Some people enjoy interviews. Unfortunately, others can fall prey to The Interview Daemon. Signs that this daemon has visited include:
– A state of temporary catatonia characterised by a wide-eyed expression and mind-blankness
– Florid speech of a tangential nature that fails to answer succinctly the question at hand (and impairs the person’s ability to judge when to stop speaking)
– A fixation with inanimate objects in the room, commonly the floor
Having recently been on an interview panel for the highly-competitive clinical psychology doctorate, and bearing witness to the above, I thought I would share some reflections that – when reminded of – might keep that interview daemon at bay whatever the role you are seeking…
We want you to feel at ease.
We really do. At least I do, coming from the school of interviews in which the philosophy is to create an environment that promotes people’s comfort and thus potential to shine (NOT ‘The Apprentice’ school that tries to push people to breaking point to see how they cope).
We want you to think.
About the question, about your answer. Don’t be afraid to talk through your thinking process as it occurs. Rote learning and pre-formed answers stand out a mile, as do attempts to shoehorn ‘impressive’ information into a space where this doesn’t quite fit.
Don’t presume we know.
Whatever it be – a theory, initiative, policy document – show that you know what it is by providing us a succinct summary before discussing its relevance. Please don’t say “obviously”. If you don’t explain, we will have to presume you don’t know.
It’s not all decided in the first 10 seconds.
First impressions do count (smartness, professionalism, greetings etc.), but they are not the decider. How you answer the questions is what’s important. There may be candidates that we warm to and in whom we see much potential, but if they have not quite the degree of experience or maturity for the position then we may actually be doing the person a disservice in the long-term to offer them something they are not quite ready for.
What about the interview daemon?
Try not to give him too much space or entertain him too much; accept that he is there, but don’t fight him (he’ll only fight back harder). Once you have acknowledged he’s in the room with you, allow him to retreat to the corner as you take the floor. Devoid of attention, he might just visit the next candidate instead…