My first job was at Brookshire’s Grocery Company. I was a bagger and stocker for about a year and a half while I was in high school. I had to turn in two different applications and call multiple times about an interview because my application(s) hadn’t been reviewed. I did eventually get an interview, and after I sat down in the manager’s office, I had a revelation:
“This is an interview.”
It seems silly because duh, that’s sort of the reason why I kept filling out applications and calling the office. But, this revelation came to me because I had done absolutely nothing in preparation for the actual interview. I had done all this work to secure an interview, but I didn’t even consider the process I would have to undergo.
My first piece of advice: don’t do that.
Clearly, I am no interview expert. However, I have had a handful of interviews in my brief experience in the workforce, and I want to share some tips that will, hopefully, provide some insight for any eager employees-to-be.
Ponder Potential Questions Beforehand
An interview is not just a normal conversation a manager has with potential employees. Employers have very specific qualities they look for when scouting possible workers, and this includes asking the interviewee particular questions that reveal whether or not he/she has the qualities desired. It’s possible for an interviewee to have a perfectly pleasant conversation with the interviewer and not be hired because the hiring process is not rooted in whether the interviewer gets along with the interviewee. Workers are hired because they exhibit certain traits that would be useful for the expansion of the company. As an interviewee, it’s important to be prepared for such questions, so you can make it clear to the interviewer that the job you are applying for is one you care about deeply. Of course, it is unnecessary and disingenuous to prepare a script or count on certain questions to be asked, but think about what types of questions are asked in interview settings. Get an idea of how you would answer these questions so you don’t seem thrown off or unprepared when you’re in the interview (as I probably was).
Maintain Eye Contact
Is it cliché? Sure. Is it uncomfortable? Yeah, a little bit. Is it important? Definitely. Eye contact is a nonverbal way of communicating to the interviewer that you are engaged in the conversation, and you care about what is being said. This is something I personally struggle with because I have a hard time focusing on what I’m saying while simultaneously fixing my gaze on one specific thing. Plus, it can be really awkward locking eyes with someone for long periods of time, especially if you don’t know them very well. However, inconsistent eye contact can communicate to the interviewer that you are unfocused or simply not interested in what’s being said. This can lead a company to believe that you have no real interest in them. Maintaining eye contact during an interview is one of those minuscule details that can drastically increase your hireability.
Give Specific Answers
The two questions asked in interviews that people are most familiar with are probably, “What is your greatest strength?” and “What is your biggest weakness?” As tempting as it is to say your greatest strength is that you’re a hard worker and your biggest weakness is being a perfectionist, go further than that! Everyone has already said that; make your answers stick out by giving specifics and providing brief examples. In what ways are you a hard worker? How are you a perfectionist? It’s not guaranteed that the interviewer will ask you to expand on your answers; he/she may just take your answers as they are, whether they are simple or convoluted. It’s on you to be intentional in providing specific, unique answers that reveal your personality.
Regulate Your Confidence
We’ve probably all been told that keeping a high level of confidence is important when presenting yourself to new people, especially in an interview. I definitely agree with that sentiment, but I have also heard stories of many uncomfortable interviews where the interviewee is booming with so much confidence that it repulses the interviewer. Keeping a high level of confidence is great, but overconfidence can severely damage one’s hireability. Overconfidence can communicate one of two things to the interviewer: you are overcompensating as a result of a lack of confidence, or you just care a lot about yourself. Neither of those messages are particularly great first impressions, so maintain your confidence at a reasonably high level.
Alright, I understand how overused the sentiment “Be yourself!” is in our very self-focused society, and it has far surpassed the meaning of cliché. However, people value authenticity for a reason, especially in the workforce. When employers look for people to hire, they are not looking for a repackaged version of the same worker they have employed for years and years. They are looking for individuals with unique perspectives and distinctive personalities. They want to see who you are, not who you can pretend to be. You can give all the right answers in the interview and go through the motions, but after a while, you will be exhausted trying to preserve the façade you previously put up. People begin to see through that. Don’t waste your time trying to be the interviewee who you think employers will hire. It’s far better to get turned down while being authentic than it is to get hired while being disingenuous. Be who you are, and eventually, you will find a good fit with a great company.