The key to your next job interview? Don’t overthink it.
Job interview advice treats the act of getting hired like cracking a delicate code, a complex calculation of the right words and behaviors to open doors.
The overlooked truth is you already have the key to your next interview. It’s you. No one knows who you are and what you can do better than yourself. No need to rely on those references, as they should be treated as confirmations. Job interviews are about so much more than getting hired. You want the job where being yourself gets you the position. You need to consider your happiness when (potentially) the job begins and the real work starts.
Being self-aware and comfortable in who you are is going to count for so much more than turning yourself into someone you’re not. To any jobseeker, I’d offer the following prompts to help them get out of their head and exist in the moment in their next interview. As it stands, the odds are, you’re massively overthinking it.
There are no “right” answers
If you are too focused before an interview on what exactly you will say, you’re not preparing properly. A hiring manager isn’t after canned responses. They want a sense of who you are: how you think about the world, how good you are at thinking on your feet and how you deal with feedback. It’s not a planned interrogation, but rather an open-ended conversation of learning.
It’s okay to admit you’re nervous
I can’t tell you how many clammy hands I’ve shaken before interviews, or qualified candidates I’ve seen so overrun with nerves that they bombed an interview. Nerves are a simple fix: just open up and let your interviewers know how you’re feeling. You’ll feel better and so will they. If nothing else, it’s a good icebreaker.
Be honest about what you don’t know
Owning up to a gap in your knowledge doesn’t count against you. Rather, it shows a self-awareness that will likely win you major brownie points. If you say you know how to do something and you don’t, you’re in danger of talking yourself out of a job. The odds are you will be called on to elaborate and inevitably, your answer will falter.
Over-confidence is a deal-breaker
Showing off how confident you are might feel like a winning strategy, but a sincere sense of humility trumps it every time. Even worse, arrogance will likely disqualify you from a position. Always be sensitive and respectful. Don’t sit down and say you’re the best engineer in the Bay Area. Don’t lie about your work history or education. Show you can take feedback in a gracious manner.
Research the company, but don’t stick to a script
Do your research before an interview. Use the product and understand the company, but don’t force this knowledge into the interview. It’s awkward to namedrop that you looked at someone’s LinkedIn profile, just to get it into conversation. Come with questions and ideas, but if these get addressed organically or end up irrelevant, don’t ask them anyway to try and show off your preparation.
Job interviews are about exploring fit, not convincing someone to hire you
Yes, you should always look to do the best you can in an interview. However, resist presenting yourself as someone you’re not, all to try and convince someone to give you a job. Anything that’s forced is not going to be a good fit. The interview is a potential first step in a long, involved journey, so candidates should also be assessing the company. An interview is a two-way street.
A healthy sense of curiosity can be your best asset
Even if you stumble in your interview, good questions keep you in the process. They show that you care about your professional development and the company you might soon be working at. They help position you as someone that is worth investing in. I’ve seen a surprising number of candidates through the years win over a panel of people not by being the smoothest interview, but by being engaged and showing genuine interest.