As a Career Coach, one of the first things I hear when I run one-to-one interview skills training is ‘I hate selling myself, I’m just no good at interviews, I’m dreading this’.
It is perfectly understandable why we fear interviews as many of us resist with every inch of our bodies speaking highly about ourselves. From a very young age, we observe how people in our society are judged harshly if they come across as ‘too up-themselves’. To vocalise too much confidence in oneself is often perceived as a bad trait and the societal message was clear you would not be liked if you were categorised as one of those people. Many cultures put a high value on modesty. As Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’ shows, we are motivated by a need to belong and feel loved. So we conform, act modestly, safe in the knowledge that this will support us to be accepted.
Then bang, our world is shattered when we tell everyone we have an interview coming up and they start insisting that we will need to sell ourselves or we won’t get the job. We nod in agreement but inside our body starts resisting. The whole system goes against the grain. It feels so uncomfortable, so disconnected from how we would like to be seen. We pride ourselves in our honesty and the hiring process just feels so false. In turn, the fear starts mounting, and we get a real feeling that this will never work. ‘I don’t want to do this I don’t like talking about myself!!!’ Sound familiar?
Here are some very important tips to support you to overcome your fear of interviews.
- It’s Not About You!
When we get so caught up in how we are feeling about the interview we only exasperate our anxiety and we overlook the whole point of the interview, it’s not about you, it’s about them! One of the most important things you can do is to reframe how you are looking at interviews, take the spotlight off you and place it on the interviewers. They are the ones tasked with the difficult role of deciding who is the best person for the job. In order to do this, they must first decide what the ideal candidate will be like. Your role is to get really clear on what they want!
Focus in on what they want by going through the job description with a fine toothcomb.
- What are the different arms to the role?
- Is there anything overemphasised?
- Are there any important industry terms, policies, legislation etc. mentioned?
Also look further into the role if you can and find out:
- What are the current and future challenges and opportunities associated with the role/organisation?
- Speak to someone in your network with knowledge of the role or organisation if you can to dig deeper.
- Bag of Stories!
Once you are clear on what they want, start working out how you meet those needs. Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer what would you want to know?
Make the interviewers job as easy as possible by having stories at the ready that are on par with the needs of the job. For example, if problem-solving is a large part of the role think about the kind of problems you are going to be expected to solve in the role. Then pick a time you solved a similar type of problem to show you are coming with the right level of experience.
Don’t forget to structure your stories in a way that is easy to understand. The STAR method is an excellent way to structure your answers.
- Listen to the Question Asked!
Before you answer their question ask yourself ‘What are they asking me and why are they asking me that’? What need do they want to be met? This is the key to your answer. Ensure that you put focus in your answer on their need and this will support them to feel heard, respected and understood which results in a better connection which results in you giving relevant answers and hopefully getting offered the role.
- Be Authentic!
When interviewees learn answers to interview questions off they can come across as wooden. Not a great look! When interviewees speak from the heart their tone and body language match what they are saying resulting in real personality to shine through. It’s not about having the exact right word in the right place at the right time. Don’t try and be a BBC presenter, be yourself that is what will get you the job! Visualise your stories in your mind and tell them like it is hoping for the best.
Practice out loud! Better yet record yourself on your phone or your laptop, play it back and ask yourself, what did I do well and what would I improve upon? Work with a professional interview skills trainer to gain objective feedback and/or practice with someone you trust at home. The more comfortable you are about what you want to say and why you want to say it the more confident and prepared you will feel.
Click here to book Interview Skills Training with Leap Coaching.
Don’t expect to feel completely at ease going into an interview. It is perfectly normal to have a mixed bag of emotions such as anxiety, fear, excitement etc. You are stepping outside your comfort zone and as humans when we do that we feel discomfort. That’s ok. Some of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in life come from feeling the fear and doing it anyway!
Patricia Tiernan is an Accredited Career and Life Coach with the Association for Coaching and has over 15 years experience in Human Resources. In 2012 Patricia opened her coaching and training business Leap Coaching, which offers services in Cork City and worldwide through Skype. Patricia specialises in supporting people to live more fulfilling lives particularly in the area of career. www.leapcoaching.ie