When was the last time you flexed your interview muscles?
I haven't interviewed in four years. I know, I know — that's a lifetime these days when job-hopping is commonplace. In those four years, I've met countless people who have asked me about myself, and sure, in some situations, like dating, I've tried to “sell” myself, but not in the fashion that an interview calls for. To my delight, questions like “Tell me about a time … ,” or “What's your biggest weakness?” had successfully been avoided.
Total transparency: I've never felt completely confident in my interviewing abilities. I'm just not one of those people who has mastered the art of talking about their skills and accomplishments. And because this doesn't come naturally to me, the prospect of interview coaching both excited and terrified me. I knew I could benefit from it, but deep down I didn't want to do it. Can you relate?
So, I signed up for TopInterview. In full disclosure, I work for TopInterview's parent company, Talent Inc. In my four years in Talent Inc.'s marketing department, I've read article upon article on interviewing and all of its ins and outs. While I've become knowledgeable on the subject and feel confident lending advice to others, putting it into practice myself is a whole other ballgame. But in the spirit of experiencing our products first hand and seeing how our interview coaches truly help our clients (but really, have you read TopInterview's reviews? They're amazing!), I was excited to give it a go. I faced my fears and this is what happened.
Ready to get “into shape” with me?
Drop and give me … your elevator pitch
It turns out interviewing is not like riding a bike. My first session with interview coach Nick D. was more like a workout, and it quickly became clear that Nick was my personal trainer. As my interview coach, his job was to help me define my goals while holding me accountable, motivating me, and keeping me on track — ultimately giving me the tools I needed to attain my goals.
Nick reminded me that you can't go into an interview unprepared, and boy was he right. Having not flexed my interview muscles in quite some time, I can't say I was fully prepared for our first session. In fact, I did no preparation. That was OK though — Nick had it under control and I felt like I was in good hands at all times.
Meant to lay the foundation for our second session, our first session was a mock interview that coupled as an important introduction. Nick got to know me; he made helpful observations about my experience, resume, and career, and then he set my interview expectations. He laid out what I should expect in an interview from start to finish, and it was A LOT: Every question I could be asked. The kinds of stories I'd have to prepare about my experience to properly highlight my skills. The questions I'd have to ask. The observations I'd have to make. The body language I'd have to avoid. He even sprung questions on me! Believe you me, I was not ready to tell him about myself — aka share my elevator pitch. But I did it. It was disjointed and needed work, but it felt good to know that I could think on my toes and craft a halfway-decent response off the cuff for the first time in what felt like forever.
By the end, my head was spinning. Honestly, it was overwhelming. But like a good coach, Nick remained unwaveringly supportive. Sure, I had a lot of homework ahead, but I knew I wasn't in it alone. I had a sounding board — someone to guide me and assist when needed. For me personally, that's invaluable. Just like a workout, our first session was exhausting. However, also like most workouts, I felt accomplished and energized after.
On your marks, get set … improve
One aspect I looked forward to about TopInterview's coaching was the feedback, and Nick did not disappoint. To be exact, Nick provided me with five pages of notes from our first hour-long session. Was I that rusty? No, he is just absurdly thorough, and it was very much appreciated. This five-page feedback document recapped our conversation and the objectives we laid out, and then outlined the steps I'd have to take to prepare for a successful interview. Not to mention, there were links. SO many links. Sure, you can Google helpful interview resources for days, but having an expert coach hand you the ones that have been vetted and verified left me feeling like I had all the tools at my fingertips to be a better interviewee.
Get your reps in … prepare, prepare, prepare
And then there was the homework. I haven't been in school since 2009. Homework? What's that?
Let's be real here: Looking for a job, preparing application materials, practicing for interviews — it's like a second job … a second job where there is no success without preparation. And I didn't want to let Nick OR myself down. I had to get to work, post-work, to prepare if I wanted to get the most out of this experience.
So I did! I practiced my elevator pitch. I thought about my biggest weakness. I thought about a time I reached a goal and how I achieved it. I even thought about how my co-workers would describe me. Of course, while I certainly practiced, I never quite reached perfect. Did I feel entirely ready for my mock interview? No. Was I nervous? Yes.
No pain, no gain … whipped into shape
Mock interview time neared and my nerves mounted. Real thing or not, I wanted it to go well. Not to mention, I knew it would be recorded. I would have to watch it at a later date and I did NOT want to watch a cringe-worthy episode of “Jenna Bombs a Mock Interview.” I logged on to our video chat and put on a smile; Nick hit record and we were off!
To be honest, the mock interview was a bit of a blur (thankfully, I had the video footage!). All I know is that Nick tailored the interview to me and my career, that it wasn't perfect, and that I felt supported the entire time. Even if I was nervous beforehand, I ultimately felt comfortable and encouraged. I knew that should I struggle to find my words, need assistance or feedback, I could pause the interview and Nick would be there to help me along.
Once it was over, Nick made time to discuss how I felt it went and provide me with feedback on areas where I could improve. The feedback didn't stop there though: After the mock interview, I received an eight-page document covering questions that were asked, my body language, my use of filler words, and more. And like the feedback document I received after our first session, there were links upon links upon links to further guide me. Who doesn't love helpful resources?
And then there was the video recording of my mock interview. Honestly, I was not overly excited to watch it. No one (that I know of, at least) likes watching themselves on video or hearing their recorded voice. But alas, I watched — and it was immensely helpful. For one, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and that was a huge confidence booster. Second, having the video as a resource to see, instead of read, about my body language and word choice was invaluable in learning how I could be a better interviewee.
Sometimes the hardest part of any task is getting started, and admittedly, I was intimidated by the prospect of starting interview coaching. But what did I learn? I learned that having support, having someone hold me accountable, and having an expert on my side gave me new confidence in my abilities. Nick became my personal trainer for interviewing, and while that may have been scary initially, I'm in much better shape thanks to his help.
You can get in interview shape just like Jenna with the help of a TopInterview professional coach. Click here to learn more about the support and guidance you need to succeed.
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