I hate to tell you this, but it isn’t even about you. As much as I preach about the “Human” side of HR, and how important it is to see your workforce as people (it is important), the most important part of an application, interview, or hiring decision is never, and will never be, YOU. I’m sorry, but it isn’t. The company and their needs will always come first. Quite frankly, that is why the job was posted in the first place. Now, instead of taking this to heart, and thinking you do not matter (you do), you need to use this information to your advantage, and act accordingly.
Now that I have hurting your feelings out of the way, I’m going to free you from all of the job interview anxiety: Stop focusing on you. Stop focusing on every little thing you’re doing or not doing. Stop worrying about every little misstep, that one misspoken word, or the fact you said “um.” It quite literally does not matter. You are human, and no one is expecting you not to be. If you want a job offer, you must stop focusing on you, and start focusing on the company. Make yourself seem like the best solution to their problems, and you’re in. It really is as simple as that. Every company, in every position, wants someone who is easy to work with, competent, prudent, and punctual. These are given, and if that’s all you have to offer, you’re going to be at the bottom of the list. Instead, learn about the company, figure out what they value, and what problems they are trying to solve. Then, focus on those things while you’re presenting yourself in your interview. It’s a game, so play it.
To do this successfully, you need to listen. Listen to what your interviewer is choosing to ask you, how they react based on your responses, and watch body language if you can. You could give the best possible answer to an interview question, but if it doesn’t align with the company’s values and goals, it still won’t get you the job.
Let me give you an example: In a phone screening, I had an interviewer say to me “We’re actually looking for someone with more experience than you have, but I was interested in you because you’re a Magna Cum Laude graduate, and that tells me you can learn.” So, what did I gather from this? This organization values development and the ability to jump in and learn. So, in my follow up interview, I focused on this. I reiterated that the reason I was looking for a new job was because “I missed working in HR and being in a position where I was learning something new every day.” When talking about my greatest strengths, I mentioned my proven ability to jump into a situation, being baptized by fire, and come out stronger on the other side. I am successful under pressure because I’m a fast learner who adapts. I got the job. Every day since I’ve started working with this company, my Vice President has told me his goal is, and always will be, to develop his people so they are better when they leave than when they started. He wants them to adapt, to learn, to grow. Before my Vice President ever told me those words, I was able to play off of that sentiment based on one comment made by a recruiter in a 5 minute phone interview. The clues are there. Listen.
If you find yourself having a hard time picking up on this information in your interview, ASK. However, here is the most important part: Don’t just ask, also respond. At the end of your interview, when they ask you if you have questions, ASK WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW. Ask them about the company’s and position’s goals. After they answer, TELL THEM HOW YOU CAN HELP. I mean it. Take their answers and remind them how you have been able to contribute to similar goals in the past, how your work ethic will contribute, or a possible plan for solving the problem. Make yourself seem valuable to the company, and then you will be valuable as a person. Act accordingly.
Want to practice your interview skills? Check out our Mock Interviews. It'll be exactly like a real interview, except we actually give you feedback afterwards without just a rejection email.