One of the worst things someone can say to you when you’re about go to an interview is, “I’m sure you’ll be great. But don’t take it too personally if you don’t get it because there are probably a ton of people applying.”
Why is that so bad?
As good as your intentions might be, that statement actually does two things. One, it reaffirms the unspoken idea that you’re probably not going to get the job. And two, it makes you feel like you’re not special enough to stand out.
So, I often recommend avoiding “real talk” with anyone before you head into the big meeting for a gig you’re probably really nervous about already. Instead, here are three smarter things to focus on during a job interview that have nothing to do with the competition, and way more to do with making it obvious that you’re the right person for the gig.
1. Focus on Being Present During the Entire Interview
If you go into an interview completely distracted by how many other awesome people are probably up for the role, you’ll probably do a bad job of listening. And to combat your nerves, you’ll default to “selling” yourself, which annoys most hiring managers—especially when it’s clear that you’re not answering their questions.
Instead of focusing on the potential competition, make an effort to engage the interviewer in conversation rather than talking too much about how great you are. If you interrupt the hiring manager by accident, don’t freak out. But, do make it a point to apologize and allow him or her the space to continue. The most impressive candidates I ever met with made the meeting feel less like an interview and more like I was meeting someone for a coffee
2. Be an Advocate for Yourself
OK, this might sound cliché, but hear me out. Before I became a recruiter, I assumed that every interview I got was the result of some poor hiring manager just needing a warm body to fill a seat. Then, I realized that interviews take a really long time. And people don’t have the time to meet with everyone who happened to go to the same schools as they did.
The point here is simple: The only reason you’re interviewing is that someone thought you were pretty great. And this person wants to learn more about you.
Yes, it would be irresponsible of me to tell you to go into every meeting and treat everyone in the room like they’re idiots for passing on you. But, I’ve also met with candidates who just couldn’t believe I wanted to see them. And it was obvious that they were so down on themselves, they were just hoping to make it out of the interview alive.
Before you walk into a hiring manager’s office, do yourself a favor and identify a handful of things you’re really proud of. Even if you don’t end up talking about those things, that confidence boost will come in handy when your attention starts to veer off toward those other people who are up for the gig.
3. Remember the Purpose of Your Interview
So, here’s where I often get tripped up, even when I’m giving advice. Yes, you should focus on what makes you great. Yes, you should make as good of an impression on everyone you meet with. But, at the end of the day, the end goal is pretty simple: Get. The. Job.
Focusing on the competition you’re up against makes it easy to forget that goal. And when you forget that goal, you focus more on things like how much you’re sweating, or how that shirt you picked out was the absolute wrong choice, or how you really should not have settled on that half-priced hair product. But, if you lose sight of the fact that there is an actual job on the line (and that you are seriously a contender for it), none of those other things really matter. So, take a deep breath, remind yourself why you’re the right person for this position, and remember that at the end of the day, all of this work you’re putting in is for the sole purpose of getting an offer.
I’m kind of a defeatist by nature, so I understand how comforting it can be to say, “Well, there are a lot of great people up for this job, so we’ll see.” But, I’ve also learned enough to know that as reassuring as that might feel for a little while, you’re also putting yourself at a huge disadvantage if you go into an interview with that mindset. And why would you do that, especially when you’ve worked as hard to get to this point as you have? The only person holding you back in this instance—as tough as this is to swallow—is you.
Photo of race courtesy of Shutterstock.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author