Nauseation of when your home team squanders a playoff game is equivalent to the sick to your stomach feeling of bombing an interview. As a freshman electrical engineer, I failed a technical interview for a computer aided design company. They challenged me to write a recursive programming method, describe how the inside of a motor works, and explain the forces and stress points on a stop light pole in ten minutes. Unsalvageable as your interview may seem, there is hope to take control of your interview! An interview gone wrong can be saved by expanding on questions you are asked, transforming negative responses into positive ones, and amending a closing statement.
Expand on Questions
Although human resources has the almighty power to hire and fire, they can not read your mind. When you answer interview questions keep in mind that your interviewers did not share your experience with you. Illustrate your experience with goals, problem solving, results and quantities. Instead of saying “I practiced leadership when I was a manager at Taco Bell” say; “My leadership skills were put to use when I was a manager at Taco Bell leading a team of 10 individuals per shift. I vetted five perspective workers per month, learned each position, and ensured each employee completed their training.” Do not be afraid to expand on your experience. You are not bragging! You are clarifying and explaining your experiences. Sometimes interviewers are specifically instructed NOT to ask the interviewee to elaborate. The interviewer wants to see how you communicate your qualifications.
Thinking on Your Feet
Interviewers will purposefully throw curve-ball questions that catch you off guard. Not just to watch you squirm – to see how handle the unexpected. When asked “What is your greatest weakness?” Do not leave your answer at “I have problems waking up in the morning.” Explain your improvements and focus on the positives. “I am working on getting to my 8:00am class by setting earlier alarms, keeping a regular sleeping schedule and cooking a great breakfast. I have been improving and getting to school early to get a good seat.” Typical curve-ball questions include…
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What is the hardest decision you have ever made?
- What was your greatest failure?
- Why should I hire you?
Powerful Closing Statement
At the end of your interview, especially if you feel the interview did not go well, end with a closing statement summarizing qualifications. Typically an interview will conclude with “Do you have any questions?” You can then appropriately add, “I don’t have any questions at this moment. However, I would like to end with why I am the most qualified candidate for this position…(key narratives that make you most qualified).” I have actually used this strategy in interviews gone wrong and have gotten job offers as a result. Again, interviewers may be specifically instructed NOT to ask more questions than the handful supplied so each candidate gets the same chance. Interviewers may not ask questions that naturally invoke the best answer from you. You can still take control of the interview by amending a powerful closing statement that best shares your strengths.
Other Preparation Tools
Some interviews will focus solely on “soft skills” – how you interact with coworkers. Interview Stream is a good resource for interviewing practice. You can listen to your answers, count your “umms,” and check for idiosyncrasies. Depending on how technical your major is you may be asked to perform a technical interview as I described in the introduction. Ask recruiters, professors, acquaintances who work for that organization, tech club members, LinkedIn/ online communities, and friends about what you could expect from that organization’s technical interview. There are plethora of free technical interview practice sites.
Of Possible Interest:
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