Think of a job interview as finding what you like doing best and getting someone to pay you for it!
Sounds pretty cool, no?
Here are some secrets to help you nab the job of your dreams.
- Pump yourself up
- Ask others to pump you up
- Strike a Super Hero pose
- Refresh your research and review the job description
- Prepare talking points
- Demonstrate how you’re a good cultural fit
- Avoid talking salary at first interview
- Prepare ahead to answer common questions
- Prepare ahead to ask important questions
Let’s review these one at a time…
Use Positive Psychology
1. Pump yourself up to mitigate fears and low self-esteem.
Feel confident and you’ll be confident. Whatever fears you may have, they’ll potentially show up on your face or body. Think you don’t have the skills or experience? Worry they’ll think you’re too old or too young? You may unconsciously hunch up your shoulders, exhibit a nervous habit like twisting your hair or playing with your jewelry, or just have a pained expression on your face. So, before you go to the interview, practice keeping your worries out of your internal dialogue.
Tell yourself you can do this job! Get out a piece up paper and write down all the skills they’re looking for. Then document the clear connections between this job and your skills by jotting down examples of how/when you’ve demonstrated you excel at these skills – if not in a past job, then perhaps in your life outside of work (e.g., as a volunteer, parent or student). Be prepared, if asked, to showcase these skills by offering up little “stories” that show you in your best light.
2. Ask friends and family to pump you up, preferably right before your interview.
Fish for compliments. That’s right! Research by Harvard Business School found that fishing for compliments before your interview will positively affect your performance. Pretty cool, no? If you can get someone else to deliver an ‘appreciate jolt’ it will impact you both emotionally and physiologically.
Don’t be shy about asking for this praise. As useful as pumping yourself up can be, researchers found that getting positive reinforcement from your social network is even more effective.
3. Strike a Super Hero pose.
Before your interview, take a moment to yourself. I like to arrive a bit early and go into the restroom. Stand with hands on hips. Or try the Rocky Balboa Victory Pose with arms up. Legs wide. Chin slightly lifted. Hold for two minutes. This decreases stress hormones in your body and bolsters your confidence.
Now smile. Keep smiling, all the way up until, through and after the interview. You’re the perfect candidate. You’ve got this!
Articulate How You’ll Meet the Employer’s Needs
4. Refresh your research about the organization, review the job description and be ready with examples that show you’re a good match.
Be super clear on what the organization does and how they do it, and exactly what they’re looking for in their new hire. Look at each of the qualifications and duties described, and identify an example from your own experience to address each one.
Lead from the perspective of the employer’s needs and problems, and convey specifically how you’re well-suited to be their problem-solver. Again, come up with examples that show off your problem-solving skills as they relate to the job description. For example:
- I’ve built bridges between people
- I’ve reorganized and transitioned systems
- I’ve developed and implemented plans
- I’ve prepared and monitored budgets
- I’ve crafted compelling cases for support
- I’ve mastered integrated online social marketing and fundraising
- I’ve addressed public gatherings as an ambassador and advocate
- I’ve asked people for money one-to-one
- I’ve staffed volunteer committees
- I’ve planned and implemented events
Practice showing off your qualifications by relating anecdotes that demonstrate them out loud. Do this either in the mirror or with friends, so you get comfortable with them. And don’t worry about memorizing everything—it’s perfectly okay to hand-write or type up notes and bring them to your interview for reference. There’s nothing wrong with looking prepared!
5. Prepare talking points that will ensure you sound relevant.
Very few candidates interview with 100% of the qualifications desired, and that’s okay. Ask yourself “What are the differences between this job’s requirements and my skills?” Make sure you’ve thought about any gaps and are prepared to address them (e.g., with experiences you’ve had outside of work, courses you’ve taken or courses you plan to take). Honesty is always appreciated, as is a ‘can-do’ attitude and a willingness to learn.
Think in terms of “yes/and;” not “no, but.” Always speak in the positive about your germane experience and skills. Rather than say “No, I don’t have experience doing XYZ, but…” say “If by asking me that question you’re wondering if I can do XYZ, then my answer is absolutely yes. And let me describe an example that illustrates this.” For example, even if you don’t have supervision experience on the job, you’ve likely had it as a student, parent or volunteer. Say “yes,” and then describe your relevant experience.
6. Demonstrate how you’re a good cultural ‘fit.”
Show the employer some of your personality traits that may not have translated well to your cover letter and resume. You’ll have more time and room here to elaborate on the bullet points in those documents. Remember that “fit” is a matter of getting along personally, as well as having the right skills.
Doing some advance intelligence gathering can serve you well here. Do you have any friends, or friends of friends, who might know someone who works at the organization? See if you can talk to someone about what it’s like to work there. You can also learn about the culture if they have any online volunteer reviews. And sometimes you can get a sense by following their social media networks.
A Note about Salary Discussions
7. Try to avoid talking salary at a first interview.
It’s best to keep the focus on how great a fit you are, and how wonderful it would be if this all works out. Once they want you, you’re in the driver’s seat. However… it’s not always easy, possible, or desirable to defer the conversation; sometimes you’ll just have to talk salary early on.
First you can try saying you’re flexible, or that money is not your primary consideration (but do this only if it’s true). You can also say you’d like to learn more about the job first, or simply turn the question around and ask the employer what their budgeted range is. But these tactics won’t always work. So… it’s best to be prepared with a number you’re comfortable with.
Do research so you know what the market says you’re worth. Look at Idealistcareers.org, Monster.com, Glassdoor, Salary.com, and Indeed for job postings and their salaries. Also, ask others in your field. Take a look at the organization’s 990 so you have a sense of what types of salaries this organization pays. If you’re looking for $140,000 and the E.D. makes $85,000, you’re probably in the wrong ballpark. Don’t base your salary range on what you want or need. Too often, people come up with their desired salary by thinking about what they’d like to earn, which may be wildly out of sync with what is reasonable for this position. This can make you come across as naive to employers, so make sure your number is correlated to the market.
Choose your salary range carefully, realizing the employer may only focus on the lower end. If you’d be unhappy with the lowest end, don’t give a wide range like “$55,000 to $75,000;” you’ll quite likely be offered $55,000 — because that’s what you told the employer you’d be willing to accept.
Don’t allow your past salary to pigeonhole you. If your past salary was below market, say so (it’s one of the reasons you’re looking). If the offer is low, say: “Hmm… that salary is a bit lower than I expected. Is there a way to negotiate a shorter work week? Summer Fridays? More vacation days to make up for the difference?”
Wondering what happened to secrets #8 and #9? To be honest, this article got too long! I want you to digest these first seven secrets, and I’ll be back soon with a companion article that reveals your remaining two secrets. HINT: They have to do with (8) getting ready to answer and (9) ask interview questions. It’s a topic unto itself, so deserving of its own article.
Which of these seven secrets will you use? And if you’ve used them to good avail, please share in the comments below!
Now… if you’re job hunting, think about your immediate next steps to prepare yourself to ace the interview! And, by the way, I also offer coaching if you’d like a little help assessing your strengths, preparing for an upcoming interview opportunity, or sorting out some offers to make your best decision. Just grab an Hour of Power or Package of Power. Both are discounted from my regular hourly fee. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
To your success!
Photo taken at an art museum that permits them to be snapped. Honest!