Last night I had a dream.
In the dream, I was asked to work at Publix part time by the manager that I see each time I grocery shop. I was also asked to work for a web design firm part time by the owner of the company.
Notice a theme? In both dreams, I didn’t have to go through the dreaded interview process.
In real life, though, this rarely happens. In real life we have to get ourselves ready for the interview: dress well, consider potential questions, get to the place on time, sit in the lobby with the other potential employees, sweat it out, literally, on the leather chairs.
I recall being interviewed for a job once, surrounded by six people – some supervisors and some employees. I thought I might get sick on the table that day. I got the job, but I still can’t say the torture I went through during that hour was worth it in the end.
If you have been out of the workforce for any amount of time, chances are you, too, are dreading the interview process. It becomes even tougher as we age. I believe it is even tougher yet for those of us who have stepped out of the traditional 9 to 5 role for a while to care for kids, as our skills grow rusty over time. Our confidence may also wane, since we haven’t been out in the job force doing what it was we were trained to do.
Stephen Balzac, president of 7 Steps Ahead,says, “When you’re in the moment, the one thing you cannot worry about is the outcome.” He refers to the movie “First Knight” in which Lancelot was asked how he became a master swordsman and he answered, “You have to not care if you live or die.”
If you spend the entire interview, and the time leading up to the interview, worried about the interview, you will psyche yourself out – or, says Balzac, act out of fear. “In a job interview, you must have the belief that you are the perfect person for the job and that your goal is to enable the employer to recognize that.”
The first main key: Network. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 70% of all jobs are found through networking,which makes this a critical part of the process. Balzac recommends meeting people informally who work for the company in order to establish your value. Ask questions about the company and the type of work that would be done so you can familiarize yourself with the position.
If this is not possible, do your research on the company prior to sitting down for an interview. Understand the company and prepare a list of questions you can ask to show that you have spent the time doing the research. Ask specific questions rather than general ones. Write questions that pertain to how the company would see you as fitting in there. Balzac suggests this question: “If you hired me and in six months thought I’d done a fantastic job, what would have happened to make you feel that way?” You may also ask what the company feels your specific strengths would be in this position.
In addition, prepare yourself in advance for the tough questions that are bound to come. Allison O’Kelly, CEO of Mom Corps, offers this suggestion: If you had time off, you need to be able to answer the question about what you were doing when you had time off. Says O’Kelly, if you do not spend time considering this question beforehand, you may find yourself caught off guard during the actual interview.
Next up in the series . . . what to do when you are sitting in the office with the potential employer!