Job interviews are scary. For most of us, this is the first time we are interviewing for an “adult” position. After years of jobs paying us minimum wage, allowing us to barely stay afloat during college, we are now looking for something more practical.
With student loans and credit card bills looming over our heads, we can’t afford to make careless mistakes during an interview. And not selling yourself is the biggest one.
Here’s the thing, you are smarter than you think.
Yes, you may have minimal work experience, and the current job market may not be the most welcoming, but you are your own advocate. You have to convince employers that you are not only capable but the best choice for a job opportunity.
And it is hard! In this economy, you know that for every person applying for a job, there are probably three more applying with more education or experience than the next.
But you have to be confident in yourself. Your education and the amount of experience isn’t going to change overnight, but your attitude and level of interview preparedness can. If you are invited to interview with a company, you are half way there. Most businesses do not like to waste money, and they didn’t call you into an interview just tell you how you don’t stand a chance against everyone else who has applied.
They are most likely looking to hire someone like you. You look good on paper, but now, they want to know what you can offer them. So, what is going to set you apart from other interviewees?
Unless you spent the past year volunteering in Africa or interning at Google, your experiences are probably the same as everyone else’s:
You have a degree. Check.
You completed a 3-6-month internship or have some work experience. Check.
If you did everything you should: researched the company, prepared questions to ask, and coordinated an appropriate interview outfit, there’s only one thing left—selling yourself.
Finding the medium between being too cocky and too humble is a difficult feat.
And not only that but having enough self-confidence to speak up during an interview is also hard sometimes.
Surprisingly, I have experienced hiring managers controlling the entire conversation, quickly, without a breath, stomping onto the next question on their interview torture list. And believe me, there is nothing more awkward than trying to gracefully interrupt someone who makes the decision of if you will be living at home, working at the local pub, or entering the adult world of business meetings and overpriced rent.
But alas, you have to find a way to say the things that set you apart. Employers expect applicants to have great communication skills, but each thoughtful response about how you go above and beyond what is expected is what is going to land you the job. If you prepared a few brief stories about how great you are, try to organically slip one or two of them into the interview. Will they care about the time you somehow saved the day at your internship with just one paperclip? Who knows, but either way, there is a chance they could care, and that short story could get you the job for one reason or another.
For those of you who don’t have aha! moments where you saved the day at work, use an example from school.
All the times you swooped in and completed the entire group project because your fellow classmates wouldn’t do their part, or better yet, the time you led the group meeting or stepped in as project “manager,” let it be known. Bellow it from the rooftop! I’m joking, never shout during an interview, but you know what I mean.
Oh, and remember all that research you did to prepare for the interview? Don’t forget to incorporate that into the conversation. Just make sure that it is introduced organically and that it doesn’t sound practiced or contrived.
Also, sometimes the simplest thing can make you stand out if done properly. If you are applying for a job as a writer or editor, and you think the font or lettering size of the company’s online blog is distracting—kindly point that out! If you’re a newly-minted computer science graduate and you noticed the company is using an outdated software program, ask them about that.
I know, its hard to break into any field right now, especially being a recent graduate with little to no experience compared to everyone else. But its part of the game, and if you work hard and walk into your interview with everything noted in this article in mind, I know you will be one step closer to landing your dream job.