Interviewing: Practice Really Does Make Perfect

Posted on July 29, 2009. Filed under: Interviews, Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , , , , |

A few weeks ago, I introduced Sara, a recent college graduate, whom I asked to share her job search experience. I have now asked her to follow up on that article. Here is where Sara is today:

Well, I did it, I went on my first, real job interview! It was for a position I knew I was qualified for with a non-profit organization whose cause I was more than familiar with. I actually had given up hope on hearing anything, because they didn’t call me until more than a month after I applied. Imagine my surprise!

The surprise/euphoria quickly turned to dread when I realized I had never been on a “real” interview before. In the days before the big event, I spent much of my spare time reading every “this is how you interview for a job” article I could find. Most of them focused on how important it is to avoid the color red on an interview—apparently it’s a “power color”—or how wearing perfume is the equivalent of the kiss of death. I practiced answering all of the “staple” questions interviewers always ask according to these same articles, and I scoured the organization’s web site, trying to memorize everything it had done in the last six months. Everything I could think of to prepare for this thing, I did. And I think that is what tripped me up.

When the time came to sit down and actually begin the interview, I forgot everything. I was so focused on being the “promising young professional” laid out before me in all of those articles that told me what to wear, what to say, and how to act, that I couldn’t be myself. The interviewer asked me to tell him about myself, and that snappy, 30-second elevator speech I practiced for an hour the night before had flown out the window. All I could tell him were things he already knew, because all I could think of was all over the resume in front of him; I didn’t set myself apart.

Now, do I think the interview was a total disaster? No. But I do think it wasn’t my best work. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to show the interviewer my stellar, one-of-a-kind skills in a “pop quiz” of sorts rather than tell him about them, so all is not lost. Even if I’m not offered this position, I still gained some valuable insight into the art of interviewing. Although demeanor, appearance, and knowledge all are key parts of the process, the most important thing a person can do is try to relax and be genuine. After all, a genuine person goes much farther and is more unique any day than the every-day, job-searching, clone.

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2 Responses to “Interviewing: Practice Really Does Make Perfect”

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Interviewers understand that it’s a stressful situation. And unless it’s in that type of career, they generally won’t judge you completely on a few little mistakes that you may make.
I think everyone who has been in an interview would have at one stage been through what you have. I suppose all you can really do is learn from it, and work towards the next opportunity.

Great story! Yes, I have always found that practicing what you are going to say and memorizing hundreds of interview tactics will only have a negative impact on the interview. You have to be yourself and have a clear head.

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