Scary interview moments

Let’s face it—interviews can be downright scary. Many of us, no matter how much work experience or charisma we possess, feel intimidated when we’re being analyzed and assessed by recruiters and hiring managers during interviews. Even basic communication with human resources professionals can feel daunting. We don’t want to use too many exclamation points, but if we don’t use ANY, will they understand our enthusiasm regarding the job opening? There’s a lot to consider and many steps to take prior to and during a job interview.

Hopefully these two videos and tips will help you walk through the interview process unscathed and come out on the other side with a job offer in hand.


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Scary interview moments (and how to overcome your fears):

Calling and emailing to inquire about interview details.

After you’ve landed the job interview, you might need to contact the employer to verify details. Of course, my first suggestion is to prevent this situation. You can do this by asking a few key questions when the interviewer contacts you. Take notes when the recruiter calls you to schedule the interview or save the email you receive containing pertinent information. During that initial call, or immediately after receiving the initial email, verify time, date, and location. If you’re unfamiliar with the job site or interview location, ask clarifying questions or request a physical address. Don’t forget to ask where to go within the building and where to sign in when you arrive, either.

If you forget to ask these questions, or if you think of other questions you might need to ask, don’t hesitate to call or email the employer prior to the interview. But use caution—no recruiter wants to respond to 10 emails from a candidate before she’s ever interviewed the candidate.

Backing out of an interview if you decide you’re not interested.

If you decide the job opening isn’t a good fit for you, or if you land another job after scheduling the interview, you need to respect the potential employer enough to politely decline the interview opportunity. I suggest doing this via a short email so there’s a lasting record of your communication; voicemails are too easily deleted and forgotten.

Even if you don’t believe you’ll ever be interested in working for the company in the future, be prompt and polite when declining interview opportunities. You might change your mind and apply for a different job opening in a few months. Or the recruiter you’re communicating with might leave that company, and you may find yourself facing her when you apply with Company B in a few months. Ending on good terms is key to successful professional networking.

Running late to a job interview.

Again, prevention works better in this case than damage control. Try to avoid arriving late by taking extra precautions against tardiness. Allow yourself about twice as much time as usual to shower, dress, eat, and drive to the interview location. Set at least two alarms so you won’t oversleep. Allow yourself at least 5-10 minutes of quiet reflection time before leaving for the interview. And plan to pull into the company parking lot about 10-15 minutes prior to your actual interview time.

If all these tips don’t work, and you run into unforeseen problems on the way (such as a horrible traffic jam), call or email the employer immediately. Don’t wait until five minutes before the interview starts to call to notify the employer you’re running late. Call as soon as you realize you simply don’t have enough time to arrive promptly. And by all means, don’t make up ridiculous stories about having to stop your car at the end of the driveway to help an elderly woman carry groceries into her house, which held you up for an hour… or anything equally as unbelievable. Employers aren’t stupid, and they’d rather you simply let them know you’re running five minutes late than listen to your false fish stories.

Understand that if you’re late to a job interview, your chances for landing the job drop significantly. You’re communicating to the employer that the interview appointment simply wasn’t important enough to you to ensure prompt arrival. Arriving late demonstrates lack of time management skills—and all employers want to hire candidates who demonstrate mastery of this soft skill. Whether you feel this way or not is irrelevant, so do your best to arrive a little early and avoid this scary predicament.


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Deciding what to wear to a job interview.

Selecting interview attire can feel overwhelming. You want to make a great first impression. Do it by selecting interview attire which is appropriate, comfortable, and professional. And yes, you can find a suit which meets all three criteria! If you’re uncomfortable and wear clothing which is too tight, too long, too short, or another TOO, you’ll be unable to focus on responding to interview questions. And if you under dress, you’ll quickly recognize your mistake and will feel embarrassed throughout the interview. You might think it’s okay to wear jeans because the dress policy at that company calls for casual attire. Don’t. If the employees wear jeans, you still need to wear interview-appropriate attire. Go for business casual if you’re interviewing with a casual organization. Wear a suit otherwise.

If you can’t afford a suit, pair up separates which create the impression of a suit. If you’re a male, by all means, wear a tie and shine your shoes. And if you’re a female, avoid super high heels, excessive perfume or makeup, and over-the-top accessories. It’s also important to remember that your appearance includes your facial expression and non-verbal communication. When you greet the employer, smile. Ensure your posture is open (don’t cross your arms or fidget with your purse). Leave your phone in the car or at least put it on silent mode.

Realizing you are poorly prepared for the interview.

When you don’t research the company/position, you’ll have a sinking feeling in your stomach when asked, “What do you know about our company?” or “Why are you interested in working here?” And you WILL be asked these questions—most employers ask common interview questions, even if they word them a little differently.

You can prevent this by spending plenty of time researching the company and the job role online. If you know current employees, reach out to them and ask their opinions of the work environment, company culture, supervisors, etc. Wouldn’t you rather learn that your potential boss carries a terrible, micromanaging reputation BEFORE the interview than AFTER you’ve accepted the position?

You’ll also need to practice responding to interview questions, especially those tricky questions about why you’re leaving your employer or why you were out of work for two years. Think carefully about your interview outfit, and map directions to the interview site (whether you prefer printed directions or simply enter the location into your smartphone).

Answering difficult interview questions.

