Category Archives: Interviewing

Beyond the “Nerves” in an Interview: 4 ways to deal with it

Most people get nervous when they’re being interviewed for a job. They are peppered with questions that are meant to get to the core of their technical abilities, motivation, and fit. It’s a stressful situation. This is called “getting the nerves,” and it’s natural. Most likely you feel the same way about interviews.

anxious

But what if you are unable to get past the nerves because of anxiety? What can you do that will prevent you from losing the opportunity for the job? How can you stop your hands from shaking, your voice cracking, or even breaking into tears. In this post I’ll talk about what to do if it’s more than having the “nerves” in an interview.

Admit to Yourself that You’re Anxious

You’re not alone in feeling anxious. Knowing this should give you solace. Many job seekers have told me that they felt so “anxious” that they couldn’t think straight and answer the questions entirely. A few have even told me that had to remove themselves from the situation. While this is not “normal behavior,” it does happen.

Telling others, job counselors, a therapist, or even friends, could be helpful. Talking about how you feel can relieve some of your anxiety. Hearing from those you talk with that being anxious is understandable will be of comfort. Further, talking with someone who felt anxious in interviews, but landed a job regardless will give you a better sense of hope.

Know that the interview/s are barriers to getting a job, and once you’ve overcome the barrier, you will be able to do the work required to succeed. Remember that you want the job for which you’re applying; it is the end game. This will take preparation, though.

Before an Interview

I tell my clients that being prepared for an interview will give them confidence. This means thoroughly researching the position and company. If you’re really good, you’ll research the competition. People who interview without preparing—winging it—generally perform poorly in an interview.

While it’s important to research the position and company, you will benefit also from preparing mentally for the interview. This will include getting a good night’s sleep the day before, if you can. The day of the interview, you should take a leisurely walk and rehears answering the questions you predict will be asked. Or you might prefer answering the questions while looking into a mirror.

You might benefit from participating in a taped mock interview which will show you how you respond to questions, as well as your body language. I conducted a mock interview with someone who my colleague believed to be anxious. The client’s answers were fine; however she appeared tense and fidgeted with her fingers. My suggestion to her was that she keep her hands in her lap.

Admit to the interviewers that you’re anxious

Chances are that at least one of the interviewers—if it’s a group interview—suffers from anxiety and can relate to your condition. Perhaps one or more of the interviewers know others who suffer from anxiety. They should be empathetic if they know your condition.

You can simply say before the interview begins, “I’m a bit anxious at the moment. Interviews are stressful for me. I hope you understand.” Chances are that they’ll understand your feelings.

In fact, anxiety is more prevalent than you might suspect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19 percent of adults suffered from anxiety.

An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.

Past year prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).

An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

It is possible that you aren’t clinically anxious, but interviews and other social situation cause symptoms of anxiety. The most important thing is the message you deliver. Focus on expressing the value you will bring to the table. If you have to pause at times, that’s fine.

When your anxiety is debilitating

You may suffer from clinical anxiety, in which case you’re probably taking medication or attending therapy to keep it at bay. Healthy Info Daily describes the biological reasons for anxiety:

For a person with severe anxiety, their neurotransmitters are not working properly, and important messages can’t get through properly, which in turn causes the brain to work improperly, leading to anxiety, depression and other stress-induced disorders.

There are obvious signs of anxiety. Some symptoms of anxiety are excessive worrying, sleeplessness, panic attacks, fear/discomfort around crowds, and fear of speaking in public. Compound your anxiety with the pressures of an interview, it’s no wonder being interviewed is difficult. However, knowing you’re suffering from anxiety will explain the fear you experience in an interview.

In some cases, job candidates may need intervention or help from a vocational professional. This is in severe cases and usually for candidates who won’t be serving customers. Jobs that are individualistic would be best for them. If you fall under this category, it’s important that you apply for jobs appropriate for you.

Disclose your disability at some point during the interview, perhaps at the beginning. You have the ability to handle the responsibilities of the job; however you will require accommodations. It’s best to let employers know this before they hire you, as if you’re hired and then disclose your disability, your supervisor will most likely distrust you and might find reasons to let you go.


