Now that I got your attention with my title, let me explain. I do not intentionally work to stress out every candidate during an interview. However, what I do try to discern in an interview is how you handle stress. If you cannot handle me, how will you handle a difficult client or high-pressure situation? Hence the need for you to be as prepared as possible for the interview.
What does prepared look like?
Please PLEASE do your homework on the company that you are interviewing for. Interview 101. Why would I want to hire you if you don’t know anything about the company and say “I was hoping you could fill me in?” Aggh!
Review the website, the executive team, past and current company projects, anything to show that you are business-minded and did your due diligence to prepare and high interest in the role from your research. Even if you are a new grad, this will impress.
Have 6-10 written questions ready to ask (yes, it’s ok to have them in writing). Many questions will get answered in the course of the interview, this is why you need more than 1 – 3 questions.
Have good answers to the dreaded “What is your strength”? I add for strengths, “This is a two-part question, what are your technical strengths and interpersonal strengths”. Use this time to speak to what you are good at in computer skills, software, or other technical aspects for the role you are interviewing for. Then add your interpersonal strengths. Remember, you need to show me how you are better than the competition. Competition = everyone else being interviewed for the same role.
HUGE REMINDER – there are two things ANY hiring manager is thinking during the interview. One – how quickly will you be productive and or profitable for me? Two – I want this to be as of a short window as possible. Bring your interview questions back around to show how you are a drop in for the role over the others being considered. Reiterate how you will be more productive and profitable in short order through your answers.
For Weakness, this is something you realized about yourself for growth and have worked on. “I was not as strong in excel last year, so I took an online course and am now at an advanced level“. You showed how you recognized an area for growth and what you did about it so it is no longer an issue for your or the business. “I can be lazy and sleep on the couch all weekend” was an answer. True story!! As if I need to hire 10 of these type of people! A weakness should not be something that takes you out of the running. Don’t give me a “hook” = something I now will not forget. I have had people say they “Get bored easily”. Referring to my point above, I am now nervous to consider you, train you, work with you to be successful to only to see you leave when you “are bored”. We all know that every day at work can be a grind from time to time. I need to know if I invest in you via training and time, you will stick it out.
Know how to answer “why should I hire you?” It may or may not be asked, but at the end of the interview, this is a perfect time for you to close the deal if you are asked if you have any additional questions. Say, “yes, you should hire me because….” I recall a new Electrical Engineering grad. When I asked this, he said: “Well, I will learn a lot, I can’t wait for the training, it will be good for my career” and so on. What I heard was blah blah blah. Remember the statement, what can you do for me vs what I can do for you? This so applies during an interview. I said to this new grad, “ I don’t like your answer, please try again, but keep it to business and what you can do for us”. He thought for a moment (I am sure now a tad more stressed) and then said. “I have excellent software skills and top marks in XXX. I am a quick learner”. I chimed in saying “everyone says they are a quick learner”. (If you are, so how you learned faster than average). “I learned XX faster than my peers by 2 months in ABC software”. “ I was the leader in my university project, I had to deal with difficult agendas and personalities. I mitigated the hurdles through encouraging open communication and we got top marks”.
BINGO, this man got it! He even said, he will never forget this interview and was grateful for what he learned.
Take away – interviews ARE stressful. Give yourself every edge you can to present the best YOU. Go over interview questions on your own and work out your answers by memory. I like to ask “What are your proud achievements or moments where you felt you really delivered?”. If you have two or three answers to this question, it will probably work for similar questions – “Share a time when you were persuasive/influential?” “Share a time when you overcame a difficult situation?”
This is life, sometimes life is not fair. You owe it to you to give your best foot forward. Interviews are in real-time, there is rarely a second chance. Give it your very best. Good luck! You’ve got this.
Here is a podcast where I elaborate more on how to prep and master the interview.