Interviews are a big part of life and a big part of Praxis. I interview dozens of candidates per month and send each of our participants off to do interviews with business partners. This means that we’ve picked up some of the best do’s and don’ts for successfully interviewing, whether for a job, fellowship, apprenticeship, or any other opportunity.
A popular misconception about interviews is that there’s a list of boxes that can be checked to lead to a successful interview. “Ask the interviewer this question and you’ll get the job!” “Spin your weaknesses with this tip and you’ll blow them away!” “Show up with these resources and the interviewer will call you back!”
The reality is more like dating. Interviews are used to figure out if somebody meets certain criteria and if the person is somebody that the interviewing organization or team would want to bring back, be around, introduce to business partners, and somebody generally likable. Like dating, there are certain traits and strategies that can be used to increase the likelihood that things go well.
Don’t Make It About You
Imagine going on a date with somebody and the entire time they just talked about why they would be such a great fit to be your significant other. They took everything you asked, looking for compatibility and for starting a two-way conversation, and just talked about themselves. They talked about how great their experience traveling Asia makes them such a great fit for you. They talked about how they’ve done so many things in which they know you must be interested (you aren’t). They talk and they talk and they talk.
This sounds horrible. You don’t actually gain useful information from them, you just gain canned recountings of what they think about themselves. The useful information from the date (besides that this person can’t hold conversations) doesn’t really come out in question-and-answer, it comes out in conversation.
Instead, a more natural conversation is about the other person. Answer direct questions, but don’t go on a tirade of self-indulgence. Make the conversation about how you can create value for them, not how you are a great fit for a role or how you have so much experience. Sell yourself, but…
Don’t Be a Used Car Salesman
“Wait, but I thought an interview is about selling myself?”
Yes, it is all about selling yourself, but there’s a difference between selling like a used car salesman and selling like a master sales executive. The master sales exec is in for the long-run and can tease out needs, desires, problems, and solutions through conversation. The used car salesman is just in it to get the car sold and move on to the next one. An interview is likely for a long-term commitment, so by engaging in actual, real conversation and asking them what they are looking for and what they find attractive about the organization, you can tease out what they really need solved, what they really want solved, and how you can actually add value to their organization, team, fellowship, or company.
Be in it for the long-run, ask good questions, and act sincerely.
Have A Forward-Tilt
When we interview candidates for Praxis, one of the things we look for is whether that person would jump on a great opportunity if it came their way or if they would just sit back and watch it from afar at first. This sometimes manifests itself physically with a candidate leaning in towards the interviewer as if they would literally jump on an opportunity that came their way.
This isn’t something that can be faked but it is something that can be cultivated. If you are excited about an opportunity, let people see that! Interviews are not the place to have a poker face. Smiling, using an upbeat tone in the conversation, and expressing curiosity let the interviewer know that you aren’t just going through the motions with the interview.
If a company, fellowship, or organization is spending resources to speak with you, they want to know you are somebody who is excited to spend time (your resources) to speak with them. Few people realize how far manifesting this excitement can take somebody in an interview.
Ask Sincere Questions
A surprisingly small number of people ask good, sincere questions in interviews. I am not sure why this is — maybe because people think that not asking questions makes it look like they have done their homework. Asking questions is your opportunity to leave an impression on the interviewer and let the know that you are curious about the position. Faking questions by using entirely canned ones like, “What is the best book you’ve read recently?” runs the risk of coming off as exactly that: faking it. Do research on the individuals and organizations involved beforehand and find something about which you can be curious.
All Praxis participants go through intensive interview coaching as part of their bootcamp experience. If this sounds exciting to you, apply today to join the next cohort!