Interviews can cause mild to server anxiety for many people. If you happen to be one who gets anxious in an interview, reflect on why you are, ask for help from others, and if your anxiety is severe consider medication as a means to keep your anxiety at bay.

This post originally appeared on recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Eduardo

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5 pre-interview tools employers use to screen candidates

You’re probably aware of the order in which employers attempt to fill a position. First, they consider their own employees; second, ask for referrals from their employees; third, seek referrals from trusted people outside the company; fourth, hire recruiters; and lastly, advertising the position. Or they use a combination of all of these.

pre-employment test

There are many reasons why employers prefer not advertising an open position, including the cost to advertise, having to deal with a deluge of résumés, and interviewing people they don’t know.

In many cases advertising their position/s is unavoidable because all other methods of filling them have failed. Thus, they resort to tools to make sure they get the most qualified people entering their doors. You need to be aware of these tools.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS)

This is the beginning of the hiring process from the candidates’ experience. The ATS eliminates approximately 75 percent of the applicants for a single job. It is a godsend for recruiters and HR, who are overburdened with résumés to read.

To be among the 25 percent that pass the ATS, you’ll have to write a résumé that is keyword rich. Unfortunately many candidates don’t know about the ATS and don’t optimize their résumés. I’m astounded by the number of people who come through our career center unaware of the ATS.

Your best bet is to write keyword-rich résumés that are tailored to each job. Instead of using the spray-and-pray approach, be more focused on positions that are a fit and dissect job descriptions to identify the most important skills and experience required.

Jon Shields of www.jobscan.co explains the ATS in great detail in this post.

Pre-employment aptitude and personality tests

Employers have come to rely on aptitude and personality tests that can determine the candidates who’ll advance in the hiring process. Some employers will swear by them, believing that the software can do a better job of screening individuals than their own HR and recruiter.

Employers use pre-employment tests because they are objective and fair across the board—each candidate answers the same questions—and they’re a good indicator of job-related skills. These tests also measure character traits like integrity, cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, etc.

Where these tests fail is measuring candidates’ motivation to learn job-related skills. This means if you aren’t completely proficient in a certain CRM software, for example, your ability to learn quickly isn’t factored in.

These tests can also encourage dishonesty. For example, you might get the sense that the test encourages outgoing, extraverted types; but you’re preference is for an individualistic work setting. Ergo, your answers won’t truly reflect your personality.

This article talks about the most common types of pre-employment tests.

Telephone Interviews

Hardly new, the telephone interview is typically the first type of interview you will encounter to get to the face-to-face interview. The interviewer has two main objectives: getting your salary requirement and determining if you have the job-related skills to do the job.

However, you need to expect not only the aforementioned questions, but more difficult questions, such as situational and behavioral-based. Telephone interviews have also become more numerous. It’s not uncommon for someone to participate in three or more telephone interviews.

LinkedIn’s report, Global Recruiting Trends 2018, states that telephone interviews are considered the least favorable out of the structured interview. This is probably due to the fact that phone interviews are conducted by agency recruiters who may know little about the job requirements and desired fit; thus producing less qualified candidates.

Skype interviews

Skype interviews are common these days. Employers use them to save time and, ultimately, money. As well, interviewers get to see your facial expressions and body language. They are akin to face-to-face interviews, save for the fact that candidates aren’t invited to the company. This means candidates must nail the following areas:

  1. Stellar content and demonstrated enthusiasm through your answers and body language.
  2. Professional attire. Dress as though you’re going to a face-to-face interview.
  3. All the mechanics are in check, such as lighting, sound, and background.
  4. Look at the webcam, not at the interviewer/s. Looking at them will make it seem like you’re not making eye contact.

Skype interviews may, in fact, be the final interview, which makes it even more dire for job candidates to be prepared for them. This is particularly true if interviewers are situated all over the world.

Don’t be surprised if an employer wants to conduct a Skype interview with you. One of the areas I didn’t mention is learning how to set up a Skype account. My efforts in setting up mine was frustrating, as I had a hard time figuring out how to access the free version.

