Why your job interviews shouldn’t go according to script
By Liam Horan, Career Coach & Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers
Q: I’m going for an interview next week – and I’m bricking it, totally nervous. In school, I was a great woman for learning off poems and even the odd essay for exams. Should I try to learn off, rehearse and spout it all out in the interview? (DD, email).
A: It is to poetry I learned in school – namely Alexander Pope’s wonderfully overwrought Rape of the Lock – that I return to kick-start the answer this question: “Ah cease rash
Youth! desist e’er ’tis too late / Fear the just Gods, and think of Scylla’s Fate!”
In other words, no. No, no, no.
An interview is an exercise in what I will call organic communication – it does not conform to a script, nor should you force it to do so. In real, breathing, living, organic communication, we start, we stop, we go off on a tangent, we haul ourselves back, we reveal our thoughts almost as quickly as they come to us.
And here is what a lot of people don’t realise: that reality I just described in the previous paragraph is perfectly fine in an interview.
You’re not expected to deliver a master class in elocution or diction. Instead, the interview panel want to get to know you. They want to assess how good you are at arranging your thoughts in response to a question you might not have anticipated. They are not running a fine tooth comb through your sentence structure or shooting you down because your response time is over a millisecond.
An interview is not a buzzer round. The “here is one I prepared before the show” school of interviews is perilous on a number of fronts.
Apart from it being dead and wooden, this approach will create its own pressures. Instead of you trying to give the right answer to the question that has been asked, and in so doing promoting yourself as the ideal candidate, your natural communication will be inhibited by your efforts to remember what you had planned beforehand.
Anything that interferes unduly with your natural flow is likely to be injurious to your chances. Learning off lines, trying to find a higher level of language than would usually be your style, putting on a new accent – all of these are bad ideas, in my opinion.
Give yourself a break. Do your preparation – know what they’re looking for and how you can fit the bill, replete with plenty of examples – and trust that it will all come out the right way, or near enough the right way.
Learning off lines is an antidote to nervousness: the best antidote is preparation. Have a general idea what you want to talk about. Get your facts and figures in place about your career to date. Learn about the company.
Become utterly familiar with the role. Answer questions as you are driving along in the car to get the hang of it.
Do interview training or a mock interview. By all means, prepare.
But when you enter that room, make sure that you are actually there – not some cardboard cut-out or pastiche version you sent along to do your bidding.
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