The worst things that can happen in job interviews, and how to handle those (part 2)


Job interviews are not something everyone loves. Some of us get pretty stressed even thinking about attending one. And if you are actively looking for a new role or are simply interested in recruiting process from a candidate perspective – this article is for you, as I keep sharing my trick techniques I have personally used to calm down and handle some difficult situations that were out of my control.

In my previous article I have touched upon early arrival to a job interview and the effects of failing to do so. But taking a step back, have you arrived prepared or have you simply shown up convinced that there is no need for any rehearsal whatsoever? What does it actually mean to be prepared for an interview?

A simple preparation from a candidate normally requires a printed copy of your resume (better a few), a cover letter (if any), a job description and a list of questions. Why bring all that? Just think about it, the interview begins and one of the managers turns pale as she admits that she is holding another candidate’s resume in her hand. No judgement, we all make mistakes. But you have two options now: one, hand over an extra copy of your resume to her as, luckily, you have brought one and get going with that interview right away; two, let her leave the room to fetch your resume, lose some valuable time from that interview, and meanwhile try to have a small talk with the other manager who is sitting there as confused as you are.

Once everyone is on the same page, you learn that one of the managers interviewing you today has just been given this task a moment ago as the person initially set for this job is sick or unavailable for any other reason. What happens now? To kick off the interview some managers would ask you to elaborate on something you wrote in your cover letter or ask you to describe your understanding of the role. If you have a perfect memory and you know the role description by heart, this is an easy job to do. Otherwise, what a perfect moment to pause and have a brief look on the copies of your documents before you start mumbling something in order to avoid an awkward silence. Honestly, it is a well respected technique to ask for a moment to think about the question.

As you go along, it is your turn to ask questions and find out what is it you are getting yourself into. You ask some specifics about the role, its challenges and primary responsibilities just to learn that you are not getting clear answers. Let’s not forget that one of the managers has been replaced and, sometimes, such change happens last minute. It might feel like a waste of time, you are getting annoyed and are probably ruining the moment for yourself. Just take a few breaths, get your list of questions and focus on something more generic. I personally like to ask about the company culture, the leadership style, how the company values are experienced on a daily basis, and what does this particular manager like about the company and his job. By the end of the conversation remember to acknowledge that you still have some role specific questions you would like to address in an email or over the phone, so that your interviewers could arrange that for you.

Finally, preparation for an interview does not only mean rehearsed answers to most frequently asked questions. It is also a mental preparation for an unforeseen situation be it a change of interviewer, double booked meeting rooms, broken projector, or an emergency evacuation. Just remember to breathe and work with what you have in the moment. Tiny little details, I agree, but they have already helped you demonstrate your readiness to adopt to any force majeure situation and stay flexible.

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