By Ann Kaiser, Career Coach, Annkaiser.com
I’m a career coach and PR Director in New York City who’s recently found myself interviewing again after becoming one of the millions laid off during the coronavirus pandemic. Although these layoffs are the result of a pandemic and not performance, it can understandably leave one’s confidence a little shaken. Even as someone who coaches others for interviews, I still need to do my prep work to make sure I come across as the confident and capable colleague I want hiring managers to see. Here are some tips I’ve learned to get into a better headspace:
Do you find it really easy to talk up your colleague or friend’s accomplishments, but struggle to talk about your own? Especially in a time of stress, it can be tough to talk yourself up, or even remember all the good qualities you have and amazing things you’ve done. This is a time to ask for help: Call on trusted colleagues, mentors, clients and friends and ask them to remind you of your strengths and your professional wins. These votes of confidence from others are going to help you feel more confident in yourself.
The input you just got from your friends and colleagues? Put it in your “brag book,” a list of accomplishments that you can use to show your value to new companies, managers—and yourself. Focus on examples with measurable results that you can speak to in interviews: Did you help the company make or save money? Did a client give you a great review or extend their contract? Did you bring in new business or make a great hiring decision? Did you make your company a place others want to work? Consult past performance reviews if you have access to them, or look through old emails to jog your memory. It’s very easy to forget all the great things you’ve done, so keep this “book” up-to-date. It’s going to make interviewing a lot easier—and should be regularly consulted to remind you how much you have accomplished and the value you’ll bring to any role.
An interview should be a conversation, but this may be the first time you’ve had to talk about yourself in this context in months or years, so it’s smart to think about your answers ahead of time. I felt like I flubbed my first interview after being laid off by rambling, and it’s because I didn’t take enough time to hammer out my talking points—those key messages about your skills and value that you know you want to get across to your interviewer. Consider what you’re going to say to a hiring manager who says, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Can you take me through your resume?” and actually speak those answers aloud to yourself or to a trusted friend or colleague. Thinking about what you’ll say and actually saying it are two different things, and speaking answers aloud will help you find the best, most concise way to get your point across. Decide on the key things you want your interviewer to know about you, and make sure you work them into the conversation.
We’ve all adopted a more relaxed dress code lately (i.e. workout leggings and sweatshirts) as we work from home, but an interview is your chance to make a first impression on your potential new employer, and you want to come across as a capable, confident professional. “Dressing the part” is not just about looking good—it’s about feeling good too, so take your time getting ready. Make sure you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing and remove anything that might be distracting (e.g. I find that my hair is always falling in my face, so I pin it back to keep myself from constantly touching it!). Looking and feeling good will read as confidence to your interviewer. For video calls, take the time to dress as you would have if you were meeting at the office. Even if the interview is over the phone, dressing the part will help you show up as a candidate who is certain of the value she brings.
Finally, remember that this is a conversation, not an interrogation. Keep in mind all that you have to offer and how lucky the company would be to have you. Then enjoy the exchange that follows, and know that you will learn from the experience, no matter what the outcome!