Have you ever talked to someone and the conversation was so important that you replayed it in your mind over and over again for hours then had a head-smack moment and think, “I shouldn’t have said that”? Can you say job interview.
In post-interview debriefings I find is the time that I do the most damage control with my clients – with themselves. There always seems to be that one little thing, that lingering doubt about how it might have been received and what they can do to fix it.
As if interviewing isn’t nerve wracking enough, to have a lingering about something you said can eat you alive. Then let’s add the additional stress of the wait – waiting to hear back, waiting to hear if you receive the next interview, job or even a “thanks but no thanks”. Job searching is just loaded with fun, fun, fun…
Let’s take a look at the interview prep before we look at the interview dissection and maybe this will help alleviate some of this stress.
Be prepared. I just cannot say it enough. Do your homework focused on two separate and important factors: the company and you.
Research everything you can about the company, the job even the people you will be meeting with if given their names. Yes, this can be work but let’s not forget – you want the job right? So, do the work.
Check out the company website, Google it, read articles in which the company has been mentioned, check affiliated industry publications to know what is going on in their world.
Practice interviewing. Know what you want to say – not word by word but a general understanding. If you try to memorize and answer chances are in the interview you are going to get nervous and if you miss one word of the memorized speech it will throw the whole thing off. Or you will come across as stiff and practiced, not actually participating in the live interview.
Think of the worse possible questions they could ask you and be prepared to answer them. Things like, “Tell me about yourself”, “Why are you looking”, “Why is there this large gap”, “Why did you take that last position”, “What are your weaknesses”, “Where do you see yourself in five years”, “Why do you want to work for this company” and so on.
Be prepared to demonstrate. When discussing responsibilities of the job you need to be prepared to demonstrate how you have handled such responsibilities successfully in the past. This means coming up with examples which include the situation, how you were involved, what actions you took and the successful resolution.
Have more than one example for these types of situations. You do not know which direction the conversation might go so you want to make sure to have applicable examples ready to go.
Stand in your bathroom and practice answering interview questions while watching yourself in the mirror. How is your body language? Are you a hand talker – I am. Here’s a tip, press your thumbnail into the tip of your middle finger. This will make you aware of your hands so you can keep them under control and less likely to have them flailing about.
Lastly, realize you will probably say something “wrong” or make a mistake. You are human – expect it and don’t freak out. It happens to everyone and all the time. The more you stress at that time the more uncomfortable you will make the interviewer.
Two different situations here: 1. Going off on a tangent and 2. by reading the body language of the interviewer realizing you are not answering the question they asked.
If you find yourself rambling on about something that is not even relevant to the interview immediately stop, smile and in a light-hearted manner simply tell the interviewer, “I’m sorry, I am not sure how I got off topic but let me get back” and immediately get back to point. Then let it go.
If, when answering a question, the interviewer has a pained or confused look on their face stop and ask the interviewer, “Am I addressing the point you had in mind?” Give yourself the opportunity to find out exactly what they are asking you. Then let it go.
To help prevent the second scenario ask clarifying questions before you give your answer. If they ask you a question which could be interpreted in more than one way simply ask them which direction they would like you to go. Tell them that you can see that their question could mean this or that and ask them which one would they like you to address. This shows not only are you listening, but you are a thinker and prepared. Bonus points.
Let it go.
That’s my best advice, let it go. Unless it is brought up by the interviewer again, do not bring it up. Many people want to use thank you letters to address potential land mines. NO.
First of all, you really do not know if what you said was wrong so if you point out to the interviewer after the fact that there might have been a problem then you are creating doubt where none existed before. Don’t do it.
Secondly the thank you letter is a way to keep yourself front in their mind and the impression you want to leave them with is positive, not an apology or a eulogy for a possible error. In the thank you letter you should reiterate positives from the interview, express your interest and the desire to speak with them soon.
We have all said things that we wish we didn’t but it happens and the world does not stop just because we misspoke. The key is not the mistake, but how you handle it. If you assign your potential small error little importance then odds are so will the interviewer.
Be prepared, be confident, be ready to interview them, breathe and go in with a smile. You are going to be just fine!
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.