A single interview can be a nerve-racking experience. If you’ve encountered a series of rejections and have outrun your financial cushion, an elongated job search can be emotionally exhausting. So how can you reboot your enthusiasm, calm those pre-interview jitters, and land the gig?
Chase the Right Role
When changing jobs candidates naturally look for parity if not improvement in the position sought. While attempting to better your financial picture is a logical play, people also need to objectively evaluate a host of career variables as they work to scale the corporate ladder. This means understanding the reasons behind recent rejections.
In today’s litigious corporate environment interview debriefs are nearly non-existent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t compare your skills and experiences to the level and type of position sought. Obvious gaps are usually identified upfront. For example, if the role requires a degree or language proficiency you lack, you won’t get in the door. Other times when the phrase “X degree or equivalent experience” is used, the deficiency may only appear during the conversation.
As you interview with multiple organizations, look for feedback trends. Better yet, ask questions to affirm your fit or uncover potential gaps. For example: “In your view, what are the must have skills to ensure success in this role?” Or “What did the prior position holder contribute that you really valued?”
Understand the Competition
Obviously, it’s impossible to know the backgrounds of other position seekers. However, you should have a feel for local market conditions, skillset demand, and average compensation. If a recent competitive layoff flooded the field with fellow coders for example, you may have to lower your expectations. On the other hand, if the talent market is tight and you have unique skills, resist the temptation to jump at the first offer.
A helpful exercise is to review how you’ve gown since your last job search. Unfortunately, without active skill development, some candidates come to realize that they don’t have an additional five years of experience since their last move, but rather one year repeated five times. That simple miscalculation can leave you lagging behind other more studious job seekers. Ideally, you should grow your skillset year over year to keep pace with the profession and separate yourself from your peers.
Nail the Fit Factor
Chasing the right level roles and maintaining competitiveness is a great start, but it doesn’t account for corporate culture fit and manager/candidate connection that often spell the difference between getting hired and being a close second. Often such Interview X Factors are based on how you present yourself in the moment. Traversing an endless interview gauntlet can chip away at your enthusiasm and produce a lackluster demeanor, which can unintentionally shine through, eroding rapport on an unconscious level.
When you feel your career war stories and ROI proof points going stale, take a tip from, of all places, professional comedians. These stage pros are wizards of storytelling and experts at making the old seem new night after night. Reinvigorate yourself and your career anecdotes by:
- Building Your Success Library: Great comedians accumulate a wealth of stories. Embrace that strategy by taking stock of your accomplishments and ensuring you have at least two or three examples for each key competency e.g. three ways you demonstrated leadership; two quantifiable examples of enhancing customer value, etc.
- Keeping Them Tight: No one likes a run-on joke that botches the punchline. Similarly, your career stories should have a concise, 3-part flow. What you faced. What you did. What you achieved. (Proverbial mic drop optional.)
- Knowing Your Audience: Subway jokes don’t work in the south. The best comedians tailor their material to the audience. Adopt a similar strategy by ensuring your stories are relevant to the specific interviewer. If you’re unsure of their interests, ask. For example, don’t assume the HR person is a touchy-feely type who is hyper focused on employee events. Saying you’re a people person when they are interested in a candidate with experience in workforce analytics will alienate your audience.
- Owning the Stage: Surprisingly, many comedians are introverts who, despite years of practice, still get the preshow jitters. While obviously you’re not “performing,” an interview can make it feel like you’re under a spotlight. In the seconds before go-time take these three actions to keep your cool:
- Take a Deep Breath: Nervous energy is expected, but too much can derail you. Many candidates ramble or go blank because they are too hyped up. A breath forces you to pause and center.
- Exhale: Mostly so you don’t turn blue, but it also gives you a beat to realize that you made it to the interview because the hiring manager believes your background matches his/her needs.
- Smile: After all, it’s just a conversation. People don’t need notes and endless preparation of stock answers to talk about their kids, favorite sport, or hobby. The topic is you and you’re the clear subject matter expert. Research the company of course, but when it comes to the rest, natural is more appealing.
Job-hunting, especially when you’re unemployed, is a pressure-cooker, but taking time to understand yourself, the market, and the competition can help you find the release valve. As for the X-factor, that can be the greatest challenge and the greatest strength. Consistently investing in yourself will ensure it’s the latter.
Need a career coach? Contact me via www.plotlineleadership.com.
Be sure to check out my latest book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi