Here's why it's not your fault you're terrible at job interviews
As an opening statement, I truly believe that most interview advice out there is totally unfit for purpose. Most awful of all is the advice you may have received at school. My own ‘careers advice’ at school many years ago was so pointless that I would have been better skipping ‘careers’ lessons and spending that time studying job adverts instead.
Over the course of my career, I’ve conducted thousands of interviews, both as a recruiter and a hiring manager. The majority of candidates had so little idea how to prepare for interviews that I ended up coaching them on what to do. Was this because I wanted to help them? Yes and no. At the start I just wanted to stop wasting my own time interviewing people who didn’t understand what an interview was about. Later I realised that my experience of interviews and ability to coach people was really helping them to perform better. I carried on doing this when I was a hiring manager, giving guidance on what I was looking for before the interview. As a result, these interviews were much more productive. I got what I wanted from people without asking stupid questions such as, ‘where do you see yourself in five years’, ugh, and the people I ended up hiring were very capable and went on to be valuable team members.
The sad reality is that most interviews skirt around the real issues, are full of pointless questions and often end up with the wrong person being hired. That has a knock-on effect on the business and the people in the business. Not good. Do an internet search to find out how much a bad hire can cost a business. In the most extreme cases it can ruin a company. There is always a financial cost to a bad hire and interviews are a major factor in bad hiring decisions.
So, onto the point of this article. It really isn’t your fault that you’re terrible at interviews. Most of the advice you’ve received is worthless. I knew no better when I first went out into the job market. I made some terrible decisions and joined companies I never should have joined. I hated those jobs. Hated them. When I look back now I can see that everything happened for a reason, and my suffering (yes really) has given me a unique perspective that I’m using to help you avoid making the mistakes I did. If I’d known then what I know now, and how easy it is to properly prepare for interviews, I could have saved myself a lot of hassle. Onto the advice.
"Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life"
An interview is a two-way process
Here’s a headline for you. An interview is a two-way process and you have the right to say, ‘no thanks’. Get that into your head. You can say NO. You need to change the way you think about interviews. I used to think that the power was all with the interviewer, which was totally the wrong way to think about it. You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Once you make this mental shift you’ll look at interviews differently forever. I bet no-one ever told you that though, right? There’s a lot of fear about going into an interview situation, because society dictates that interviews are big scary things where you’re put under the microscope and made to squirm. If you change your perspective then you can take back the power in the interview situation. The first thing is to stop giving the interviewer power over you, remember you can say no at any point. You’re bad at interviews because you think all the power sits with the interviewer. It doesn’t.
Don't be cocky
You’ve probably been told to be confident in an interview. That doesn’t mean you should walk in, throw your CV onto the table and loudly exclaim, ‘Hire me or lose me, your choice!’ That would of course see you thrown into the street, well maybe not literally, but you would fluff the interview before it had even started. What we need here is quiet confidence rather than arrogance. Through preparation and the right mental framing, you can be assured that you’ll walk into the interview with the right air of confidence and the knowledge to back it up.
You’ll not struggle for answers because they’ll be there ready to use following your research and planning. Do you think that an actor sees a script, reads it once and then goes out and wins an Oscar? No, of course they don’t. They’ve done numerous read throughs, rehearsals, practices, they’ve delivered the lines a hundred different ways and then practiced their best version a hundred times more. An interview is in some ways like a performance, you prepare, you rehearse and then you perform. One of the myths about interviews is that your CV and your experience can be enough on their own to get you 80% of the way there. This may have been true years ago, but not now. You can be assured that other people out there are doing their homework, preparing, rehearsing and so must you. All the advice you’ll receive from CareerPropeller.com is to give you quiet confidence, not over confidence. You’re bad at interviews because you haven’t realised that confidence comes from preparation, not ego.
Free Resources To Help You Prepare For An Interview
The interview starts before you enter the building or join the call
If your interview is face to face then you may not have realised that the interview starts well before you enter the building. If your interview is on the phone or online, it starts before you join the call. Why am I saying this? Because it’s true! You never know who you’re sitting next to on the train, driving behind or standing in front of in the queue at the local coffee shop. You must be on your guard from the moment you leave your house to travel to the interview. For online interviews, as soon as you click the join button you’re in the interview. Even if it looks like your PC is taking its time to connect, the audio might already have connected and anything you say can be heard.
Additionally, it’s not an excuse that you don’t know how to use Teams or Zoom. Learn the software beforehand! There are thousands of YouTube videos showing you how. Make sure you’ve tested the platform the interviewer will be using and download any bits of software needed before the interview. Don’t be caught out trying to download software and join a call when the interview has started. We cover these aspects in depth in our interview course on CareerPropeller.com. We leave no stone unturned because we’ve heard the horror stories over many years working with candidates. You’re bad at interviews because no-one ever told you that the interview starts before you enter the building or join the call.
You don't ask for the job
A great recruiter I once worked with told me, ‘an interview is a sale’, and it has always stuck with me. He was 100% correct. An interview is a sale. You are a product and the employer wants to buy a product. They are going to assess lots of products until they find the one that fits. Another great recruiter I worked with told me, ‘this is the only business where the product can say that it doesn’t want to be sold.’ That’s 100% correct too. So an interview is a sale and at the end of the process you have the right to walk away even after the employer has said they want to buy. How powerful is that?
Recognising that an interview is a sales process is critical because again it helps you to shift your thinking away from it being a one-way deal. That said, of course you still have some selling to do. In the most basic terms salespeople understand client needs and then match the features and benefits of their product to meet those needs. What does that mean for you? It means that preparation again is the key to interview success. The employer, or client, has given you a full list of requirements in the form of a job advert or job description. They’ve given you everything you need to be able to walk in and convince them that you’re the person for the job. Yet so many candidates miss this point! You first have to know the difference between a job advert and a job description to be able to prepare properly. We cover these in our course on CareerPropeller.com and provide preparation worksheets which will put you above the competition. We lay out exactly how to use the information the employer has provided and what to do with it to prepare.
What happens at the end of a sales process? The salesperson asks for the business. This means that you must ask for the job. So few people do this it’s unbelievable. If we apply this logic to a sale, it would mean that the salesperson would present their product and then leave the room without asking for the business. That would mean a very short sales career for that person. Interviews are the same. Asking for the job isn’t arrogant or cocky, it’s you demonstrating that you want the job and you’re communicating that to the employer. How do you ask for the job? We cover that in detail in our course, including how to phrase the question and justify why you’re the person for the role. The most important thing is to actually ask for the job, otherwise how does the interviewer know you are keen? You’re bad at interviews because no-one ever told you to ask for the job.
So what next?
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