We've all been there – sitting across a desk from a complete stranger who will likely have a pivotal role in the future of our career. Somehow these moments seem astoundingly surreal. After countless hours of study, internships and years of planning, your career journey has culminated in this one powerful conversation. Interviews can prove to be one of the most challenging of work life basics, where many of us would prefer an option to fast forward through the entire process.
Our problems with interviewing could be aptly described as complicated and deeply rooted. But, truth be told, many of our issues stem from how the entire process makes us feel; there is a lurking fear of being judged, a fear of the unknown and a fear of failure.
In many cases, there is the tendency for us to perceive that we have little control over the situation, when in fact we can contribute more to the equation than we realize consciously. This recognition can prove pivotal in mastering the process. Ultimately, we can prepare ourselves, by owning the elements that we can impact, including strategies to crystallize our career identity and bolster confidence. This requires us to take a look inward.
Here are a few ideas to help you align with this challenge:
- Be authentic. The goal of an interview is to assess whether there is a match between you and the role in question. Be mindful of how you present yourself in the interview, remembering that you have a voice concerning the potential match. Rule No. 1: Be true to yourself. What do you really need to excel? Think of key workplace elements and what you require, making a promise to seek these out. (For example, ideal supervisory style, whether or not you thrive on a team or the amount of travel you can live with). Try not to drastically alter your "workplace success blueprint" during an interview, or you may find yourself in a role that ultimately does not suit you.
- Hone your work life purpose. There is nothing more engaging than an impassioned viewpoint concerning work and career. Remember that in today's world of work, employers are not only interested in your education, experience and skill set – they are evaluating the level of energy and directed thought that you will bring to the role (and the industry) in question. Sharing a bit of your direction allows a potential employer to see how you might develop and what you will bring to the table.
- Adjust your body language. This may come as a surprise, but you can alter your interview experience through body language. Research completed by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, details how taking a physical "power pose" shortly before an interview can positively alter interviewer evaluations (see the Ted Talk). Power posing also appears to affect us physiologically, raising testosterone levels and lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Pay attention to your body before your next interview. Are you sitting in a pose that appears small or closed? Adopt a power pose that reflects an increased level of confidence – it can affect your presence during the interview.
- Master ambiguity. It's true – interviews often raise more questions than answers, and this can prove to be extremely difficult to handle. When will I hear back? Will I make it through to the next round of interviews? The inherent nature of the process often leaves us waiting for days or often weeks to hear our fate. How do we deal with the accompanying ambiguity? Try your best to accept it as part of the process. We may not leave an interview knowing exactly what the future holds, but at that point the opportunities still exist. Try your best to remain hopeful. Embrace the unknown as a doorway leading to a brighter future.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.