Why Job Interviews Aren’t as Scary as You Think
Chances are, you’ll go on many job interviews throughout your career. If you’re about to embark on your first real interview after graduation, or if you’ve been out of the game for a while, it pays to brush up on the basics.
There’s so much buildup when it comes to job interviews. It’s totally normal to feel nervous in advance.
However, a job interview isn’t just an audition. It’s a chance to learn more about the job while showcasing your skills and experience. Your goal is to find out whether the job is right for you, which means listening and learning as much as possible. If the job is a fit, you’ll need to bring your A-Game, which often just means being yourself.
In the end, job interviews don’t have to be terrifying experiences. Here’s why.
It’s not like TV.
If you’ve watched any workplace movies or TV shows, you probably have a very specific image of what a job interview looks like. Perhaps you envision a long conference table filled with scary older people dressed in their best business apparel, and they’re grilling you within an inch of your life. Not only is this unlikely to happen in real life for an entry-level position, but a job interview can take so many forms.
For example, an interview might take place in the manager’s office, an open space at the company, via video, or even a coffee shop. The interview might involve one person or several people at once, or you might spend the day talking to various people one-on-one. You may be the only candidate, or the hiring managers might be interviewing a group.
Typically, you’ll learn all these details in advance (and feel free to ask questions!). On the day of, you may be asked to wait in a waiting room before a receptionist ushers you into the interview space. However, even that experience isn’t necessarily guaranteed.
Many interviews are virtual.
These days, many interviews are over virtual platforms like Zoom. While virtual interviews have unique technical challenges, they eliminate the stress of commuting to the interview and making it on time. The job seeker has control over their own space, and in theory, you can be meditating right up until the interview starts.
Hiring managers are in need.
It’s easy to feel, as a job seeker, like you have no power during an interview. However, hiring managers are also in need. Companies don’t hire people because they have extra money to throw around. They hire because they have a problem that needs solving. Usually, they want you to be a good candidate so that they don’t have to search anymore. So, in a way, they are on your side.
Good hiring managers usually aren’t interested in putting you on the spot or making you feel bad. They simply want to know if you’re a good fit for the job.
You’re doing the interviewing, too.
A job interview is reciprocal. You are being interviewed, but you are also interviewing the interviewer. It’s critical that you feel like the job is a good fit, and not just the other way around.
You have the power to ask questions about the things you care about – such as work hours, pay, benefits, dress code, work culture, diversity, and more. The interviewees should be transparent and happy to oblige. Otherwise, you might be facing a red flag.
There’s a lot beyond your control.
Understand that no matter how thoroughly you prepare, no matter how much information you get from the HR person on the phone, you’re probably going to have to roll with some punches on the day of the interview.
Maybe the representative said that you’d be meeting with one person, and you’re actually seeing three people. Maybe you’ll have to move to a different floor or another location or change your approach when it becomes clear that the hiring manager isn’t buying what you’re selling.
Just remember that a job interview is, at its heart, a meeting between two or more people who might work together someday:
- You all have the same goal in mind: to see if you can have a happy and productive working relationship.
- You might get the job, or you might not – and either decision can take place for a myriad of mysterious reasons.
Instead of fretting about it, just try to be present. That ease and confidence will serve you during the interview itself.
Being yourself is your best bet.
Given how much is beyond your control, your best bet is to just let go and be yourself. While you certainly want to put your best foot forward during job interviews (be on time, present, professional, prepared, and enthusiastic), hiring managers aren’t looking for a phony personality. Hopefully it’s calming to know that you can, and should, be yourself throughout the interview process rather than someone else.
Practice makes perfect.
The more you go on job interviews, the less scary and urgent they will seem. Over time, you will also feel more power to ask questions and say no.
Who knows, perhaps one day you will be conducting interviews, and you’ll look back and wonder why you felt nervous in those early days. But in the meantime, be kind to yourself and remember that if a job interview doesn’t go well, there’s always the next one.