After a brief hiatus, the Dear Eli column is back this week with great advice from App Academy’s Career and Talent Development Manager Eli Blair. Check out the previous versions of the column and expect to see future videos from him about the focus the bootcamp curriculum has on important soft skills and interviews.
It never fails. I tend to always get really nervous on phone screens and interviews. I feel like I never answer the questions well enough. I often feel like I do a really bad job. Help!
— Leslie K., San Jose, California
Thanks for the email. As you can imagine, there are millions of job seekers who feel just like you, so you are not alone. However, I believe there is a strong tendency for applicants to give away their power during and after the interview. Here are some examples of what I mean:
1. YOU ARE POWERLESS
During interviews, applicants often lose their personal power with thoughts like “I want them to like me.” Or “I hope my answers are ok and I don’t sound stupid.” When we discuss “personal power” it relates to your confidence and self esteem. How do you show up for interviews? Are you strong and confident or nervous and scared? Here is what we know: We are powerless over people and their reactions. I cannot control whether someone likes me or not. Can you control how people feel about you? Probably not. The only thing you can control is being authentic and doing your best.
So the number-one thing you need to remember when interviewing is that they want you and that is why they are speaking with you. Half the battle is over! Don’t worry about what they are thinking about you during the interview. You can’t control it. Do show up as your best and most authentic self. They want to “connect” with you. Now help them imagine how working and connecting with you everyday will get results.
Let me tell you a quick story to put this advice into context.
Years ago, I interviewed with a company three times in San Francisco. I did really well and they said to me, “Hey Eli, we are going to fly you to Atlanta to our headquarters. You will be there for the day and interview with 27 people over the full day, meeting with several people every half hour.” You can imagine my initial response. Terror!!!!
However, I took a moment to step back and think. I am powerless over what 27 people think and feel about me. So I switched my story to that of “Bring it on!!!!” Bring on the questions. I did that because at the end of the day, all I could do was to just be myself and show them who I was. With that attitude, of course I was a little nervous for the first minute or so. But then I let go. I let go of the FEAR (which I like to consider as a nice acronym for False Evidence Appearing as Real) and the crazy internal stories I would have told myself and just breathed and had fun. I took my power back!!! At the end of the day I did extremely well.
However, they did not actually hire the position. It was kind of a bummer for a hot second but honestly, it ended up being an awesome experience because I took that experience with me and used what I learned about myself for other interviews.
When applicants buy into nervousness during phone screens and interviews, they give away their power and do not take care of themselves. All of a sudden, hands shake, voices quiver, thoughts become lost, and answers become disorganized with the potential to ramble with filler words. Because of nervous energy, interviewees feel they must answer every question immediately which can lead to poorly thought-out and rambling responses.
YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING AN INTERVIEW. Bring water. Slow it down. Just like on an airplane, you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others. Same holds true during interviewing. Here are ideas that help.
— Remember to breathe. If you get really nervous for interviews, exercise vigorously before to burn off some energy and to get your “calm” power back.
— Tricky questions? If you need to, rephrase the question and take a few moments before responding. “Describe a time that I failed? Hmmm…Let me think of that one….” — Pause to collect your thoughts. Respond. (Just don’t pause too long as that can become creepy.) Just know, a few moments to gather your thoughts is no problem. Again, another way to bring the power back for YOU to take control of how you respond.
— Also, remember to ALWAYS GET YOUR VOLUME UP during all interviews. Having a strong and powerful volume will take away much of any shaky voice and filler words. This will give you a powerful presence…guaranteed.
3. “OH…THEY WILL SEE RIGHT THROUGH ME AND NOT LIKE ME”
Often, prior to an interview, people begin to tell stories doubting who they are, their capabilities and their power. They’ll say these false things:
- “Maybe I am not qualified for the job.”
- “I’m too (negative thought here) for this position.”
- “I have to get this job now…I’m desperate.”
