It’s understood that when it comes to academics, there are some individuals who just aren’t great at testing. It’s no indicator of their intelligence, skillset, or knowledge, but when it comes time to show what they’ve got…they choke up. It’s frustrating because there is this huge obstacle standing in their way of their goals that really doesn’t have to do with their ability to achieve them. It can be true of so many things, like how some of the most talented musicians in the world freeze up during an audition. When there’s no pressure on the skill, they thrive, but once an opportunity is on the line, they flop. For people like this, they not only have to get better at showcasing their skills when the time comes, but they also have to be strategic about what they do in the days and moments leading up to the test/audition/recital, and the days after. The very same can be said of job interviews.
You may be the most adept computer programmer or math teacher or marketing strategist, but when you have to prove yourself to get those positions, you get nervous, and you do things that can jeopardize the opportunity. It’s time to embrace that in addition to whatever your expertise is, there is one more skill everyone must acquire, and that’s nailing the interview process. We say process because it’s about more than those 20 minutes with the interviewer. The result depends highly on what you do before the interview, as well as some of what you do after. We spoke to Watchen Nyanue (pictured below) about what to do (and not do) before and after an interview. Nyanue is the Vice President of Marketing Partnerships for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and the CEO of I Choose The Ladder. She has tremendous experience in coaching women through climbing the career ladder.
Know what will give you anxiety
After we leave an interview, we’re often plagued by thoughts like, “I wonder how long it will take them to get back to me” or “I wonder if I’ll hear either way, or only if I got the job.” Nyanue recommends sitting down, in advance of the conversation, and considering what questions, like those, might drive you crazy if you don’t have answers to them. And then it’s simple: ask them in the interview. Nyanue assures us that it’s perfectly normal to ask the interviewer questions such as, “When will I hear back?” and “Where are you in the interview process?” Remember that if they’re doing several rounds of interviews, and you were in round one, you may not hear back for a while.
Asking now is normal; asking later is annoying
If you fail to ask questions to which you need answers for sanity’s sake during the interview, you might be able to slip one or two in the thank-you note (we’ll touch on that later). But the best time to ask is during the interview, otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a position of A) either going crazy not having the answers or B) bothering the interviewer to know where they’re at, when you’ll hear back, etc. “Do not hold the person who interviewed you responsible for you not asking the question you needed to be answered in order to get some peace,” Nyanue says.
Do some social media investigating
There’s an important distinction between investigating and creeping – which we covered when I confessed having accidentally liked a two-year-old Instagram photo of someone I’d just interviewed. Nyanue doesn’t recommend doing anything like that, but she does say, “There is an understanding you’ll social media stalk. That’s just interview preparation. They’re doing the same to you. They’re trying to see if you’re a fit, as a person, for their company. Don’t like stuff from 30 weeks ago…but don’t worry about looking at things that are public information. Use social media to look for points of interest for a connection.” Nyanue advises against saying, “I saw in your photo from last year…” but, whatever you did learn from their post, if it’s a common interest, you can find a way to bring that up.
Complete any assignments in a timely manner
At the end of the interview, your interviewer may assign you some tasks. These could include things like sending over more references, sending an example of your work, or completing some post-interview survey. “Any deliverables you were responsible for, give those to them without them having to ask you for them,” Nyanue says. Think of it as you showing what sort of employee you’d be. When a boss asks you to do something, they hope to not have to nudge you again about it. So it shows you are reliable and a self-starter when you get on top of those post-interview deliverables.
Send a thank-you note
Nyanue advises sending a thank-you email after the interview, but also sending a physical thank-you card. In a time when few people send these, this will make you stand out. Granted, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many individuals working from home, this might not be an option, since you cannot (and should not) ask the interviewer for their home address. However, it’s possible their work is forwarding mail to their home now, in which case, you can send a note to their office. At the very least, it will be waiting on their desk when they return – it might be long after the job did (or didn’t) happen, but it will show your professionalism and keep you in their thoughts for future opportunities.
Use social media retroactively, too
If you’d like to leave one more good impression or solidify the idea that you’re the best one for the job after a great interview, you can use social media, too. Nyanue says you can review someone’s social media or Linkedin profile to bring up a common point of interest in your after-interview correspondence. Again, don’t let on that you’ve been stalking their Instagram posts from years back, but if this person recently posted a business-related article that you found useful, you can mention that in your thank-you note. Or, if you see they collaborated with someone you know well, you can drop a note about that.
Do it and move on
One of the best things you can do for your sanity when you’re in the interviewing game is doing all the preparation that is within your control. If you know that you did everything you could to arrive informed and ready, then you can minimize some of the “What ifs” and “If only I had done this differently…” later. Thoughts like that often only come up if something catches you off guard in the interview, which shouldn’t happen (too much) if you did your best to be prepared. “Give it your all in the interview. Set it and forget it,” Nyanue says. “If you know you are completely prepared and showed up in the best possible way…once it’s done, literally everything that was within your control to do for that position has been done.”
Interview a lot
“If you only have one interview you’re fixated on, there is a weird energy you’ll put off…desperate energy,” Nyanue says. It’s a good idea to line up plenty of interviews, not only so you have higher chances of getting a job, but also to deemphasize the pressure and stress around each individual one. Knowing you have a lot going for you can fight off some of that desperate energy. And ultimately, it puts you in a position where you can have options. “Like with dating, you should go on many interviews so at the end you are choosing based on the best option possible for you, and not the only option available.”
Really set it and forget it
Even though you’ll do everything that is within your control to show up as your best self for your interview, Nyanue emphasizes the importance of knowing how much is not in your control. And for that reason, getting extremely attached to the idea of a job can set you up for heartache. Think of scenarios such as this one: you’re absolutely perfect for the job, they decide to hire you, and then, the entire department you would’ve worked in loses funding and the job disappears. There was literally nothing you could have done to have prevented that. That’s why Nyanue says, “Don’t fall in love with a job too much before you have an offer. Anything can happen to make what was once an opportunity no longer an opportunity.”
Learn to love the process
If you train yourself to enjoy the process of interviewing, not only will you guarantee you always get something out of every interview, but you’ll also improve your chances of getting the job. When you enjoy yourself, you’re calm, and you seem confident – and who doesn’t want to work with somebody like that? “People need to stop acting like interviews are trips to the gauntlet. Try to enjoy the process,” Nyanue says. “We get so tied to what the end result will be. You may not get the job, but you could meet somebody who becomes a mentor for the rest of your career. As stressful as interviews can be, if you focus less on the end result, which admittedly is hard if you hate your job or are unemployed, once you find some joy in the process, you typically find employment much faster.”