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Navigating the Job Interview to Ensure Calm Waters

Navigating the Job Interview to Ensure Calm Waters

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By Terry Lowe-Edwards
Contributor, Online Career Tips

Last Saturday morning, I awoke to see the calmest ocean I ever recall. There was barely a ripple breaking onshore.

I was in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to serve as a judge for the State Leadership Conference for DECA. This career and technical student organization prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. DECA has chapters in high schools and colleges around the globe.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

The ocean’s tame behavior struck me as a metaphor for the experience we all hope to have in our career journey, including the job interview. After judging 17 students in a role-play exercise, I was reminded of some important tips to consider to ensure smooth sailing once you secure a job interview.

Seven Ways to Ensure a More Successful Job Interview

DECA Lowe-Edwards
The author (at far right) with other DECA attendees. Image courtesy of Terry Lowe-Edwards.

There are several actions you can take to improve your chances of a successful job interview:

1. Do your homework. Make sure you are well versed about the organization — what it does, its target audience, its competition and its competitive advantages. This information should be easily gleaned from the organization’s website and social media accounts. If those items aren’t addressed, be sure to ask about them during your interview.

2. Anticipate and plan. There are a few standard questions you can expect. Be ready for them and rehearse your response.

Some common questions include: What do you know about our organization? Why are you interested in this position? Why do you think you would be a good fit for the role? Tell me three words or phrases your friends or colleagues would use to describe you. Similarly, make sure you have questions to ask about the organization or team when the interviewer has concluded his or her questions.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Ask a friend or family member to play the interviewer and ask you questions, so you can rehearse your responses. Several mock interviews will allow you to develop more confidence and organization in your delivery. Our Career Services office also offers complimentary mock interviews for students and alumni.

You might also consider asking a professional in your field of interest to give you time for an informational interview to learn about a particular industry. Explain you are preparing for job interviews in the field and want to learn how they got to their role.

4. Be aware of nervous habits that may distract your interviewer. Playing with your hair, continually tugging at jewelry or your collar, or responses that are filled with “um” and “uh” send a message that you are uncomfortable. These nervous habits can make your interviewer uncomfortable as well, and they may want to end the interview more quickly than you’d like, putting you at a disadvantage. Consider recording yourself with a smartphone camera while doing a mock interview with a family member or friend, or ask them to note any nervous tics.

5. Pace your speaking. Talk to your interviewer using a steady cadence, clear diction and proper use of industry vocabulary. Watch speech that is too fast and garbled or too slow and sluggish.

6. Visual aids help. Some professions lend themselves to having visual representations that showcase your skills and abilities. For example, writers and graphic designers will have portfolios.

But there are other thoughtful ways that job seekers in non-creative professions can prepare examples to help a prospective employer visualize your capabilities. It may be as simple as a chart or graph to illustrate your accomplishments on a major project showing its results.

7. Expect the unexpected. The interviewer will want to know that you can think on your feet. So there may be a question or two that you don’t expect.

Maintain your composure. To give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts, consider beginning your response with “That is a very good question, and I’m glad you asked me. Let me think about that.”

But don’t linger too long in thinking. If you’re truly stumped for an answer, try shifting the focus and asking a question in reply to buy time and hopefully help you formulate a response.

No one wants choppy surf when navigating through a job interview. Hopefully, using these tips will provide some ideas to ensure calm waters and a successful voyage.

About the Author

Terry Lowe-Edwards is a senior copywriter with American Public Education, Inc., who brings a decades-long career as an integrated marketing communication professional with education, nonprofit, retail, and media enterprises and marketing agencies. She has been a judge for two years at the competitive events during the State Leadership Conference for Virginia DECA, and she enjoys supporting organizations like DECA in helping next-generation leaders prepare for their future.  

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