But if someone is interviewing you, whether it be a phone screen or an in-person interview, there is something about you they want to know. They’ve reviewed your resume or someone referred you, so there is a definite interest. You are halfway there!!! Appreciate yourself for this first step. Something is setting you apart.
4. REFERRAL TIME
If you have a referral into the company, then you’re already starting off with one amazing commonality for discussion. “My friend Pat really loves her position and speaks really well about your company…” You have an “in.” If you do not know someone, then your resume and experience has shined!
5. YOU GET TO TELL THE STORY
As my coach Allen tells me, “Eli, you get to choose whether you live in abundance or scarcity, as that is what you will attract.”
What is the difference between the power you attract when you live in scarcity and negativity versus when you live in abundance of love and positivity? It’s a great question to ask, and not just for work purposes. Before interviews, take a moment to ask yourself whether this is the story you want to tell before the interview and think about the story you want to be telling yourself AFTER the interview?” Doing so will help you find yourself.
6. IT’S TAKING FOREVER TO GET AN INTERVIEW?
This might be true depending on your industry and especially on your strategy. When you apply to one place a day and maybe only talk to two people a week about potential opportunities, you have little power. NOBODY IS GOING TO MANAGE YOUR CAREER BETTER THAN YOU!!! Looking for work is hard work. Period. You need to be like a door-to-door salesperson. Nobody is going to sell you but you! Doors will slam. People will say no. However you get to choose this story too. You get to make the choice of what you will do when you get rejected.
“Oh, it’s just so hard,” I hear people whine to me everyday. Yea, you bet it is. Looking for work is brutal. But it’s worse when you live in despair and give all your power and energy away. You have to figure out how to take your power back, even during the tough times. Only you can do it. Figure out if you need to apply more, network more, or to go to more events. You get to choose whether you will live in “powerful” or “powerless.”
Keep the following example in mind.
Years ago, my best friend and I would go out to the bars all the time. He was fearless. He’d go up to tons of people, buy them drinks and was bold. His strategy was that he was going to take someone home that evening. When I questioned him about this and how he could do this (as I was jealous of his boldness) his response was, “it only takes one!”
Like my friend, you might have to buy tons of drinks, get rejected and go for more, but at the end of the day, it only takes one “Yes.” And as a wise friend has told me, “Every No is one step closer to a Yes.”
7. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
When people get rejected, they tend to make it personal. In some cases that is true. If you messed up in an interview, good for you!!! Appreciate the learning and move on. Keep in mind that sometimes, “it’s not about you.” Maybe they were looking for a blonde woman, an older man, a younger man, a tall woman, a short woman. Maybe they decided to move someone into a role from within the organization. Who knows? Try not to internalize it. If you did make errors, learn from them and grow. However, when you live in self “beat up” mode, you give away your power to an unknown factor.
Two years ago, I interviewed with a company and in the third round I was rejected. While I was quite surprised as the interview went really well, I realized it was not about me. I interviewed really well for that position. I took my power back and moved on.
Maybe, if you get rejected, the universe is sending you a message that you’ve “dodged a bullet” as that position was not the right one for you.
Finally, a few years back I was in a meeting when a young woman was discussing the concept of fear. She asked a very simple and bold question which I will now pose to you. “What would be possible in your life if you let go of fear?”
I hope this helps. Take back your power and get that awesome new job!
8 QUICK TIPS FOR INTERVIEWS
- Practice. The first question most interviewees get is “Tell me about yourself.” Know this answer and practice the response.
- Look for other interview questions online. Make sure you are practicing out loud and record yourself on video. (Don’t practice in a mirror. Use your phone.) As adults we learn quicker when we can see and hear ourselves.
- Get a friend to practice with you and ask for feedback.
- Know your strengths, weaknesses, a time you failed, challenges you have had on the job and with people.
- Be able to discuss any bullet point in more detail from your resume.
- Research the company and person(s) interviewing you. Look on LinkedIn and other social media.
- Have 3-4 questions ready for when they ask “Do you have questions for us?”
- Take back and keep your power