“I’m good at my job – but I do disastrously in interviews”
Good at my job
By Liam Horan, Career Coach & Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers
Q: Every time I go to interview, I get tongue-tied. I’m not sure if it is the nerves, or if I’m trying too hard, but I tend to do disastrously. It is really annoying for two reasons: 1. I am good at my work and regularly fail to get jobs I could do almost with my eyes closed; and 2. I’m actually quite an articulate speaker when the spotlight isn’t on me in an interview. Any suggestions? (NT, email).
A: Your question raises a lot of possibilities. Given that I am diagnosing your worries or problems on the back of just one paragraph, some of what I say below may not apply in your case, but I think it is still important to make the points in case some hit the spot for you, or for some other readers, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
Are you over-confident going in? Are you doing enough research or do you think that, because you are good at your job, there is no need for you to research the company, practice some questions and answers, and brush up on your technical knowledge? This may not be the case but when confidence tends towards arrogance it can lead us to take shortcuts, to believe our own publicity. Pride comes before a fall. We’ve all had that experience at some stage in our lives – if not in job interviews, then definitely in other arenas. Prepare, prepare, prepare: it applies every time.
Nerves, a constant companion. Good preparation helps to negate nerves. Most candidates are nervous. Those who have done the work are the ones who overcome the nerves quickest and get into their stride. The combination of poor preparation and inevitable nerves can be extremely debilitating on the day.
Trying too hard?
Trying too hard? It certainly sounds to me like you reaching out to find some new language or style of delivery. Be careful with that. In the old days, we called it ‘the phone voice’. The trick in interviews is to stay as close to your normal, everyday communication style as you can. It’s the style you know best and is therefore the most sustainable. If you’re trying to reinvent yourself in the interview, yes, it will cause you difficulty. And, in your case, the fact that you are an articulate speaker makes it all the more important that you stay natural.
You speak of the spotlight: I understand exactly what you’re saying, but this is a perception you must also avoid. An interview should not be so one-sided: in reality, you should aim for a knowledgeable conversation, not a sweaty appearance on Mastermind. You’re not in The Cube. You’re an adult. Engage in an adult conversation. Ask questions. Seek clarification. Chat it through. You’re an interview candidate, not the defendant with a dubious alibi.
Good at my job
The thing they need to know is the thing you know best – that you are good at your job. Tell stories that show you doing the job. People often decline to give proper detail of what they do – they take it for granted. “Sure, everyone knows that…” No, they don’t. The job of persuading the interview panel is yours: resolve to do it every time with real detail. Tell yourself I am good at my job and then demonstrate to them with expamples of how you are.
If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches, see HERE for CV Preparation, Application Form writing, LinkedIn Profile writing, Interview Training and other career services.
Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers, who have offices in Bandon, Galway, Limerick, Navan, Athlone, Sligo, Tullamore and Mayo, plus a full online service. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, personal statements and application forms.