I once went to a job interview only to discover that the person who was invited to interview me did not show up for work that day. There I was, dressed in my interview best and ready to go, but alas, no interview. All that pre-interview nervous energy for nothing, I thought.
But just as I was about to leave, the CEO of the organization passed by the reception desk. As I stand there feeling somewhat let down, I was suddenly stuck by a thunderbolt. Why not prevail upon the receptionist’s good nature, and sense of justice? After all, I’d been standing up by the person who was invited to interview me.
So I asked her to introduce me to the CEO, telling her how much I wanted to meet this person I’d hear so much about. (And that was true.) It worked! She kind of flagged him down and introduced us. We started chatting and before I knew it he invited me to join him for lunch, where he talked an informal interview (over a very nice seafood linguine).
Reader, I got the job. Not the job I originally came for, even, but a better one, one I really wanted!
Now, I do not recommend you indefinitely end-run your job interviewers and go straight to the top – that kind of action could easily backfire. However, I offer up this story as an example of how sometimes “selling yourself” requires an extra boldness; a willingness to throw caution to the wind. Remember though, you can not do that without being thoroughly prepared and having done your homework about the company, their mission and the work they do. Beyond relying on instinct, which is something we can all cultivate, first you need to consider the “check list” of requirements for a successful job interview.
Here are some of the key items you definitely need on your check list:
Be Presentable: Dress appropriately; be well-groomed; sit up straight.
Be Prepared: Do your research – you should understand both the requirements of the position for which you are applying, and the essential facts about the organization itself.
Be Ready: Consider in advance what the likely questions will be and practice answers to these and a range of possible questions.
Be Concise: Get to the point in your responses to questions, avoiding tangents and rambling.
Be Curious: Have your own thoughtful questions for the interviewer (s); demonstrate your enthusiasm and your preparation.
Be Considered: Listen to what your interviewer has to say. If needed, take a bit of time to frame your answer. Thoughtfulness is a good quality that shows you can think “on your feet.”
And remember the wildcard factor, the human element of “selling yourself,” the one that does not fit on any checklist. Yes, there’s still one more thing to strive for if you want to be successful; something that goes beyond the mere recitation of prepared material.
Think of it this way. A job interview is a kind of performance. And just like a performance, once you step onto the stage (or into the interview room or to the restaurant table, as the case may be) you are “on.” That’s the moment that your preparation is on autopilot, and you just go for it. You put your inhibitions aside and focus all your energy on engaging with whoever is interviewing you. You are both your most genuine self at this moment, (because a good interviewer will easily spot someone who is altogether insincere), and a heightened version of your best possible self.
Even if you tend to be shy or interview-phobic, remember that being nervous before a “performance” is perfectly natural. Great performers frequently say that before they set foot on that stage or pick up that microphone they’re a mass of nerves. But once they’re in the spotlight they focus, stay in the moment, and give it their all.
The fact is you can too. What have you got to lose? And who knows, you might even get a free lunch out of it.