I’ve coached over a thousand people before interviews. While I don’t have quite that many dates under my belt, it’s always struck me how the two are so similar. From the outset, whether it’s a first date or an interview, there’s a mix of euphoria, anxiety and a thousand “what ifs.” And keeping all those things in check can be the difference between success and failure.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting through the interview jitters:
The First Date
Without fail, when I prepare a client for an interview, they always start talking about what they’re missing or rehashing why they were fired/downsized/let go. Just like talking about your ex on a first date, this is a really bad place to start. Even if it’s just in your head, you run the risk of self-sabotage by steering the conversation in that direction. (Kind of like driving towards lights on the highway.)
Instead, focus on what you have in common with the other person and establish a reason for a second date. Just like you wouldn’t expect to rush to the altar after your first date, the initial interview is about getting to know one another. You want to give the interviewer reasons to want to bring you back to learn more about you, not flag the waiter down for the check and sprint for the door.
Remember, you want to define yourself as an expert with the ability to solve problems, not as simply a job seeker. Job seeking is a condition of your employment, not the value you bring as a new addition to a company. Moreover, it’s not why you’re going to get hired or a reason for the company to max out the compensation scale in your favor—just like being single isn’t the reason you score a second date.
Get Engaged, Get Interested
Ever had dinner with someone who couldn’t stop talking about themselves? It kind of reminds me of telemarketers. Remember those guys? You’d pick up the phone in the evening and someone on the other end would verbally vomit on you. It didn’t matter what you needed. They had a product to sell and a script to push through. It wasn’t a conversation. Honestly, it wasn’t really even a sales pitch. It was more like force-feeding. Until, of course, you simply hung up on them—which is something you don’t want to have happen to you in an interview.
So, don’t have an untargeted presentation of who you are and what you do. Ask a few questions so you can determine if they need what you have to offer. This way, you will add value and have a more meaningful conversation—which translates to better compensation. It will also let you both know whether or not the position truly is a good fit for you. Sometimes getting to “no” is more important than getting to “yes.”
“I Won’t Be Ignored, Dan!”
Bar none, my favorite quote from Fatal Attraction. No matter what character Glenn Close plays, I always envision Alex in the corner flipping that light switch on and off. Don’t let this be the image you leave people with when the process either doesn’t move at fast as you’d like or the company moves in another direction. When it comes to calling or emailing someone, there’s a fine line between pleasant persistence and outright stalking.
I’ve written about turning rejection into opportunity and the importance of handling such situations well. I’ve experienced something similar with women I have dated when things didn’t work out (sometimes their choice, sometimes mine). No matter the reason, I’ve subsequently been set up by many exes with their friends because they considered me a “good guy.” That’s exactly how I met my wife, Jill.
In interviewing, just like in dating, you spend a good amount of time and effort in building up a connection—possibly a relationship—with another person. To throw all that away because you aren’t chosen for a job is a really bad choice. Just like we rely on our friends’ suggestions and opinions when making decision, so works the hiring process. And, in this highly competitive market, having former interviewers out there spreading the good word about you is only going to make finding the right job that much easier.
Comments, thoughts or great dating/interview analogies? Please share them below!
Image: Brandon Warren