“Just get me in a room.” –That’s Don Draper’s signature line in Mad Men. and refers to his uncanny ability to smooth-talk anyone. While I may not close million dollar deals before breakfast, I usually do well with people. This was not the case, however, when I had my first phone interview…
First off, I had broken my routine the day before. Rather than my usual afternoon bike ride, I spent the extra time researching the organization. While this type of preparation was good, I had too much nervous energy so I didn’t sleep well. To make matters worse, I gave myself a full hour of free time before my interview, which I mostly spent glancing at the clock every three minutes. I was worried before the call even started.
Without having the physical gestures and body language of normal conversations, phone calls can be awkward and disjointed. But I dwelled on this fact before the interview even started, so when the conversation got clumsy for a moment, I felt as if my worst fears were being realized. I reacted by talking quickly. At some point I got up to walk—thinking that it would calm me—but I soon found myself pacing and my breath became even more hurried.
When a friend asked me how the interview went, I dropped Draper’s line; “Just get me in a room!”
It turns out, I did need room. A very specific one. For my next phone interview, I borrowed the use of a friend’s office that had a window overlooking the park. This helped because I had something to look at. My eyes could wander so I didn’t have to. It also felt like an interview because I was sitting in an office setting. If you get fidgety during a phone interview, find a way to occupy yourself in a way that won’t distract you: find an appealing view, a painting, or grab a stress ball.
In contrast to my first interview, I kept busy by doing some painting until fifteen minutes before the call. This not only calmed my nerves but focused my mind. So if you have a hobby you find relaxing (yoga, braiding, playing an instrument, etc.), use it as a preparation tool. It’s a better strategy than dwelling on what could go wrong. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you can find strategies to help you relax before and during your interview, you will have a much easier time presenting your true self on the phone. Let yourself act naturally by smiling and gesturing like in normal conversation—you’ll find it imbues confidence and friendliness to the cadence your voice.
The interview is usually the final hurdle to the job. When you get asked in for the interview, take the extra time to shine. This is your moment!
If you are in the beginning phases of the job search, the interview may seem a long way away. However, take a little time right now to learn about interviewing, you never know when that opportunity will come.
Interview Do’s and Don’ts
Each phase of the job search should help prepare you for the next. A good resume and cover letter will have you thinking about your strengths and experiences and how they are a good fit for the position. If you are networking and doing info interviews you will already have some good information about industry trends and company culture. You can use this information in the interview.
When you shake hands and walk away from the interview, what are you hoping that they’ll remember about you? Think about which of your strengths and achievements you want to be sure to share with your interviewer. Be clear about your motivations and qualifications for the job. Show your enthusiasm, ask about follow up, and remember to send a Thank You.
Those are the easy ones. How many careers can you name?
As you prepare to enter the world of work, take a moment to explore what’s out there. Look before you leap.
You will find some great resources to get started under “Explore Options” on the Senior Checklist for Career Success. Read about different jobs, including the skills and education needed, the typical career path, salary and more. Take a moment to browse through the different Job Families on O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook . Anything strike your fancy? Make a list of any careers that you would like to learn more about.
Want to explore some more unusual career choices? Check out these articles:
To learn more about specific industries or companies, explore the Career Field Information page. Also, check out One Day One Job. Everyday they profile opportunities at a different company, with a specific focus on opportunities for college students. They’ve profiled almost 1,500 companies!
Once you’ve got your list of interesting careers/organizations, you’re ready for the next step. Career Services often recommends informational interviewing as one of the best ways to learn more about a particular job, career path or company. Talking to people who are doing the job that you are interested in can help you realistically assess whether that career would be a good fit for you.
You can start right now with these informational interview videos and personal accounts of different jobs:
Hollywood has given us plenty of examples of workplace happenings, including glimpses into the job search process. From hilariously absurd job interviews to heartwarming interviews gone right, we have lots of examples of what to do and what not to do.
In Step Brothers (2008), the characters of Brennan and Dale are two unemployed, middle-aged men are forced to get jobs when their parents marry. Unfamiliar with proper interview etiquette, they find themselves in situations like the following:
To be clear, this video demonstrates what not to do when interviewing. Some tips we can learn from these guys:
Know who you’re speaking with: When interviewing, be sure you know your interviewer’s name. “Human Resources Lady” won’t cut it.
Dress to impress…not to overwhelm: Although it’s harder to overdress for an interview than it can be to underdress, this isn’t prom. For more information on appropriate dress, see our website.
Alternatively, we have the real-life success story Chris Gardner, portrayed by Will Smith in 2006’s Pursuit of Happyness. The homeless single-father seeks an opportunity to improve the lives of him and his son:
This is a great clip because it gives a realistic glimpse into the interview process. Everything didn’t go well for Chris, but he made the most of his situation by being proactive. Here’s what we can learn:
Determination: Research companies you want to work for and keep your eye out for new opportunities.
Network: Chris made a connection with an employee of the company, and that relationship paid off- he got the interview and had someone to vouch for him in the process!
While life is not a movie, these clips definitely leave us with ideas to ponder. To learn more about preparing for an interview in the real world, visit our site.