Big interview coming up?
Updated: Jun 17
We’ve all been there. Whether you’re nervously waiting in a reception area or in front of your computer, already logged into Skype or Zoom, glaring at the clock as it inches closer to the appointed time, the run-up to a big interview can be nerve-wracking. If you’re hoping to land a new job or big project, it can feel like everything has come down to this moment – you’ve applied, done your best with the application, sent your portfolio across for consideration, and you’ve landed the interview. Well done. Now, why does it feel so intimidating?
Interviews can be daunting, even for those of us who have had dozens of successful interviews. There’s something about not knowing what exactly will be asked, something about the idea of being evaluated by strangers who hold the key to the role or project you’re so keen on taking part in – it’s not a comfortable situation for any of us.
But here’s a piece of advice that’s helped me a lot in these situations. Keep in mind that while you’re in that interview room, or connecting to that call, they’re not just interviewing you – you are also interviewing them. Ensure that you maintain an awareness of the fact that just as they consider you, your experience, your personality and your characteristics, this is also the time that you should be evaluating them.
It may feel as though the interviewers, employers or recruiters hold all the power in this situation, but I assure you this isn’t true. Take that daunting interview process as an opportunity to assess the employer – who are they? How are they representing the company or business? Is the interviewing process clear and straightforward, or has it been confusing and chaotic? Is the way they communicate and behave the way you’d like your co-workers or employers to act?
I once walked out in the middle of a second-stage job interview, after having had an initial interview for an exciting role. While the first interview went well, the process was slightly chaotic – I spoke to different recruiters with every email or call, and none of them seemed to really know what was going on. When I was called in for the second interview, I was surprised – I thought that if they’d been truly interested in me as a candidate for the role, they would’ve been more orderly and communicative. Still, I took the day off work, dressed in my carefully chosen interview outfit (not too formal, not too casual, with a slight quirky element to set me apart) for the appointment.
When I arrived, I was asked to wait, and waited for over 30 minutes without anyone informing me that they were running late, offering me a drink, or making any effort to be polite and courteous. When I was finally invited into a meeting room, I met a man who clearly hadn’t looked at my CV or been told anything about me by the recruiters. His tone and manner as we spoke was one of boredom and rudeness. After speaking to him for about ten minutes, I thanked him for his time, politely informed him that I didn’t think it was a good fit and left. An hour later, they called me up and asked why I had left – apparently I was one of their star candidates, and they were keen to invite me onboard.
The problem was, they hadn’t given me any indication that they were interested in me as a potential co-worker or indeed, as a human being. At that point, my mind was already made up that this was not the kind of company I’d like to work for. And let me tell you, politely but firmly telling them that I was no longer interested in the role due to the disappointing interview process felt really good – I felt like I was standing up for every person who’s been made to feel insignificant during the interview stage, like one of many faceless workers who are of no real interest to the big bosses.
Keep in mind that if you’re not getting the right vibe from the company or the recruiters you’re dealing with, there’s no reason why your response to a potential job offer shouldn’t be to politely decline. That puts you in control of this process just as much as them – just as easily as they can determine that you’re not right for the role, you can decide that they and the company are not right for you.
Now go forth to your next interview, and kill it – with the knowledge that you hold the power in this situation just as much as your interviewers do.