Video interviews

Skype interviews can not only be challenging for candidates, they can also be time consuming for the employer, as it requires them to participate. Video interviews, on the other hand, don’t require employer participation, until the interviews are watched and graded.

Job candidates are given a number of questions to answer and are timed during the session. At no point do they see the interviewer/s, unlike a Skype interview. My clients who have participated in video interviews say it’s like talking to a wall.

This might be a bit unnerving, but don’t let it rattle you. Have you ever answered interview questions while looking in the mirror? Think of it this way and you’ll be fine. One more thing, look at your computer’s webcam while answering the questions, just as you would for a Skype interview.

Matthew Kosinski from www.recruiter.com. rates the top five video interview platforms in this post.


There you have it: 5 tools employers use to determine who to invite for a face-to-face interview. No method of hiring the right person is flawless, but employers feel like they’re making strives to accomplish landing the best candidate. It is up to you to do well in every aspect of the process.

4 keys to a successful mock interview

One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.

mock interview2

I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course of my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.

You don’t have to be a career advisor in order to conduct a mock interview. You can be a friend or relative. But to successfully conduct a mock interview, you must cover the following four components.

Keep the interview itself short

The length of the mock interview should be no longer than 45 minutes; you’ll want to give yourself time to play back the recorded interview. The playback gives the client and you the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses of her performance.

The goal of a mock interview is not to make it the length of a real interview. Where the real interview might be a marathon, the mock interview is akin to a sprint. It is intense and just long enough for the client to get the idea of how she performed. Additionally, the interview part itself can be exhausting if it is 90 minutes long.

The mock interview should be filmed and played back

If possible, you should should film the mock interview with a digital camera. The old saying the camera never lies is true. Not only is it important for your client to hear the content of her answers and the tone and inflection of her voice; she also needs to see her body language and other nuances.

Your client, and you, may forget the answers she gives. Filming the interview allows both of you to hear her answers again. You can comment on her answers intelligently and accurately. For example, “Your answer to this question asking why you left your most recent position is a bit too long,” you may comment. “And refrain from blaming your supervisor if possible.”

Seeing her body language can be even more important to your client than hearing her answers, particularly if her body language is extremely poor. One of my clients came across so stiff that he didn’t move his hands the whole time. His eye contact was extremely poor, as well. He recognized this because of seeing the recording and vowed to correct his body language and eye contact.

Usually I don’t have the time to get through the entire playback, but this is fine. I ask participants to bring a thumb drive with them so they can review their mock interview at a later date.

Clients must take the mock interview seriously

Be sure to make this clear before a few days of the mock interview. Tell your client that it will be treated as a legitimate interview. Setting this expectation will ensure that the atmosphere will be professional.

This begins with something as simple as dressing the part. I can tell when a client is serious about his mock interview by the way he dresses. If he comes dressed to the nines, this is a good sign. On the other hand, if he comes dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts, this is a turnoff.

The participant must also have done his research. For example, if you ask, “What can you tell me about this company, and why do you want to work here?” it is unacceptable for him to tell you he will know the answers in the “real interview.” No, he must see the mock interview as a “real interview.”

Your client must be an active participant. I will ask for my client’s input during the playback of the mock interview. This is his opportunity to comment on the content of his answers, as well as his body language. As the interviewer, you don’t want to give all the feedback. It’s important that the participant does some self-critique.

You must also take the mock interview seriously

This means being prepared. If I show up for a mock interview unprepared, it doesn’t go as well; and I sense that my client knows this. I might ask canned questions.

Before conducting a mock interview, ask your client to provide two documents, her résumé and a recent job description. From these you’ll write the questions for the interview. You don’t necessary have to stay on script; you might fall into a more conversational mode if the spirit drives you.

The questions must be challenging, without embarrassing your client. It’s also important to come across as friendly in order to put her at ease. On the other hand, if you know your client will encounter stress interviews, make the mock interview stressful. Generally speaking, the mock interview must build confidence, not demean your client.

At times you might experience resistance from your client. Hold your ground. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say; and you might want to preface this at the beginning of the critique. Keep in mind that she will know more about her occupation, but you know more about the interview process. However, if you are unprepared, your authority goes out the window.


