Let’s be honest, job interviews are terrifying. They have all the worst things about going on a blind date, take away the precious social lubricant that is alcohol (No! We’re not advising you turn up to your interview drunk!) and afterwards, instead of deciding whether you’re going to see that person again, that person is deciding your future professional and financial well-being for the foreseeable future.
If you felt the need to hug a blanket while thinking about that, that’s understandable.
But the truth is, a lot of our fears about job interviews come from a false idea of how job interviews actually work. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common pre-interview terrors, and why the reality is actually nowhere near as bad.
Interview Fear Number One: Your Interviewer Will Be an Actual Bond Villain
It’s a picture of the job interview we’ve been given from pretty much every TV programme ever. Whether it’s Alan Sugar or the dragons of Dragon’s Den, or a job interview from literally any sitcom you care to name, the story is the same. Our terrified candidate must sit on a tiny chair in front of a huge table, while an intimidating person in a suit, or possibly a panel of them, watch and judge you.
What follows is more like an interrogation than a job interview. Questions are shouted at you, your answers are scribbled down in a little notebook, or worse, if it’s a panel, they’ll whisper to each other. At the end, if you’ve failed to match up their scrutiny, a concealed button under the table will open the trapdoor to alligator pit.
Alan Sugar is a performer in a television programme, trying to create drama because people find it entertaining. Everyone has their interview horror stories, but most of the time it’s in your interviewer’s interests to be approachable and friendly. After all, they don’t just want to find the right candidate for the job – they want to make sure that candidate wants to work for them as well. It’s hard to take on board, but to do well in an interview you should try to think of yourself as taking part in a conversation, not a trial.
Interview Fear Number Two: You Will Get Blindsided By Some Cunning and Devious Question
Okay, so the interviewer seems friendly enough. The seats are comfy, they offer you a glass of water or even a cup of tea and a biscuit. Sure, we’re all friends here. But then the questions begin. Suddenly you’re facing a verbal minefield of Sphynxian riddles and impossible scenarios. Would you shoot Bambi in the face to save all of the seven dwarves? And what does that have to do with selling insurance?
Again, we’ve all heard horror stories about the cunning interview questions. Google is legendary for trying to wrong-foot candidates with questions such as “How would you weigh your head?” or “If you were an animal, what would you be?” However most employers, it has to be said, don’t have that much imagination.
They don’t want to set you a dizzying word trap, they just want to give you a chance to show how you’ll fit the job criteria. As astonishing as it sounds, the interviewer isn’t trying to trip you up. They want you to be a good candidate.
There are some questions we all dread, obviously, such as what “What would you say your greatest weaknesses are?” or if you’ve been unemployed for a while, questions about that large gap in your employment history, but these are questions you can see coming and prepare for.
The greatest weaknesses question is less about revealing why shouldn’t get the job, and more about giving you a chance to show how you’re working to improve yourself. Likewise, if there’s a gap in your employment history you can talk about voluntary work you’ve done or training you’ve undertaken.
Have a look around at common interview questions and answers, get a friend to run through them with you, and you’ll be fine.
Interview Fear Number Three: You’ll Totally Fluff It On The Day
The interviewer is friendly, the questions are the ones you prepared for, and yet when it comes to the crunch you fluff it. Your carefully rehearsed answers completely blank out, you’re swearing buckets and my god, your hands! What do you do with your hands?!
It’s a fact that when you go into stressful situations, your perceptions change. An infinitely long awkward silence to you is likely to just seem like a brief pause to your interviewer. If you find yourself feeling stressed in the interview the temptation is to talk rapidly.
Fight that. It’s actually better to talk at what feels like an unnaturally slow rate. It will mean you’re easier to understand, and it will sound like you’ve really thought about what you’re saying. At the same time, it will actually force you to calm down.
Interview Fear Number Four: You Forget To Wear Clothes
You accidentally turn up to the interview naked and everybody points and laughs at you.
This isn’t actually a proper fear, it’s just a dream you had, probably born from the various anxieties you have about going to a job interview. Just make sure you go on a pre-interview shopping trip and make sure you’ve got your outfit all sorted the night before the interview and you’ll be fine.