We all get tired of responding to the same old commonly asked interview questions. But guess what? You’ll probably be asked those same questions, so you better prepare to respond well. The best way to prepare to respond to interview questions is to schedule a mock interview with a career coach. If you can’t afford to pay for professional interview coaching, at least print out common interview questions and ask a friend or family member to grill you a few times. Or if you’re more comfortable preparing on your own, sit in front of a mirror while responding to questions or record yourself responding to questions using your webcam.

Interview coaching not only helps you prepare the right words to say, but it also helps you avoid the wrong phrasing. A career coach can also provide objective feedback regarding your body language, level of anxiety, and more.

Overcoming general anxiety and introversion during the interview.

Let me assure you that you’re not the only one who feels anxious about interviews. I rarely work with a client who expresses total confidence before a job interview. Even if you aren’t introverted, you may feel anxious because you haven’t interviewed for jobs in years or because you genuinely want to land the job and don’t want to screw up during the interview.

There are many ways you can ease your anxiety and even overcome introversion. Prepare and practice. Research the company. Dress appropriately, comfortably, and professionally.  Follow every bit of advice in this article and on the videos, and you’ll find that you’re much less nervous. You can also ease your nerves by avoiding cigarettes and excessive caffeine before the interview, getting plenty of sleep in advance, and eating a well-balanced meal or snack with water.

Getting rid of anxiety can help you perform well throughout the interview process and end the interview knowing you have a great chance of being selected to fill the position.

The interview process can genuinely be scary. But there are so many ways you can prevent your fears from standing in between you and your dream job. Reach out to me to schedule an interview coaching session and to up your odds of interview success.

3 ways to avoid interview clichés

If you’ve interviewed for job openings more than a handful of times, you’re probably familiar with the body language an employer exhibits when he’s bored, tired of listening to you talk, or turned off by something you said.

Isn’t that a horrible feeling?

I was recently interviewed by writer Matt Krumrie for an article on ZipRecruiter.com about interview clichés. In addition to the helpful information in this article, I’m providing you with my top three ways to drive employers crazy during interviews—and ways to avoid driving them crazy, too, by avoiding interview clichés.

Which came first… canned interview questions or cliché interview responses? The chicken or the egg?

It doesn’t really matter, does it? If your end goal is to land a great job with a great company, you have to be smart and prepared. If the employer throws out 10 canned interview questions, and you’re adequately prepared for the interview, you’ll be able to respond candidly and concisely while avoiding interview clichés.

It’s important for you as a job seeker to understand that recruiters will likely ask a standard set of questions for a variety of reasons. Employers must ask candidates the same/similar questions to avoid exhibiting bias, and most employers also don’t have time to reinvent the wheel when preparing for interviews with candidates. Employers need to ascertain as quickly as possible whether candidates fit well within the open position and within the company’s culture. It’s your job as the candidate to provide unique, detailed information within the confines of standard interview questions. The only way to do this is by adequately preparing for interviews. Reality check: you will likely be asked standard interview questions. If you don’t prepare responses in advance, you’re choosing to perform poorly and weed yourself out of the screening/hiring process.

Here are three standard interview clichés and ways to avoid them.

  1. “What’s your greatest weakness?”

You’ll be asked this question in at least half of your interviews. Please don’t mention a strength and spin it as a weakness. This is a really old school tip, and employers see right through it. How many times have employers heard candidates say, “Well, I’m a perfectionist, and it causes me to spend too much time on projects?”

Even if this is true, employers will either call bull or roll their eyes at this response. Instead of taking this approach, mention a true weakness, but limit the weaknesses you mention to teachable skills. “I have to admit I wish I had more cross training experience in HTML. My lack of coding is very limited, and when I switch over to code occasionally, I am not as comfortable as I’d like to be. I’d like more training in this area so I can contribute in more ways to my team.” The reason this approach works is because most employers recognize that you’re mentioning a problem which can be easily remedied by professional development or training, and you’re expressing a desire to learn. Good employers don’t see these weaknesses as insurmountable problems but as opportunities for growth.

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Avoid responding by launching into a monologue about your life. Unless employers are hoping you’ll throw yourself under the bus so they can weed you out from a big pool of candidates, employers simply don’t want to know about every detail of your life, and they don’t have time to hear the story, either.

What do they care about? They care about what is relevant to the company, to the position, to your work background and future career goals. Briefly explain who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Keep it simple. Avoid sharing personal information which might give away information employers can’t legally ask you. If you’re not familiar with illegal interview questions, add this to your interview prep to-do list.

  1. “Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years”

Do not lie to your potential employer and respond with, “Why, working for you, of course.”

Employers understand that you’re a human being with hopes, dreams, and goals. They want to hear about your future career plans. However, use caution when sharing your plans during an interview; it’s probably not a good idea to mention that in two years, you hope to quit your job and move to Jamaica for the rest of your life.

Focus on what you hope to gain from your employment with their company, but more importantly, how you hope to contribute to the company’s goals or overall mission. Do you want to transition from a contributing writer to editor-in-chief within 10 years? Don’t be afraid to mention that. It’s ambitious, but a quality employer wants to hire candidates with drive and motivation.

It’s better to showcase yourself as caring deeply about your career than as someone who provides cliché answers due to lack of concern or preparation. With a little interview preparation, you’ll not only avoid clichés; you’ll also land your dream job.

Need help preparing for upcoming job interviews? Reach out to me for a free consultation, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more tips.