Photo by Getty Images

At Work

Rethink Your Next Job Interview

There’s no sales pitch required

By Lisa Szabo, ’16 BA

October 15, 2020 •

Whether your next job interview is happening in person or by video call, chances are that a mild sense of dread will start to kick in about 20 minutes before showtime. Not only are you trying to make a really good first impression in an interview, but if you haven’t had one for several months — or years — you’re probably a little out of practice. In What the Job?, a career podcast geared toward early to mid-career grads, advisors Mykhaylo Bodnar, ’06 BA, and Tyree McCrackin from the UAlberta Career Centre offer tips for tackling nerves, avoiding common mistakes and staying cool during your next job interview.

1: Rethink the format

Bodnar deviates from the notion that you have to sell yourself in an interview. Instead, he recommends looking at it as a conversation with a Q&A structure. “We all have multiple conversations every single day,” he says. “We provide information and we ask clarifying questions.” Trading in the sales pitch for a two-way dialogue takes the pressure off you to persuade the interviewers and frees you up to ask questions too. Plus, Bodnar says, if you approach an interview with the idea that you can only say positive things about yourself, you’re missing out on an opportunity to talk about your growth. 

2: Pinpoint the problem

Start by figuring out exactly what you’re nervous about. With English as his second language, Bodnar notes that certain words are difficult for him to pronounce. To help himself feel more confident before an interview, he practises saying them at home. Whether you’re nervous about fielding a question you didn’t expect or your microphone cutting out midway through your response, practising beforehand can help you identify your stressors and develop strategies to deal with them. Try setting up a mock interview with the Career Centre (free for recent grads, $60 for other alumni) to zero in on any pressure points and brainstorm strategies to tackle them — even if that means coming to terms with what is out of your control.

3: Don’t guess at the questions.

Part of what makes an interview stressful is not knowing what questions to prepare for. Rather than guessing, Bodnar suggests going back to the job posting. Look at the skills listed in the qualifications section and think about why they’re relevant to this position, he says. “Then, in preparation, come up with stories or examples of your own experiences where you have used those skills in a similar context.” 

4: Avoid these Zoom interview mistakes.

When it comes to virtual job interviews, the screen between you and the interviewer can sometimes act more like a brick wall. If your microphone isn’t working properly or the room is too dark, the interviewer won’t be able to pick up on your facial expressions or tone of voice — two things that McCrackin notes are key to expressing your personality. To avoid looking like a “disembodied head,” set up your computer in a well-lit room, with any windows or light sources in front of you. Sit far enough back so that your shoulders and head are centred on the screen and the camera is hitting you from straight on — not below. If possible, McCrackin also recommends wearing headphones. Your interviewer doesn’t want to hear their own voice booming back at them through your microphone.

5: Remember, they’re nervous too.

“The people across the room are also under pressure … because they’re trying to find their next colleague,” says Bodnar. Plus, if your interview is happening remotely, the interviewers are dealing with the same risk of technical problems as you are. McCrackin recommends a healthy dose of humour and openness if any issues arise. “The more the person sees you as human, the better.”

MORE: Listen to the full mini-episodes of What the Job? on preparing for an interview and virtual job interviews, plus check out more resources at the UAlberta Career Centre.

We at New Trail welcome your comments. Robust debate and criticism are encouraged, provided it is respectful. We reserve the right to reject comments, images or links that attack ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender or sexual orientation; that include offensive language, threats, spam; are fraudulent or defamatory; infringe on copyright or trademarks; and that just generally aren’t very nice. Discussion is monitored and violation of these guidelines will result in comments being disabled.

Latest Stories