Every autumn, front lawns are decorated with scarecrows, plastic skeletons and nylon cobwebs. But if those setting out Halloween decorations wanted to truly frighten passersby, they would build a pretend office and re-enact job interviews from years past.
For many of us, nothing quickens the heart rate or sends a chill down our spines like a job interview. Career counselors often say to expect nightmares and an increased fear of dying the night before a job interview.
But unless you plan to interview for a position as Dr. Frankenstein’s lab assistant, job interviews shouldn’t terrify you.
Fear of interviewing is natural, but easily explicable: It’s your anxiety about the unknown.
If you can head into each interview with a better understanding of what to anticipate and how to address it, you can turn a tricky situation into a real treat.
Start by determining exactly how you will describe to interviewers why you’re interested in the open job. Perhaps you’re seeking more responsible, an opportunity to learn more or maybe your current workplace is just starting to feel as monotonous as a string of scary movie sequels.
No matter your motivation, your response should be germane to the position for which you’re applying.
Don’t say, “I’m stuck in a rut at my current job.” Instead reply, “I want to take on new challenges, and this position’s responsibilities intrigue me.”
Nothing in an interview makes the interviewee seem quite as ghoulish as specifically citing pay. Instead, focus on what elements of the job might mean a pay increase, such as: “I am ready at this point in my career for the responsibility of a management position.”
Feels like a trap, doesn’t it?
Go with the cliche, “I work too hard,” and you risk coming off as both disingenuous and unoriginal.
Answer too forthrightly—“sometimes I lose focus” or “I have bad anxiety attacks,” and you risk becoming your own worst enemy. The Fifth Amendment protects you against such self-incrimination, but you’re afforded no such right in a job interview.
Be honest and avoid being vague. Pinpoint a specific skill that interests you but you have not yet mastered. Discuss what steps you plan to take to learn that skill. This can be a software program, a managerial technique or just about anything that could pertain to the position you’re interviewing for.
For many interview questions, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. When it comes to salary demands, on the other hand, your response must at least be within a certain ballpark since the hiring organization has a budget with which to operate.
If this question sends you into a panic, fear not. Research salaries for the same or similar positions in your area to get an understanding of the range you should request (all job postings on CareerCast.com include a link to average salary levels for that job).
Don’t get greedy—your new job could do its best Invisible Man impression if you propose an outlandish price range. But don’t shortchange yourself, either.
Low-balling your own salary requirement is a road to self-sabotage.
Maybe there are other interview questions that leave you sleepless. No matter the topic, know that preparation and planning can turn any frightening job interview into a walk through the park. After all, you wouldn’t stroll into a spooky, abandoned house without a flashlight, would you?