None of us needs to be reminded that a job interview isn’t the place to let your Halloween creativity emerge. Regardless of the time of year, there may be some hidden ways that you’re spooking the hiring manager during an interview.
You don’t have a filter
I often hear horrifying stories from people about the toxicity of their work places. I want to scream, “Get out! Get out now!” I work with them on processing the pain and trauma of where they’ve been, and that’s valid and important work. It just doesn’t fit in a job interview.
No matter how much bait the hiring manager throws you, dodge every invitation to go negative. It’s like trashing your ex on a first date. People can’t help but wonder what you’ll say about them in a few months’ time.
You’re too desperate
Searching for a job can feel vulnerable. You may think, “I’ll take anything!” and mean it with utter sincerity. Hey, it’s a completely reasonable approach when your bills are piling up and the bites you’re getting on your resume are far and few between.
To address that rising panic, look to revamping your resume and getting in front of job postings through networking so that you’re a clear pick when positions open up. If you’re generating multiple possibilities for yourself, each one doesn’t seem quite so critical. You’ll be blasé and relaxed going into an interview when you know you’ve got several other options in the pipeline.
If you are walking into an interview and it’s the first one you’ve had in a while (and the only one on the horizon), dial down the pressure with some reassuring words to yourself and a power pose a la Amy Cuddy.
Some great phrases that you might use in your own pep talk include:
I scored this opportunity, and I can do it again with other companies. This isn’t my only option. I fit into many positions and companies. I’m here to assess and communicate fit, not my own value or worthiness.
You’re focused on what’s in it for you
Of course, you want to know about the salary and benefits. Absolutely let those concerns be your top priority. Just don’t bring these questions up. Salary negotiation 101 says, “The person to name a number first loses.” Don’t be that person even if you’re itching to know it. Don’t ask about time off, working from home, flex scheduling. Your first order of business is to communicate how you can deliver. You’ll have the chance to hash out the details and the fine print later.
It can be all about you, but not yet. That part comes when you get the offer. So, be patient and hold off on those questions and concerns.
You take questions too literally
When you’re asked about working with multi-generational teams, there’s a subtext to that question. It’s not just about whether you play nice with everyone. It’s about whether you’ll make a power grab, undermine someone younger (or older) than you, ridicule someone who isn’t syncing with your tech skills. There’s a great deal of unspoken concern in every question that comes your way.
When you’re asked a question, consider, “What’s the undercurrent here and how can I address it with the same subtlety that it was asked?”
Your balance is off
Think about how much you’re talking vs. how much the hiring manager or interview team is talking. You should be saying more, but not by much. Look for a 60/40 or 70/30 split with you on the higher side.
Here’s where many people go astray:
They answer monosyllabically with a simple “yes” or “no” and no elaboration. “Of course” is not a complete answer. Give examples, offer anecdotes. Use the formulas that you’ve learned about interviewing (my personal favorite is CARB: C=Circumstance; A=Action you took; R=Result; B=Benefit to prospective employer). It’ll ground you in staying focused and adding enough detail (but not too much). When people get nervous, they often ramble and forget to check whether they still have the attention of their audience. Their points are lost. They spout answers, but they don’t collect any details about the job and the environment they’re moving toward. It often helps to end a response with a question for the hiring manager, “Have you had similar situations here?” “Does that example sound familiar to you?” “Does that approach differ from yours?”
Don’t add to the spooky Halloween vibe when you head into your interview. These five struggles may derail others, but they don’t need to stop you. With strategy and luck, you’ll be at that job site next year when it’s time for trick-or-treating.
Maggie Graham | Coach
Career coach Maggie Graham banishes Credential Gremlins in her forthcoming book Skip the Next Degree: Career Change without Debt and Despair. She points mid-career professionals in the direction of their next steps and defines a road map to take them there. Job seekers will find an ally when they seek support for landing their next positions.
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