Mock interviews can be the most valuable job-search tool for a candidate. I encourage my clients to participate in them as much as possible. Many express discomfort at the idea of being asked questions, let alone being filmed. When you have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with a client, don’t hesitate. You’ll be doing your client a great favor.

7 posts that can help you interview better

Interviewing for a job is not easy, especially if you take them too lightly. But if you put all the pieces in place, you’ll be successful. In this compilation there are seven posts that provide advice to follow before interviewing for positions.

Group Interview 2

Part 1: be mentally prepared

Sometimes the most difficult part of the interview process is being mentally prepared. Often easier said than done, this post offers some suggestions on how to achieve this.

Part 2: know thyself 

It’s  important that you know yourself before you prepare for interviews. This posts suggest ways to do this. One key to knowing yourself is doing a SWOT analysis. This exercise is well worth doing.

Part 3: research, research, research

Many people fail to research a position, the company, and other important components. This post talks about what to research and how to go about doing it.

Part 4: practice, practice, practice

Would you play a sport, participate in an orchestra, or take a test without practicing? It only makes sense to practice answering questions before the big show.

Part 5: making a good first impression

Oh yes the first impression you make matters. Some interviewers will base their hiring decision on your first impression. Eye contact and a firm handshake are only part of the first impression you make in the interview.

Part 6: answer the difficult questions

Which questions will be asked and how do you successfully answer them. This post talks about the proper way to answer the types of questions you’ll be asked.

Part 7: following up

After all the hard work you’ve done, now you have to seal the deal. Come across as professional and grateful for the opportunity to be interviewed for positions. But there’s more to it.

 

Who’s on your team during the job search?

Recently in a Résumé Writing workshop, I asked an attendee to tell the story behind a verbose accomplishment statement she had on her résumé. (Yes, I ask interview questions in Résumé Writing.) Immediately she used the personal pronoun “we.” I called her on this, and she said she’s still in the mindset of team. I get that.

teamwork

But in the job search, who’s on your team? You could say your buddy group, career advisors, friends, spouse, etc. But when it really comes down to it, you’re the one who is dealing with the ups and downs of the job search; submitting your résumé; engaging on LinkedIn; going to networking events; sitting in the hot seat; and following up.

How to answer a question the incorrect way

I ask a workshop attendee, “Tell me about a time when your diligence paid off in completing a project on time.” An incorrect answer goes like this:

We were responsible for putting out the quarterly report that described the success of our training program. We worked diligently gathering the information, writing the report, and sending it to the Department of Labor. We met our deadline and were commended for our efforts.”

Here’s the problem: there’s nothing about the job seeker’s role in the situation. As the interviewer, I don’t want to hear about what the team accomplished, nor will employers. I want to hear about a candidate’s contribution to the overall effort.

How to answer a question the correct way

Here’s the question again:  “Tell me about a time when your diligence paid off in completing a project on time.”

This answer, using the STAR formula, is more satisfying, as it describes the candidate’s specific contribution.

Read this article, Use 6 important components when telling your interview stories.

Situation

As part of a five-member team, we were charged with writing a report necessary to continue funding for an outside program.

Task

I was given the task of gathering information pertaining to participant placement in jobs and then writing a synopsis of their training and jobs they secured.

Actions

I started with noting how I recruited 20 participants for the training program, a number I’m happy to say exceeded previous expectations of 10 participants. This required outreach to junior colleges, vocational schools, and career centers, where people desiring training were engaged.

Step two involved writing detailed descriptions of their computer training, which included Lean Six Sigma and Project Management. Then explaining how this training would help them secure employment in their targeted careers. I collaborated with the trainers to get accurate descriptions of the two training programs.

Next, I interviewed each participant to determine their learning level and satisfaction with the program. All but one was extremely satisfied. The person who was not satisfied felt the training was too difficult but wanted to repeat the training. She noted she was very happy with the expertise of our trainer.

As well, I tracked each participant over a period of four months to determine their job placement. Jobs were hard to come by, so at times I approached hiring managers at various manufacturing companies in the area in order to speed up the process. I engaged in finding jobs for four of the twelve people, even though it wasn’t my responsibility.

