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.

Before an informational interview

You might need to learn more about a career field to determine your degree path in college. Maybe you want an “in” with a particular company. Or perhaps you’re considering changing careers or seeking a promotion into a career zone that’s unfamiliar. Whatever your reasons, requesting an informational interview can feel pretty intimidating. Here are some tips to ease your nerves and help you prepare.


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  1. Ask the right person for the right reasons. Do you know how many people randomly ask professionals to meet with them for 30 minutes for an informational interview yet don’t give adequate thought to why they’re asking? Many—and this is why some mentors and seasoned professionals are a bit aloof when you ask for an informational interview.If you’re going to ask someone for 10 minutes of talk time, be sure you’re asking the right person first. Do you want advice about starting a consulting business? Ask an entrepreneur who’s started her own consulting business. Are you considering leaving teaching as a career? Ask someone for advice who’s already been there, done it, and is happy with the outcome (and ask someone who wishes he’d never left, too, because balance in perspective is crucial when making career decisions).
  2. After you’ve identified a great person to interview, nail down your purpose for the interview. Notice “purpose” is singular—don’t ask more than 3-5 questions unless you’re sending questions via email. And even then, respect your interviewee’s time by sticking to a clear, concise plan. Don’t forget to clearly communicate your purpose when requesting the interview. Most people don’t want to agree to spend 30 minutes with a pseudo-stranger unless there’s a stated purpose/plan or perceived benefit.
  3. As much as you need to be clear and concise, you also need to be flexible. If your interviewee offers you a tour of her company’s manufacturing facilities, by all means, say yes! Does that mean you’ll spend an hour and a half there instead of the 30 minutes you expected? Yes, and that’s fabulous! Leave your schedule open for at least a 2-hour block of time when you schedule an informational interview; however, try to watch the clock and wrap up your line of questioning in 30 minutes unless your interviewee is obviously enjoying herself and rambling. Let her go on and on if she likes. She’s the expert/mentor, so sit back, listen, and absorb her experience and knowledge.
  4. While we’re on the subject of time management, remember to arrive on time. There’s simply no way to make a worst first impression than to arrive terribly late. If you get lost or stuck in traffic, call ahead to let your interviewee know what’s happening. If you’ll be more than a few minutes late, ask if he would rather reschedule or continue with the interview. Be prepared for him to request to reschedule.
  5. Prepare your list of questions (3-5, ideally) and bring a hard copy with you. It’s very distracting to talk to someone while she’s clicking or scrolling on an electronic device. Put your phone down, leave the laptop at home, and break out a pen and paper for informational interviews. This allows you to make better eye contact and display your soft skills, including active listening and mindfulness.
  6. Be prepared to tell your interviewee a bit about yourself, too. Create an elevator pitch and practice in advance to avoid stumbling over your words when he asks you to tell him about your own career background and goals.
  7. If you plan to share information learned during the interview in an essay, an article, or a post on social media, get permission from your interviewee first. And good grief, NEVER record someone without his permission either.
  8. Dress appropriately yet comfortably. If you’re meeting on-site at a company or office, dress professionally (business casual). If you’re meeting for coffee or lunch on the weekend or in the evening, tone it down slightly. But remember, just as when dressing for job interviews, you’re not trying to show off your assets during an informational interview. This meeting is not about you. Don’t try to make it about you by selecting flashy or provocative clothing.Dress comfortably, not just appropriately, because sometimes we can’t predict how far we’ll walk from the parking lot to the building or whether we will climb three flights of stairs. An informational interview isn’t the time to wear new shoes or a tight, straight skirt.
  9. Follow up and express gratitude. This should always be your last step. Don’t walk away from an informational interview, shake hands, and forget to send an email or thank you card (I prefer thank you cards). Connect on social media, too. This makes it easy for you to regularly touch base with your new contact, mentor, and friend.

An informational interview can be a great strategy in your career development or job search process. But knowing when to ask, who to ask, how to ask, and how to pull it off can be tricky. Contact me if you might benefit from networking coaching or an interview prep session.