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Careers Café

Job interviews for people who don’t enjoy them


I know people who actually enjoy employment interviews. At some point in their interviews, they forget their nervousness because the problems posed by the interview questions interest them. They slip out of self-conscious self-promotion mode and into problem-solving mode.

But most of us find it hard to forget that a job’s at stake and that there’s a lot riding on a conversation with an employer — or a panel of them. So, here are some thoughts if you suspect you may not be communicating your true potential in interviews.

Take advantage of any interview skills training or mock interview services that your university provides. Job seekers often say that post-interview feedback is difficult to get from employers or is unhelpfully vague. Employers aren’t obligated to give extensive feedback and often have too little time or comfort with difficult conversations to do so. Career centre advisors, on the other hand, see your career management skills as among their primary concerns. They will bring to your attention any behaviours or interview responses that may be holding you back.

Content matters. Prepare for common questions and questions that relate to the skills and knowledge relevant to the job. Go through your resume to remind yourself of when you’ve solved problems, made beneficial changes, or demonstrated resourcefulness. There are lots of good articles and resources on preparing to deliver strong content in your interview answers, so go ahead and use them.

Preparation matters. Luckily, if you’re at a university, your library likely offers you access to business directories that will let you do quick but useful company research. If your university library doesn’t have a list of job search resources, look for study guides for business programs, since students in those courses need to find company information.

Attitude matters. This is truly not a platitude designed to comfort people with little work experience. Enthusiasm for the job at stake can vault a less experienced candidate ahead of more experienced but seemingly less motivated applicants. Interviewees who come across as unenthusiastic about the job they’re interviewing for can seem like a risk to the employer: not only might they fail to excel in their daily work, but they could cause more dedicated colleagues to feel resentful. And, since the organization will hold the employer responsible for the whole team’s performance, the employer likely won’t take the risk of hiring someone with a negative attitude.

Finally, as with most parts of the job search, networking is useful. The more you dread networking, the more you may wish to use it as practice, so that you become more adept at talking about your skills with strangers. Networking may even result in the best kind of interview — the kind where the employer has decided in advance that you’re the desired candidate, and the interview itself is a formality.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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