Finally I took the lead on writing a five-page report on what the members of the team and I had accomplished in the course of  three months. Other members of the team were of great help in making sure all the “is” were dotted and “ts” were crossed and that the report was delivered on time to Boston.

Result

The result was that we delivered the report with time to spare and were able to keep funding for the project for another year. I worked hard and was integral to proving to the DOL that the project was successful, but it took a lot of collaboration to bring project all together.

Note: when appropriate, job candidates need to mention the contributions of those who helped in the process. It is not only about the candidate.


Certainly there are times when employees require the assistance of others, but they always have a specific role in the situation.  Prospective employers want to hear about the candidates’ role in the situation, not the teams’ overall role. It is best to answer the question using the STAR formula, which demonstrates the situation, task (your), action, and result.

Photo: Flickr, Mehul Pithadiya

 

3 ways to show employers what you CAN do in the future

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Employers don’t care about what you’ve done; they care about what you will do.” If you haven’t heard this, rest assured it’s the truth.

futuredoors

By conducting multiple interviews—including phone, one-on-one, group, Skype, you name it—employers are trying to determine how you can save them money, improve quality, increase revenue, improve productivity, and help the company in other ways.

Employers believe that if you’ve achieved multiple accomplishments relative to the position, you will repeat similar accomplishments. On the other hand, if your accomplishments are not relevant, you’re applying for the wrong position.

But it’s not only about the relevant accomplishments you’ve achieved. There are other factors that come into play when convincing employers that you’ll be valuable in the future. So what will you have to do in order to convince employers of your value?

1. Have the proper mindset

The first step in convincing employers that you’ll perform for them in the future is having the proper mindset. People who lack this mindset are like former jocks who talk about his glory days in high school. They are stuck in the past.

More importantly, people who lack this mindset can’t envision what they can do for companies in the future. They can’t see the big picture.

I recently gave a group of job seekers the challenge to tell me what their legacy will be from now until 2027; in other words, what will they have accomplished after 10 years. I asked them to think big picture.

A member in the group said one thing he will do is increase revenue by developing relationships with value added resellers (VARs).

I naturally asked him how he knows this. He told the group that he did it twice in the recent past and there’s no question that he’ll do it in the future. He spoke with confidence, knowing what he accomplished in the past can be repeated in the future.

Another member said she will improve communications for nonprofit organizations. She’ll coordinate events, manage social media, create content for the website. How, some of the group members asked. She’s done it in the past and is confident she’ll do it in the future.

2. Write about your future greatness on your résumé and LinkedIn profile

The language you use in your Performance Profile of your résumé is written in present tense because this is the section that initially states what you will bring to the employer.

Writing, “Consistently increase productivity more than 70% by implementing Agile methodology,” tells employers you’ll do this at their company. Whereas, “Increased productivity more than 70% by implementing Agile methodology,” doesn’t allude to the future.

You must also prioritize your statements by listing your outstanding accomplishments closest to the top of the résumé. The more relevant accomplishments you have on the first page is an indication of the value you’ll bring to the employer.

Notice the word “relevant?” Accomplishments that are relevant and include quantified results are an indication of future greatness.

Your LinkedIn profile Summary should tell a story of the passion you have for your occupation, as well as your value add. Because the profile is more generic and broader in scope than your résumé, you will include more recent accomplishments in the Summary. This is the first section employers will read, so make it pack a punch.

Heres a hint: the first line or two of your LinkedIn profile Summary should be a value statement, as the Summary of the new profile is truncated. You need to make the reader of your Summary want to read the rest of it.

3. Talk about your future greatness in interviews

Many interviewers are focused on the past; therefore, they don’t ask questions that ask about future success. It is up to you to provide answers that illustrate what you will do in the future. You must demonstrate that you are capable of future greatness.

You’re given the popular question, “Why should we hire you?” You must set the tone by delivering an opening statement that talks to the future.

Right: “I am a sales manager who consistently exceeds sales projections. I know you’re looking for the same performance, and I will deliver the performance you require.

Wrong: “I’ve been in sales for 20 years. My most recent job was as a manager.” The beginning of your answer doesn’t convey the fact that you are a sales manager and that you will exceed sales projections.

