Advice from somebody who sat on both ends of the table
Job interviews are exciting and terrifying. On the one hand, they are an extraordinary chance. On the other hand, they are an extraordinary chance.
You know the feeling: Two days before the interview, you feel confident. But with every hour the clock kills, your guts tense up.
30 minutes before the interview, you sit in your car. In front of you, an imposing building looks down on you. It harbors the job you always wanted. Ready for you to grab it, but your mind starts sabotaging your dreams.
Stage fright kicks in. You have done this so many times, but your flight instinct still tries to best you. You catch yourself preparing excuses:
Maybe I should call it off… I never wanted to work for a big company anyway… At home, my cozy couch waits to greet my ass again…
But you go in anyway.
You know this feeling.
I dare to say it gets a little easier with experience. But the tiny needle poking your belly and feet right before you engage in your interview never disappears completely.
As a project manager, I have been sitting on both ends of the interviewing table. I have been in five job interviews as an applicant. That is not much; yet, more was never needed since I got the job 80% of the time.
I will share how I prepare myself for a job interview and what prevents the needle poking your guts from transforming into a dagger in your back.
It is always useful to have some affirmations you can tell yourself to calm down. Something as simple as “breath” or “You’ll make it” will do.
The excuses mentioned above do not help you since you know you want the job — otherwise, you wouldn’t have applied. You are lying to yourself, and you know it!
It is not a do-or-die situation
But other factors might help put your racing mind at ease.
For instance, you can tell yourself that this is just a job. Sure, it might be attractive to you, but there really is plenty of fish in the sea.
It is probably not your first chance to get an amazing job, and it will not be the last.
Especially, if you work in the software industry, there is currently a real deficit in talent, so many positions open up. Do not get into an interview with a do-or-die attitude. It doesn’t help your case. It literally is not about doing or dying.
Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by your thoughts, think of the vital things instead: Your family, friends, or your health. Those will stay intact no matter the outcome of the interview.
You will only embarrass yourself once
If you are afraid to embarrass yourself in front of the interviewers, you can find solace in the fact that you will never see these people again.
I know, some people say that you always meet twice in life. Well, other people write songs with lyrics like “How much is the fish?”.
The bottom line is: Do you really trust a proverb produced by a species that Einstein characterized as follows?
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.
You will probably never see them again. So, even if you end up vomiting your kebab lunch into your potential boss’s lap, it will stay a one-time encounter. And you get to tell a funny story to your friends.
By the way, maybe we all should be just more open about the value of embarrassing ourselves?
The interviewer is nervous, too
Interviewers have a position of power in interviews. Therefore, many applicants think they are always cool as cucumbers.
That is not always the case. Yes, many interviewers seem relaxed, or at least not nervous. That is one of the perks of practicing your skills regularly.
If you have to interview two people a week, you develop a routine.
But, and that’s a huge but: many interviewers are nervous before interviews, too.
With great power comes great responsibility.
– Uncle Ben (Spiderman)
The position of power can be a burden. Supervisors have pressure to find the ideal candidate who will be a great asset to the project and will not disrupt the team’s chemistry. Based on a 1-hour talk, no less.
Yes, the supervisor can fire you if you are not a good match after all, but that bears the risk of spoiling their reputation within their team.
On top of that, they need to convince you to join them just the same as you have to convince them to hire you.
Also, there is the general nervousness every person has before meeting a stranger.
What I want to tell you with this: Interviewers are people just like you. They get nervous just the same way you do. Take it from somebody who sat on both sides.
With the mental tranquilizers at your disposal, we can now look into what you can actively do to help your situation.
To understand your options better, I want to tell you what impresses me most about interviewees. It is when they come prepared.
I do not expect you to know the current employee count, random numbers, or boring facts.
But if you know what the company does, it tells a lot about your motivation. Lately, I had an applicant who knew more about what we do than several colleagues.
You can guess if we made that person an offer.
Whenever I was invited to an interview, I was always asked what I knew about the company.
And I could always tell the interviewers were impressed when I explained what products they developed and why I was interested in them.
You see, a major reason to be nervous before an interview is feeling unprepared.
You cannot possibly know what questions will arise. But whether they ask you about their company directly or not: You will always be able to find a spot in which you can recite your knowledge about the company.
It might be the simplest question in which you can shine with very little effort on your side. Prepare yourself a little, and you will feel more self-conscious.
Many people know all the right fancy buzzwords without real experience to back up their big mouths.
Many interviewers are trained to ask questions in a way that exposes windbags.
They challenge vague statements by asking three types of questions:
- In which specific situation could the applicant prove a skill?
- If you proved it in a project you worked on with other people, what were the applicant’s actions?
- What was the outcome or outcome of your actions?
To make it more clear how these questions are used, here is an example:
Interviewer: In your CV, you wrote that you have profound experience in improving new processes. Can you give us an example in your current job, in which you did that? (Situation)
Applicant: Yes! In my previous company, we introduced a process to generate the release notes directly from our Jira tickets.
Interviewer: Ok, thank you. What exactly was your part in this task? (Action)
Applicant: I was responsible to define the general concept and roll it out.
Interviewer: And what was the outcome of this project? Any benefits? (Results)
Applicant: I managed to introduce the process and it has been in use ever since. We were able to reduce our efforts for creating release notes drastically and the quality became more consistent.
With that in mind, go through your CV and check if you can back up everything you claim with specific situations, actions, and results.