What to do if you can’t stop preparing for job interviews….

by K B , updated on May 19, 2016

Top job interview tips from around the globe

I previously wrote a blog post about a dilemma I had with a client.

He was a highly intelligent job seeker who came to me for interview training – trouble was he’d done too much already, and was way too over prepared. The more I worked with him, the more I seemed to compound the problem, as he seemed to want to memorise each tip I gave him.

So, I thought I’d use social media to help me help him.

I reached out to several people around the globe who write on careers and whose views I greatly respect.

Here’s a summary of the amazing interviewing advice they gave me about helping my client.

How to stop sounding over prepared in interview…..

Melissa Cooley who blogs at The Job Quest wrote:

“Perhaps taking a notepad with him to the interview would help. If he writes down a few notes on what they are saying, it could slow his mind down just a bit and be easier to blend what he already knows into an answer that will be more what the interviewers would be looking for.

Another thing is to remind him that pauses after a question aren’t necessarily bad. Though they may seem like an eternity from the candidate’s end, they convey to the interviewers an ability to be thoughtful and to weigh the choices, not just have a knee-jerk reaction.”

Jorgen Sundberg who set up The Undercover Recruiter said:

“If I were the interviewer in this situation I would want to find ‘human’ candidates. I would expect they get lots of clever clogs and professor types, which is great but they will want to pick someone that can work with a team and well with patients. Everyone that gets picked to the interview has the potential of doing this but it will come down to personal traits methinks.

So my advice for him would be to do a check of how he likes to help people, what he is passionate about, what he does in his spare time, family stuff etc and then project that in the interview. If he still doesn’t get the gig, forgetta bout it as I wouldn’t want it in that case!”

Hannah Morgan aka  The Career Sherpa suggested:

“I’ve seen this happen before as well. I think there are several things you may want to suggest your client try.

First, I agree with Jorgen’s point about focusing on the interpersonal skills and highlighting his passion. That’s hard to practice with someone you know. Perhaps having him practice the relationship building skills of asking questions about the interviewer would be a good tactic.

Also, I am sure you’ve coached him to use STAR/PAR/accomplishment stories when he answers question. When he tells these stories, you should see his “eyes twinkle” and he should be smiling from pride or self-worth. If that’s not happening, could it be he doesn’t love what he does?

Second, you want him to use spoken language, not resume-ese. Ask him to re-script his answers using the spoken language.

And third, if he has over practiced, then changing up his scripting might make him sound less stale. You might ask him to tell totally different stories, use a different introduction, and have different answers to the typical questions.”

Steven Solodky a career coach in Melbourne said:

“He could be projecting what he thinks the interviewer wants to hear. I work on challenging this assumption by discussing what is actually assessed. I want to know what you really think and feel, not what you think I want to hear.

It could also be a cover for nerves. I point out that nervousness is normal and that I become concerned if a candidate is not nervous, as it could point to a lack of self awareness or an underlying personality distortion such as inflated confidence, lack of empathy or aggression.

I then would work on how to express nervousness in an interview and how this is very normal and nothing that requires a great deal of attention – who wouldn’t be nervous and it only shows how much you care about the role. Nerves pass in their own time and they arise as a normal human function when one is exposed to a new situation.

I encourage the client to bring awareness to their thoughts and feelings. What are you thinking right now? What feelings are arising right now? I ask them to bring in a job they want to apply for and go through the same process – what do you think about this role? What do you feel about it? It’s subtle, but hopefully they start to relax by this point and can talk more openly by by-passing conceptual thought.

I will also challenge if needed – you say this, but what do you really think? That’s funny, the last candidate told me that, give me something new? That’s nice, tell me something that I don’t know etc (supportive of course). Who is talking now, you or your mind again?”

This suggestion comes from Deborah Barit of Impressive Interviews:

“I would suggest your client takes a step back and considers the following:

If he was on the interview panel what would he want the candidate to say for the panel to go YES and formulate the answers accordingly.

This is not a competition.  He needs to focus on their qualifications, experience and personal attributes which makes him stand out in the crowd. The most important part of preparing is to focus only on what he has to offer.

It is essential not to memorise answers but focus on the key points for each answer and prepare examples from experience to demonstrate the point.

Expect the unexpected and hence stop worrying about it.”