Many interviewers believe the best type of question is the behavioral-based, which gives you the opportunity to explain your past experience and how it will be repeated in the future. This is the premise behind this type of question.

What’s important in answering this type of question is assuring that your past behavior will be repeated in the future. Begin with a statement similar to, “Most recently, I performed (the following skill)…..” Then ending your answer with, “I will achieve the same accomplishments for you.”

Answer questions using behavioral-based ones whenever possible. Proof is what interviewers want to hear. Take the following traditional question.

“How do you define leadership?” Your reply is to say, “This is an excellent question. Can I give you an example or two how I’ve recently demonstrated leadership?” End your answer with, “Leadership comes easy to me, and I look forward to leading your finance team going forward.”


Using the what-I’ll-do-for-you-in-the-future approach in the job search can be particularly helpful for older job seekers who may falsely be judged as being past their prime.

From the conversation our job club had it is obvious that older workers can and will repeat what they’ve accomplished in the past, and perhaps more. Another member who said she’ll create transparency in the sales reporting process using CRM was convincing because she’s done it successfully in the past. As well, she spoke with confidence.

Photo: Flickr, cthoma27

Nailing the interview process, part 7: following up

Some job seekers believe the interview is over once they’ve shaken the interviewer’s hand and left the room. “That went well,” they think. “Now, it’s time to wait for the decision.”

Thank You

Perhaps it did go well, but perhaps one or two other candidates also had stellar interviews. Perhaps those other candidates followed up on their interviews with thoughtful thank-you notes.

So when is the interview really over? Not until you’ve sent a follow-up note.

If you don’t believe sending a follow-up note is important, you should know that:

– 22 percent of employers are less likely to hire you if you don’t send a follow-up note;
– 86 percent of employers will take your lack of a note to mean you don’t follow through on things;
– and 56 percent of employers will assume you aren’t that serious about the job.

If you’re wondering how to go about following up, start by considering to whom you’ll send your note and how you’ll send it.

Who Gets a Thank-You Note?

If you’re interviewed by five people, how many unique follow-up notes should you send? “Five” is the correct answer here. Take the time to write a unique follow-up to everyone with whom you interview.

How Do You Send Your Note?

You can send your follow-up note via email or hard copy. This depends on your preference and the industry. For example, someone in tech may prefer an email, whereas someone in marketing may prefer a thank-you card.

According to the article linked above, 89 percent of interviewers say it’s acceptable to send a thank-you note via email. My suggestion is to send two notes: an email immediately following the interview and a professional card a week later.

What Goes in Your Note?

1. Show Your Gratitude

Start by thanking the interviewers for the time they took to meet with you. After all, they’re busy folks, and they probably don’t enjoy interviewing people.

2. Reiterate You’re the Right Person for the Job

Explain again how your skills, experience, and accomplishments are relevant to the role and make you a good fit.

3. Cite Some Interesting Points Made During the Interview

Each person with whom you spoke mentioned something of interest or asked a pertinent question. Impress them with your listening skills by revisiting those interesting points.

4. Do Some Damage Control

How many candidates wish they could elaborate more on an answer or fix some mistake they made? Now’s your chance. Sure, your belated corrective action may be of little consequence, but what do you have to lose? Besides, interviewers understand you were under a great deal of pressure at the time.

5. Suggest a Solution to a Problem

During the course of the interview, you likely learned about a problem the company is facing. If you have a possible solution to this problem, mention it in your follow-up note or in a more extensive proposal sent along with the note. One of my clients is convinced she landed a previous job because she sent a four-page proposal on how to solve a problem the company had mentioned during the course of the interview.

6. Assert You Want the Job

You told the interviewer(s) you want the job. Reiterate this sentiment by stating it in you follow-up note. This can be as simple as asking about next steps, which shows your enthusiasm for and sincere interest in the position.


You’ve made it this far in the process. You’ve:

  1. mentally prepared yourself;
  2. come to know yourself;
  3. done your research;
  4. practiced;
  5. made a good first impression;
  6. and answered the difficult questions.

It would be a shame to blow it now by not following up.

Photo: Flickr, Christie Spad