This week, I sat in on and conducted interviews for the first time. One common trend: dead silences. I was shocked at the number of people who ran out of things to say, or the people who seemingly had no personalities, or the people who wanted the job so badly they embarrassed themselves. It’s okay to be excited about getting a job, and it’s okay to show that excitement in the interview.
I honestly think that people stress too much before interviews. I have friends who have studied for hours, done copious amounts of research, or bought a new suit. They put so much energy and focus into the company they want to work for and “saying the right things” that they forget about themselves. You are the one with the interview. The company genuinely wants to hire you, if for no other reason than being able to stop the hiring process (trust me, it’s a tedious and frustrating process).
The whole point of an interview is to successfully market yourself to an organization, from a business to a school or even a social club. Certainly, you want to make a point of what you can contribute and how hard you will work and how dedicated you are, but you also want to be a real person. I would never want to hire a machine; if I wanted one, I would buy another computer. Managers look for team players, people capable of getting along with each other without stirring the waters. 40 hours a week is a long time, so it’s best to be amicable and happy.
There was more than a handful of irrelevant questions – just because you “ask a question” doesn’t mean you’re getting the job. Certainly, you should always have questions prepared. Correction. You should always have relevant questions prepared. Asking about money, hours, or logistical issues should not count as your questions. Asking about your interviewer’s background is always a good start, or ask for suggestions on “what you can do to improve”. Be prepared to elaborate on your past experiences; that’s expected. Be capable of relating your resume to the position you are applying for, establish yourself as a real person and not just a piece of paper.
And please, please I beg of you, please, have a personality. Do not retreat into your shell. Do not sit in silence. Act like you want the job, even if you don’t. Smile. Make them laugh. Tell them something interesting about yourself. Have a conversation in a foreign language. Dress appropriately – you don’t have to wear black and grey in every office setting. Make it personal.