Do Job Interviews Get You Frazzled? Exhale!

It pains me when I see job seekers get stressed out at interview time. One way to ease the anxiety is to understand the pressures on the interviewer. This post that I wrote in 2010 does just that.  

Amazing, how a job interview can make our blood run cold.

Our ego, sense of self, and value get all tied up in being picked. Our brains gear up wildly to compete, to be the winner!

I spent a lot of years as a functional hiring manager for a Fortune 500 energy company. The people I hired either worked for me or for departmental colleagues. As a consultant, I still help clients screen resumes and interview.

Over the years, I’ve hired over 100 candidates myself or as part of selection teams. I thought you should know that, so you’ll believe this:

More often than not, the person interviewing you is in a major squeeze and feelin’ it! 

Yes, the interviewer, not just you, is feeling the pressure. S/he has a position to fill and chances are it’s been open for longer than anyone would like. That means work isn’t getting done, other staff are picking up the slack, and the manager is feeling the pinch. Someone is undoubtedly squawking. This reality works in your favor, so relax.

4 Things to Remember When You Sit Down for the Interview 

Curb your nerves by focusing on the needs of the interviewer and not yourself. Here’s why and how:

1. The interviewer is desperately hoping that you are the right person for the job.

That means the interviewer is rooting for you. They want you to do well. They are hoping beyond hope that you will mean the end of their search. They really want you to be the candidate they’ve been looking for, so you will make them a winner.

2. Your interviewer wants you to relax, so s/he can relax. 

Interviewing isn’t easy. It means asking the right questions, gathering the right information, assessing you correctly, and representing the company positively so you’ll want to work there if chosen. If you’re a visible wreck, you will be a distraction and will take the fun out of the process for the interviewer and yourself.

3. The interviewer will be grateful for anything you do to make the process go smoothly.

If you approach the interview generously and focus on meeting the needs of the interviewer for crisp and clear answers, you’ll showcase your skills as a communicator and team player. This means being prepared and asking the interviewer if s/he has gotten the needed information.

4. The interviewer wants the conversation with you to be enjoyable. 

Interviewing is tedious unless the candidate takes the monotony out of it. A candidate with an appropriate sense of humor, a relaxed but alert demeanor, and the ability to use the questions as a way to engage in dialogue about the job is a godsend. That will be you!

You can’t be more than you are. 

You can’t hire yourself for the job. But you can showcase your business fitness by explaining what you know, the skills you have, and the experiences you’ve banked. Trying to oversell yourself or to compete with candidates you don’t even know is the death knell.

When you get hired for a job, you’re committing to a relationship with the hiring manager and the company. It’s the job of the interviewer to decide whether or not you and the company are a good fit.

So be patient and be yourself.

Candidate selection isn’t just about the interview. 

A lot goes into final hiring decisions and it’s not always about you and your interview. That’s another reason to leave your nerves at home.

Photo from Michelle Ranson via Flickr

3 Questions Interviewees Must Ask or Risk Doom—After Getting the Job!

Job interviews are the beginning. It’s the moment when we begin our relationship with a future boss. 

We tend to look at the hiring process like a game show. We’re picked as contestants, and if we answer the questions correctly, we win the prize. 

The game show winner takes his/her winnings and goes home. When you get the job, however, you’re expected to report to work every day, take direction, complete assignments, and work well with others. Then you get your weekly prize—your paycheck. 

The problem 

We often forget, however, that getting the job means accepting all that goes with it: 

By the time the interview is over, the company knows way more about you as a prospective employee, than you know about the company, particularly your prospective boss. 

Your manager is the most important variable in any new job. The wrong boss can seriously wound your spirit, opportunity, and future. 

S/he sets you up to succeed or fail, based on the leadership style used and the work culture perpetuated. You need to get a line on the hiring manager, so you know whether you should say “yes” to the job, if offered. 

The big 3 

In an interview, there should be time at the end when the interviewer asks, “Now do you have any questions for me.” That’s your moment.  

When it’s your turn to ask your questions in the interview, commit to getting the information you need about the environment you’d be entering. 

Asking these 3 questions, your way, will demonstrate your interest in understanding the manager’s expectations. At the same time they’ll reveal what you may actually be getting into: 

  1. When this position is filled, what will be the immediate expectations of employees, coworkers, other departments, and/or the senior leadership?  

The manager’s answer will give you insights into the political climate, the pressures on him/her, whether or not s/he’ll have your back, and the likelihood that you can succeed  

  1. How would you describe the current culture/work style of your work group/the company? 

If the description is uncertain, vague, or hopefully clear, you’ll know if your future boss gets it about his/her employees and their importance to success. That’s the fold you’d be joining.

  1. What will be the biggest challenge for the new hire? 

Now you’ll know what you’d need to deliver right away. If the answer is measurable/observable, you’ll be on solid ground. If it’s general, abstract, and conceptual, that’s a red flag.  

Together these questions reveal the leadership qualities of your prospective boss:

  • Command and control or collaborative style
  • Strategic or reactionary
  • Micro-managing or delegating
  • Politically savvy or naïve
  • Clear or vague communicator
  • Self- or employee-centered 

Together his/her answers reveal the work environment in front of you. 

Protect yourself 

Getting a job is a big deal: Getting the wrong job even bigger. To build a strong resume, we need to demonstrate that our job decisions have worked out. 

You don’t want to get fired for poor performance or asked to resign. You want a work experience that is satisfying, helps you grow, and builds a positive track record. 

That’s why you need to look out for yourself, conducting your own due diligence about who you’ll be working for. Bosses are people with every kind of personality, leadership/management approach, and expectations. 

It’s up to us to be just as careful about whom we pick to work for as the hiring manager is in offering us their coveted job. 

Please don’t be careless about your career. The right questions may save you a lot of future heartache. 

 Photo from Marco Bellucci via Flickr