Mary Goldsmith, Founder of Career Sheila recommends:

“Is your candidate already using a formula such as CAR or STAR to present examples of his best achievements during the interview? Has he seen a recording of himself in action? If not, that may be a wake up call!”

Phyllis Mufson found at Phyllis Mufson wrote:

“Just jotting down a few notes of what has helped clients who don’t sound like themselves – they come across overscripted, or sounding like a role rather than a person, too authoritarian or conversely sounding like a scared rabbit, to name a few.

The person is usually scared. So start out what they’re afraid of and address that. The goal here is to get them to the point where they are willing to be authentic even if nervous.

Point out that the purpose of rehearsal is to make sure that if they are nervous at the interview they will still remember some of their points, and not to sound like a TV newscaster (unless that’s the job they are interviewing for.

Focus prep on choosing their strongest points and illustrating their points with stories – more memorable than a string of facts.

Record them answering questions and give feedback. They can hear the difference between an over-scripted (or whatever the initial problem was) manner and being genuine. They have much more impact when they are being themselves and telling compelling stories.

Give them the assignment that first priority in the interview is to connect with the interviewer.”

Tim Tyrell Smith from Tim’s Strategy suggested:

“In the end, I think it is about learning to relax and be yourself. I think if you can do those two things, the fit (or non-fit) will become obvious. It allows you as the candidate to be more conscious in the conversation. And you’ll get more of Hannah’s “eye-twinkling” (great phrase).

As an interviewer, I always liked to watch someone think – to pause before an answer. Too quick and it feels rehearsed (like you mentioned). Too long and it seems selfish. My advice is to prepare as best you can then relax and let go. Give short/crisp answers and be ready with longer, more interesting ones as interest from the interviewer is apparent.

Focus on a more conversational interview. An exchange of ideas . . .”

Learn how to pick the questions interviewers will ask and get top preparation tips with this free e-book: “The Seven Deadly Sins To Avoid At Job Interview”

Deborah Barit wrote this book. She is one of Australia’s leading interview coaches. It is packed full of easily actionable interview tips.

To get your free e-book and some of our best interview tips direct to your inbox, simply click on this link, and answer two survey questions about what makes waffle in interview. We’ll then email you the book.

Here’s what happy readers said about the e-book and interview tips:

“Deborah Barit is a very smart lady…She is good at figuring out what an employer is looking for. It’s like she has ESP — with her help in preparing, I found no surprises in a recent interview and I was prepared for every question….” Cathy, Leichhardt

“Because I read so many of your posts, I feel as if you were my personal employment coach. I start my new position in two weeks. I had so many obstacles to overcome and each day you posted a solution to my dilemma and how to improve my search. Thank you so much for your input and PLEASE continue to do what you do!”

Click here to have the e-book emailed to you.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Han March 10, 2011 at 7:47 am

Wow, what a tour de force–of both great advice for your client, but also of the power of crowdsourcing, Karalyn!

Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) July 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm

What to do if you prepare too much for interview – http://ow.ly/5AKiq

WHW (@WHWM2W) July 18, 2011 at 8:08 am

Happy Monday #jobseekers RT @InterviewIQ: How to stop yourself from too much interview prep – http://ow.ly/5AKip

Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) August 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm

How to stop over preparing for interview – http://ow.ly/60y9K

Javier Masías (@jmasias) March 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

“@JobHuntOrg: RT @interviewiq: Yes, you can over prepare for interviews. Here’s how to overcome this problem – http://t.co/L8E4NFBF

Sheree Van Vreede (@rezlady) March 19, 2012 at 6:50 am

MRT @InterviewIQ: Yes, you can overprepare 4 interviews. Here’s how 2 overcome… http://t.co/In44qWyz >>Good advice! http://t.co/2Zf26a8S

Hung Lee (@Wise_Man_Say) March 20, 2012 at 10:45 am

Advice from the experts: http://t.co/4Nq4S615 What to do if you can’t stop over prepping for interview

@MSTechStudent December 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Interview tip: Use spoken language and not resume-ese. Click here to read even more invaluable top job interview tips http://t.co/UXQx98fp

BrainTrack (@BrainTrack) (@BrainTrack) January 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Top job #interview tips from 8 experts around the globe http://t.co/6Lfjz5Zx #jobinterview RT @danieatupsjobs: RT @InterviewIQ #hr

Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) April 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

Top job interview tips from 8 experts around the globe http://t.co/dsWDAUwFgM #jobsearch

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