4) You Need To Learn How To Interview. Now, let’s say you’re one of those people whose resume must be right and you’re applying the right way, because you’re getting called in for interviews. So, you’re going on interviews. Perhaps you’re even making it through to the next round of interviews, when required. But after that, it’s crickets. Or rejection letters/emails. You don’t understand it.
Um, not too hard to understand–there’s something about the way you interview. It doesn’t even have to be that you come across negatively in any way. It could just be that someone is always coming across as more so the type of person with whom this employer would rather work. That’s fine, to a degree…but at some point, you need to be the one who comes across as the person an employer would most prefer to have.
I know a bunch of people who just don’t “get it” about interviews. Look, once you get called in for an interview, you’ve basically passed the qualifications assessment test–now it’s a personality test. Now, I know everyone nowadays has social anxiety disorder or is taking pills for something or the other. I’ve told you a thousand times on this blog that I can’t stand people. But it’s time to put on your tap-dancing shoes and give the performance of your life. If I can do it, you can do it. Act your ass off in that job interview. Be likeable. Be friendly. Be agreeable. Appear as if you’re easy to talk to and as if you can talk about a variety of topics that have nothing to do with work with absolutely anyone. Have that can-do attitude. Be outgoing. Even if this is not how you are, you need to be this way for 30 minutes or an hour.
In the earlier stages of my blog, I worked tech support for a small company. And I used to write about this female tech with whom I worked who had serious personality problems. I know that she had been applying for jobs and going on job interviews for years while working for this company because others there told me. She thought once she graduated from college that she was out of there, but it just hasn’t worked out like that. Still, she has seen others at this company come and go, several of them leaving for better, higher-paying jobs. I’m sure she wonders why other people are getting good jobs while she can’t, especially since she is very knowledgeable in IT.
Um. So, someone who is quiet, awkward, can’t look people in the eye when she’s speaking to them, speaks at an inappropriate voice volume (either way too low or spikes too loud while she’s talking), is overly emotional and has a habit of speaking in a rude way wants to know why she doesn’t get hired after job interviews? I can only imagine how her job interviews go. If she didn’t know how to perform around her co-workers, even to some degree, then I’m sure she’s not performing in job interviews…because the performance you give in a job interview is going to have to carry over to the job once you receive it, even if not full force.
I think advice articles steer people a little bit wrong when it comes to interviewing advice, and I think people make too big a deal about interviews. For example, I don’t really think you need to “study” a company before an interview and then whip out info about the company to show how interested you are. I don’t prep for interviews beyond what I’m curious to know. I certainly visit the company’s web site, I ask questions in the interview and I might even look up reviews from former/current employees. But I do it for me–not for the interview. And I think when you do it for you, it’s easier to come across as naturally interested as opposed to “interested because an article about job interviews told me to do these things.” If you’re busy thinking about what an article or web site said, then that’s where your focus is in the interview–not on showing the type of personality you need to be showing.
To me, interviews are just what I said–a performance, unless you’re the type of person who is naturally sociable and outgoing. A lot of us aren’t like that. If you need to do any prep, it’s to get yourself ready to be “on.” Interviews are about you seeing if the job is right for you, learning about what the job is and the expectations, performing (if you need to) in order to pass the personality test that is before you and talking about you–largely your resume and past work experience.
Lost in all the traditional advice given in interview pieces is not only that you need to show the right personality and hit the right chords with the employer in terms of who you are…but also that you’re being evaluated on your speech. It really does matter in a lot of cases, and I’ve had employers flatout tell me it matters that I speak well during the job interview. So be mindful of this, as well.
You have to understand that the need to perform does not equate to the need to be over the top and obvious about the fact that you’re not being exactly who you are. I just think there are examples all around us of people who appear to be confident, friendly, conversational and such that we can easily copy in a job interview, and that’s what we’ve got to do. If you’re not comfortable with this, I think the best way to get comfortable with it is through doing a bunch of interviews. I feel like most interviews, more or less, go the same way, and they are–as I said–largely about your resume, which is a part of the hiring process that you’ve essentially already passed anyways. It’s funny that people worry so much about what questions they’ll be asked, especially given that they’ve already passed the questions, for the most part. Now it’s about how you sound, act and look when you answer. Do interviews to get used to the questions, but, more importantly, to get used to performing and speaking a certain way while answering the questions. Do mock interviews or real interviews for jobs you don’t really care whether or not you get offered.
Now that I’m used to the performance aspect, when I am contacted for interviews I know that the job is as good as mine at that point. This is despite being a black female who is almost always interviewing with a white man or a white woman (and I would like to emphasize again here that you need to appear to have no problem talking to anyone about a variety of non-work topics, which might be the #1 reason why I can get white Southern men to hire me). The hardest part for me is just getting the callback. I almost never get rejected after a job interview–and, again, this is coming from a self-proclaimed people hater, a loner, someone who is socially challenged and quiet (someone who, if I were a white male, would fit the profile of a serial killer, if you will–I know this). If you learn how to interview correctly and focus on what’s really important in job interviews, neither will you.
What can I say? Acting was the first thing I ever seriously wanted to do with my life. Didn’t work out, but it’s serving me well anyhow. 😉
Next Time: Pt. 5–Employers and Their Values