With so much contradictory advice out there, it is rare that candidates fail to ask me for my take on the ingredients for interview success. They are often perplexed a little by my simple answer, the sort of answer that you would give to a seven-year-old playing in their first competitive sports match:
Forget about your conviction that this will be the one and only chance to build a great future – there will be many others. Forget about all those potted answers that you dreamed up in the shower – shoe-horning them into the conversation will seem utterly contrived. Forget the fact that it is all about you, an interview is a two-way thing, they are there to be judged as much as you are. Most importantly, forget about your nerves and view every interview as an exploratory chat. You have nothing to prove and everything to gain.
If you go into your interview with a view to enjoying it, you will one huge advantage over the uber-prepared or super nervous candidates: you will be “present.” If you aren’t worrying about what you want to say next, you can actually focus on the questions being asked and the subtext behind them. If your mouth isn’t so dry that you are worried whether the words will come out at all, you can worry less about your physical state and observe the body language of your interviewer that bit more keenly. Each small moment can make a difference in an interview, and if you are having fun, your senses are heightened, and your focus is external rather than internal.
When you enjoy yourself, you are also giving your interviewer an insight into who you really are. Your relaxed attitude will rub off on them, and it is likely that they will show glimpses of their “true self” also. When interviews are staid and overly formal, bad choices get made, lives get ruined, and careers go off the rails. When they are punctuated by laughter and mutual understanding, each party will have the most important information with which to make a decision.
In a world where close networks are ever more important, spending an enjoyable hour with someone might not lead to a new job (for whatever reason), but it does give you a unique insight into each other, and can often form the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. Enjoyable interviews are often memorable years after the event, and you never know how this memory might benefit you. I can remember maybe twenty or thirty truly memorable interviewees, and every single one of them went into the interview with a positive attitude and an open mind.
You won’t enjoy every interview, that is simply the nature of the beast, but if you go into the interview with an aim to enjoy it, then you will give yourself every chance of finding the right role.
Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury