Job interview Preparation – how much is too much?
I coach many people on interview skills. People come to me if they freeze up, lack structure, do not project confidence or are uncertain of how to answer questions – and that’s just the start. The other day, however, I came across a different kind of problem – one of my clients was way too over-prepared.
We started with a mock interview. He knew his stuff. He’d practiced his stuff. It rolled off his tongue seamlessly. After the first question he answered I said – “have you practiced that answer?” He said “how did you know?”
If you are over-rehearsed, or have learned your lines, here’s how I know:
- you don’t watch to see if I understand you. You can tell if I understand you by looking into my eyes at my reaction. Often if you over-rehearse, you just keep talking, focusing on what you want to say, and missing my cues with my body language and expression.
- you use words you wouldn’t normally use in everyday conversation.
- you tend to paraphrase with text-book descriptions of actions you should take. For example, if you are talking about how you have resolved a conflict with other people, you may say: “I acknowledged their concerns.” If you were simply describing what you did, you would talk more about what you said to the other person to “acknowledge their concerns.”
- you kind of answer the question but your answer flows too quickly and doesn’t quite hit the mark. Many questions are nuanced. You may, for example, answer the question: “why do you want this job?” with a response that tells me how great you are. “Why do you want this job?” and “why should we hire you?” are not quite the same question.
- you do not sound anything like the person who walked in with me and made casual conversation as we sat down. Your speech is too quick, or too mannered. You are in interview mode.
- I just don’t get a sense that we are talking together. I feel like I am at a lecture, or that you are presenting to a large audience.
My client’s underlying issue could be around a lack of confidence. Perhaps he thinks his experience was not good enough, or he thought each answer needed to be perfect. However in this case more practice with what we were doing was not going to help.
He told me wanted to do whatever it took to stand out. For the moment I have stopped working with him as I suspected the more we worked on his answers the deeper the problem would become.
I am going to ask a few career experts for a few tips on how to work through this problem.
I’m looking forward to their answers.
Stay with me.