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interview

Golden Guide Career Advice: Interview with Confidence

Lydia Lazar

interview

Golden Tip No. 18: To Fail to Prepare is to Prepare to Fail

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Don’t sabotage yourself by neglecting to adequately prepare for an interview. Focus on the things you can control: learn about your interviewer, company and industry; plan a presentable outfit; and prepare your best answers to likely questions related to your academic studies, work background and interest in the position.

As I have previously noted, most people are not making mistakes about their hair or clothes. Instead, they’re missing opportunities to showcase why they’re the right person for the job. Why? Because interviews are stressful situations and we are intimidated into passivity by the combination of wanting to impress the interviewer but simultaneously feeling out of control of the situation.

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The key to successful interviewing starts with this two-part realization: First, you need to connect personally with the interviewer and leave them convinced that you offer the employer something that is essentially intangible: namely, that you are the person among all the candidates who will bring them “what they are looking for” in their new hire.

Second, you need to understand that “what they are looking for” is NOT the same thing as “the set of skills that are needed to succeed in the position.” Although those skills are necessary, they are not sufficient to get you the job.

Understanding that your goal in the interview is to convey this intangible sense that you are “what they are looking for” should change your approach to interviewing and focus your efforts on building your overall confidence. Confidence in yourself is the foundation of successful interviewing.

Of course, it can be hard to be confident when you are in a stressful interview situation, but here are some tips for being comfortable in your own skin:

  • Do not give yourself time to dwell on your anxiety.
  • In the interview, be yourself and try to relax into the conversation. (But don’t be too relaxed—no slouching, no casual cursing or overly familiar language.)
  • Do not try to imagine what the next question will be—listen carefully and reply appropriately. As you answer the questions, try to be concise and convey that you are a problem-solver.
  • Frame learning from past experiences positively—tell stories that project your optimism and confidence in your own skills. Do not say negative things about past employers or previous supervisors or colleagues.

Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.