How To… Interview: Prepare for Pitfalls – The Washington Post
How to Get Through Tough Job Interviews
By Tania Anderson – Special to washingtonpost.com
For many people, job interviews rank right up there with dental work and taxes. They can be stressful, unpleasant and even mysterious, not great adjectives to describe an experience that is a crucial gateway between you and your career development.
And seemingly everyone has a tale to tell — a story of the kooky interviewer, of getting stuck in a room for hours as a parade of people come in to repeat questions over and over again, or of surprise skills tests.
But those situations don’t have to derail your job search. We asked a panel of experts to provide tips to help you navigate through some all-too-common job interview perils, and they offered up a host of answers.
Take note: They can help you get to the “other side” — and maybe even help you land your dream job.
You’re sitting across a table from five unfamiliar faces. Question after question is lobbed your way over a series of hours. One interviewer takes quiet notes; another peppers you with question after detailed question. And now the sun is clearly setting outside the office. It can be grueling, but many companies use the multi-interviewer approach to vet job candidates in hopes of ensuring that key information isn’t missed.
Luckily, you can prepare. In group interviews, each person is sometimes assigned a role. One may be playing the bad cop, asking you questions about the gaps in your resume. Another might be there to observe body language and fact-check your claims. Looking for these roles can help you direct your answers. “You have to have your act together much more in that kind of scenario,” says Robert McGovern, president of online career search service JobFox.
To help stay sharp, take breaks when they’re offered and use subtle techniques — such as deep breathing during breaks, or positive visualizations — to de-stress. Focus your responses to the person who asked the question, then “work” the whole room by making eye contact with everyone.
Unless you’re perfect, there’s always a chance that you’ll miss a job interview — maybe you just plain forgot, or maybe your car broke down and you can’t make it on time. To make up for the flub, call the interviewer as soon as possible — before the interview is to start, if possible — and take full responsibility.
“Most employers would be understanding,” McGovern says, though if you get a second chance you may attract extra scrutiny — was this a one-time error, they may wonder, or are you a risk to make a similar mistake with an important client?
“You would have to convince me that you’re not going to do this again and you’re not going to blow off a customer,” says Marva Gumbs Jennings, executive director of the career center at George Washington University.
When your second try comes around, take extra pains to get there on time — you don’t want to develop a reputation as a scatterbrain.
The Test Run
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