You’re at the interview, but you’re not AT the interview. Know what I mean? Sure, you’re physically present in the sense that your body is sitting in a chair and your mouth is dutifully moving up and down, answering the questions being asked of you by your interviewer. But that isn’t enough.
They ask a question and you answered a different one. They parlay a pithy quip and you failed to either acknowledge it with a polite chuckle or return their effort with an adept witticism of your own.
Maybe it’s the knots in your midsection…or perhaps you’re concerned about having taken time off from your present job (and the suspicions swirling around your reason for doing so)…or maybe you’re plainly having a bad-hair day. In any case, you’re just not performing as your on-the-ball self might, and both you and your interviewer know it.
And sure enough, after about 15 minutes, the interview—and you—are history.
The solution for next time? Dispense with the congestion in your brain before you enter the office door:
- Clear your schedule. Don’t schedule anything else too close to your interview (in case it runs longer than expected), and arrive early so you can get adjusted to the place.
- If you’re employed, take official time-off from your job. Don’t try to “sneak-in” your interview during lunch, or in the hour before your workday begins. What if your interviewer runs late? What if he/she is enamored with you, and unexpectedly wants you to meet with someone else? Sure you can reschedule, but ideally you can stay-on and extend what’s already a positive interview experience for both parties.
- Stay in-the-know about news, movies and cultural events—especially those that pertain to your target industry. It’s common for small talk to revolve around these topics.
- If you’re prone to nervousness, take a yoga class or get some exercise beforehand (or do whatever relaxes you and gets you “in the zone”). Know what works for me? The old “carrot on a stick”: I line up a movie or a visit to a favorite lunch spot after an important interview…that way I know at least something will go my way!
- The old standby: Prepare. The more you know about your target company—its challenges, short- and long-term objectives and news items—the less you’ll need to rehearse in your head discussion points on these topics, and the more room there will be for you to relax and be yourself.
The ultimate goal: Make sure both your head and body are in the game; otherwise, both your head and body may find themselves sooner than later out the door!