It’s an unfortunate fact that many people will have a disastrous job interview at some point during their careers. A foot-in-the-mouth comment, a wardrobe malfunction or an untimely bodily function… it happens.
“I had a job interview the other day and managed to accidentally blow a bubble with my mouth while answering a question about my hobbies,” says Valerie Vizzini, 25.
Some things (like blowing bubbles!) you can’t avoid. Others, you can. Enter NYC career coach Win Sheffield. In a competitive job market where plenty of qualified, educated candidates are fighting tooth and nail for openings, how can you ace the interview? Besides the obvious pointers to do your research on the company and have a mental list of your accomplishments, Sheffield says there are other things to remember, too.
First, make sure the interview is for a job you actually want.
“One time I went to an interview for a Craigslist ad for a ‘wedding planner.’ It turned out to be ‘hey, buy all these energy drink products and sell them.’ I asked to go to the bathroom and never came back,” says Jill Perkins, 23.
Consider this when browsing openings online: “Maybe 15 to 25 percent of people get jobs through job ads. Most people get their job through some sort of connection,” says Sheffield. “Trust your gut.”
He says there are three main things an employer is trying to determine about you during the interview.
Can you do the job?
Do you fit?
Do you want to do the job?
“You could be going up against somebody who is not as competent but if they are chomping at the bit and really eager and you’re not, that’s going to come across,” Sheffield says.
Expect the unexpected. “Of course there are going to be people who ask off-the-wall questions for a couple of reasons. One is to try and trip you up to see how you do on your toes. The other is to see how grounded you are and how you handle yourself because they are looking for that attribute in the person for the job,” says Sheffield.
Samantha Morris was completely caught off guard by one of those questions during an interview. “I was asked, ‘if you walked into Border’s, what book would you pull of the shelf to describe your life?’ Considering I read mostly murder mysteries, it was a little hard to answer,” Morris says.
A question like that can be a great opportunity to slip in a little self-promotion. “If there is a story you want to tell about something you’ve done at work, you’re going to have to think on your feet about how to fit that in,” Sheffield says.
Finally, be interactive. If the employer asks if you have any of your own questions, ask something! Remember that the interview process is mutual and it’s a time for you to determine whether the company is a good fit for you, too.
“It’s tempting to think that the employer is holding all the cards, but if you are not getting your questions answered, than if they give you an offer, how will you know whether you want to accept it or not? If you know more about what they need, than you’re going to be in a much better position to sell yourself and tell them what you bring to the table,” stresses Sheffield.