She was the fifth and last candidate being interviewed for the position of ‘community organizer’, and after interviewing the previous 4 candidates, all of us on the panel looked forward to interviewing her. We actually scheduled her as our last candidate because we wanted to have a fair basis for comparison, given that she had been highly recommended for the role, by someone whom the team worked very closely with.
The recommendation from this colleague of ours for this candidate was stellar, to say the least, given that they had both worked together at a prior job. From her resume, she seemed like the “perfect fit” for the role and would have even passed for being “over-qualified.” She seemed to have done everything that was required for the position at her previous jobs, and even more. And before the panel met with her, we had held little talks on how she would be an added bonus to the team, if she joined us, due to her wealth of experience that was staring at us in the papers in front of us. I could say that for us, she was already the preferred candidate (given her high recommendations), and technically considered to have gotten the job, except that she still needed to go through the interview process.
The Secretary walked in to inform us that the job candidate’s interview could proceed in the next 5 minutes, and so when we heard the gentle tap on the door, it was with excitement and expectations, that we told her to “come in.”
From the moment she walked in, I quickly sensed that something was not right. First, her hands seemed shaky, and she walked into the room partly bending her head, unable to keep a direct gaze with the other people in the room. Then, after we (members of the panel) introduced ourselves, and our roles on the team, and asked her to talk briefly about herself, she could hardly vocalize in simple complete sentences. She looked like she couldn’t find the right words to say, or maybe she didn’t understand our questions. From the look on the faces of the other interviewers, I knew that she was nowhere near impressing them.
From where I sat, at the end of the table, I knew what was going on with her. I knew she was tensed, and probably anxious. I also knew that she was well qualified for the role, but then she was unable to present herself in the right light. The role of the community organizer would involve conducting focus group discussions, and organize outreach initiatives. So, it was paramount that whoever filled the role, possessed excellent communication skills. But with the way the “preferred” candidate was going, I knew that the odds of her getting a favorable outcome were slim, giving that she was unable to effectively communicate to us why she was the perfect candidate to fill the role. And I felt very bad for her.
I felt bad for her because I knew that she was anxious, and more so because the panel style interview had probably added another layer to her anxiety. Right where I sat all through that interview, I cringed in my heart and even felt myself screaming inside my head, wishing that she could have put on a better show. I was sad for her because unknowingly to her, she had been the preferred candidate, and could have easily gotten the job if she hadn’t allowed anxiety get in the way.
Long story short, she ended up not getting the job, as we had to offer it to someone else with less experience, but who had shown a willingness to learn, and of course had outstanding communication skills, which was paramount for the requirements for the job. There was no way I could convince the other panelists to give her the benefit of the doubt, and consider the recommendation of her referrer and offer her the job. And I totally agreed with the decision of the panel, given that communication was a big part of the job description.
You know why I felt so badly for this job candidate? It was because I used to be in her shoes. I used to dread interviews until I realized that I couldn’t get a job without being interviewed by the people who had the power to offer me the job. Days before a scheduled interview, I would be so nervous and anxious about meeting people I had never met before. I thought that put me in a very vulnerable spot, and so, even when I knew I was very qualified for a role, I would be unable to express myself before my interviewers. And that made me lose out on many positions, until, I figured out how to deal with job interview anxieties, and learned how to put up my best act, in order to secure any job. Let’s dive right in.
- I began to see my interviewers in a different light. One big impediment to my successful showing at interviews was the fact that I was always anxious about meeting people I knew nothing about, and who knew nothing about me. I was always bothered about how I will be perceived by them, and rather than focus on preparing for the “meat” of the task, I would spend valuable time fretting over what was to be or not to be. In curbing that, I began to imagine that I was familiar with my potential interviewers. I somehow told my mind that my interviews were no different from my close friends, or family members. And that approach, helped me relax a great deal, because while interviewing, instead of talking to a “stranger”, I found myself communicating as though I was with someone familiar to me.
- I made sure I practiced my facial expressions and body language in front of the mirror. You know sometimes, we may never know how our actions are being communicated across to others, and that includes our facial expressions and body language. Spending time in front of the mirror and watching my every move, helped me fine tune my body language including my arm/hand gesticulations, in the way I wanted my interviewers to get my message.
- I prepared well ahead of my interviews and spent the night before resting or doing something unrelated to the interview. We all know that we need to prepare very well for our interviews. You need to spend time researching everything you can lay your hands and eyes on about the Company, and your potential interviewers (if you already have their names communicated across to you). Go online, check out their LinkedIn profiles, websites, blogs, etc. Do all these things well in advance of the interview day, and make sure you spend the night before the interview, getting your desired amount of sleep, or doing something completely unrelated to the interview. Even if you find that you are unable to sleep, make sure you are resting, but by all means, try not to spend that night reading about your interviewers or the Company. You need for your mind to be clear and in top notch by the next day, so you can answer the questions without undue tension.
- I prepared for both traditional and untraditional style interviews. Meaning, I never wanted to be caught off guard. Traditionally, many interviewers would introduce themselves, tell you about the role, and then ask you if you had any questions for them. But some untraditional interviewers would flip it around, and begin by asking you if you had any questions for them, before delving into the interview proper. That used to throw me off balance until I learned to prepare for both styles. And in fact, the style of my interviewer was no longer a point of concern for me, as I just went with an opened mind to tackle them, irrespective of their styles or approaches.
- Finally, I made sure I always told myself that it was not a “do or die affair.” Sometimes, people become so nervous at interviews and are unable to put up their best acts, because they are concerned that all their life depended on their success or failures at those interviews. I had to change that mind-set and took every one of my interviews as a means to an end. If I wasn’t successful at one of them, I would quickly forget about it and say to yourself, “that wasn’t for me”, and spend the time preparing for my next pitch. In essence, I learned not to stress out on interviews, but rather developed an attitude of restfulness, hinging on to this saying that, “there is nothing without an end.” So, I knew that it may take some time, but I would eventually get that job. And of course, the rest is history.
In wrapping this up, do not allow anxiety get in the way of that awesome job, you sincerely desire. You need to put up your best act if you want to leave an indelible mark in the minds of your interviewers, that they simply get to the point where they know they cannot do without you. Follow my 5 easy steps above, and go get that job of your dreams!
To your continued success. Cheers!!!