Interviewing for a job can be one of life’s most stressful experiences, even though you’re a great candidate. Your education is from a top university. You have an engaging personality. You check all the right boxes, but the others you are competing with may also be the “best of the best.” Don’t let an interview “faux pas” give your potential new employer a reason to hire someone else.
A little preparation goes a long way. Assess yourself ahead of time. Are you able to make good eye contact? How do you answer tough questions under pressure? Does nervous laughter pepper your conversation? To be blunt, do you develop verbal diarrhea or constipation of thought when you’re anxious? Even though you want to call attention to your best qualities, exercise caution in oversharing, and maybe, overwhelming your interviewer, as a result. Offering unnecessary or too much detailed information is not only going down a slippery slope…it’s possibly, going right over a cliff. That story about the day you almost quit because your current boss was such an dumb a**hole, and you had just “had enough?” When asked how you handled that difficult situation, you explained that you and your co-workers went out after work and really put the ‘happy” in happy hour. Beware of this type of interviewer, “the wolf in sheep’s clothing,” who laughs right along with you, like a good buddy. This is a trap, when they’re so kind and attentive, that they seem fascinated with your every word. You feel so “at ease,” that you let it all hang out, way too much of it. It’s as if you left your filter at the door.
Rehearse! Anticipate the most personal, intimidating, or “hot potato” subjects that might be asked. Prepare interesting, yet neutral, replies. For example, I moved to Canada, and it was my first job interview there. They asked, “Why have you moved here?” My reply was short and to the point. “My fiance is Canadian, and we decided it would be best if we lived here.” Like it was for me, the onus is on you to weigh how much is too much information, and on your interviewer to remember that you are not an aspiring contestant for a reality TV show. More questions. More personal. “When are you getting married? Up here or in the States? Have you picked the place yet? Your dress?” Then, a detour down the honeymoon path. ”Are you planning to take a honeymoon? Where do you think you’ll be going? For how long?” Instead of directly asking how the timing of my plans would intersect with this new job, it devolved into a “coffee klatsch.” My plan, thought out ahead of time, was to remain focused. I could play dumb or lie about the future (“I have no idea”), ask about the anticipated starting date, or be honest. “We haven’t considered a honeymoon yet, considering all the other changes that are happening to us. Be certain, if we do decide on one, that scheduling will, of course, depend on my earned vacation time and when it’s best for the organization.” Did they really need to know how seriously an African safari was being considered for our honeymoon? One month, complete with hippos, lions, and wildebeests? Filter firmly in place, I was able to turn those personal questions into a positive answer that reflected on my sincerity and flexibility. Pre-interview anticipation and preparation at work!
To “ace” your interview, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this something this possible employer needs to know or would “be nice” for them to know?
- Should my answer be vaguely personable or personal or both?
- Is this a reasonable or over-the-top question for an interview?
- Is my answer reasonable or over-the-top?
- Can I reply in one or two succinct sentences, without telling the “story of my life?”
- Does this answer disparage me, my current or former employer and/or co-workers?
- Is my answer too “pat”? Preemptively, expect questions like, “What is your worst quality?” If possible, avoid saying, “I’m a perfectionist.” The world is filled with perfectionistic job seekers.
What if you have an invisible disability (like depression, fibromyalgia, diabetes) that might affect your work? Although discrimination is against the law under the Americans With Disabilities Act, hiring managers are human. With humanity, comes judgmental thinking, and discrimination may follow. This may be unintentional or happen on an unconscious level, or even deliberately, and of course, it’s not fair. If the objective of this interview is to “eliminate you from the running,” it’s not unreasonable to fear that you might not be hired if you were to disclose this information. If the interview goes well, it’s prudent to wait until you have a firm, written job offer in hand. It has already been determined that you are the chosen one, and that’s capital that can be used in your favor. If your disability requires accommodation under the law, that time after you receive the offer is an excellent window of opportunity to make your needs known. The same would apply for disclosing complicated life circumstances (like single parenthood or eldercare responsibilities).
It would be ideal, if applying for, interviewing for, and getting hired for a job only once happened in a lifetime, but of course, it doesn’t work like that. Job, and even career changes, may occur many times. This knowledge of what to disclose and when to disclose it, may help you land the job of your dreams, whether it is your first or your last.