Michelle stresses that you do want to be polished and professional, but you don’t want to think of the interview as a performance.
Think of it as putting your best foot forward versus putting on a mask to get the gig.
Another game you want to avoid playing is Taboo. “We’re so worried that we’re going to do the wrong thing,” says Michelle. “So if anything goes wrong, we start to crumble within the interview.” So Michelle recommends a few ways to set ourselves up for success.
In the waiting room, put your briefcase, coat, or whatever you’ve brought along with you on your left side. This way, when the person to whom you’re being introduced enters, you can smoothly pick those articles up with your left hand and extend your right arm for a handshake.
When you’re asked the dreaded “What’s your greatest weakness?” question, be prepared to tell the truth. “I would a million times rather hire somebody who’s aware of what they need to work on and doesn’t think they’re perfect than somebody who is completely clueless and not even working on those things that will bring them to the next level,” says Michelle.
The interview really begins as soon as you enter the waiting room. Don’t save your professionalism and courtesy for the person you’re hoping will hire you — because a large percentage of potential employers will include the receptionist’s perception of you when they’re making their decision. Instead of burying your nose in your smartphone while you wait for your appointment, take the opportunity to make conversation with the receptionist (provided they’re not obviously buried in work). You may leave more of a positive impression than you realize.
Before the Interview
Internet research of the company for which you’re trying to interview is probably the first obvious step you’re going to take prior to contacting anyone there. But you want to go deeper than a simple Google search. Michelle recommends looking up people among your LinkedIn contacts who may work — or have worked — for the company. Invite them out for a cup of coffee — a little inside intelligence could go a long way toward getting your foot in the door.
“If you can get a list of the names of the people you’re interviewing with, even better. Look them up on LinkedIn; figure out what interests you have in common. I spent [an] entire interview talking about poetry, animal rescue, and maybe skiing — and I walked out with an offer letter in hand!” says Michelle.
It’s not uncommon for people who work at the same company to spend more time together than they do with their own families. You’re more likely to get hired by someone who likes you and shares interests with you as a human being than by someone who feels alienated by a weirdly concocted and inauthentic interview persona only concerned with the job itself.
This also gives you a feel for the person on the other side of the desk — are they a good fit for you?
Michelle also recommends picking out — and even putting on — what you’re going to wear for your interview a few days ahead of time. While this may seem like overkill, Michelle explains why:
“When you put that outfit that you think of in your head on — and then there’s a stain on the tie and there’s a rip in the stockings and you don’t have another pair or it just really doesn’t look good that day — you don’t feel good in it. You have to feel good in what you’re wearing! So not only do I recommend that you pick it out, but I recommend you put it on — including the shoes.”
Don’t be surprised — especially during the summer — if the interview takes place en route to lunch a few blocks away. People like to be outside when the weather’s nice, and you want to make sure you’re wearing shoes that will comfortably get you from point A to point B. By trying on your entire outfit a few days ahead of an interview, you’ll ensure you have time to replace any shortcomings in the ensemble.
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about ways to prepare for your interview, what to avoid bringing along, how to use your nervous energy to focus instead of fidget during the interview, why a gaffe during an interview can work to your benefit, how interviews are like improv, why you shouldn’t sit with your back against the chair as you’re being interviewed, the five phases of the interview, taking control of an interview, how to stay relevant to your field during a long absence, a way to close an interview that nobody ever thinks of, how to follow up after the interview, and lots more.
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AJ Harbinger - author of 1164 posts on The Art of Charm
AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality.
Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.
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