This week I met with a jobseeker who was preparing for a job interview in local county government. Having interviewed people for government jobs, I know well the process and the kind of questions that are asked. When I asked her a question, I noted the response: very similar to the responses most jobseekers have, something akin to deer in the headlights.
I daresay that one major factor that keeps qualified individuals from getting jobs is the anxiety that binds a person’s thoughts and makes them forget their name. I call it “Tongue-Tied-Itis.” Job interviews are not comfortable, and neither is bragging about ourselves to people who could control our future paychecks.
I tried an exercise on a jobseeker in a job club this morning. In the latter case, I have known this jobseeker for months, and knew that in spite of his tremendous knowledge, experience and qualifications, he still struggled answer behavioral questions in interviews. So I asked him: “Tell me about a time when you made breakfast.”
That is a much easier question to answer. I let him give an answer, then helped him through using the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, and Result – to speak about how he made breakfast this morning. I could see the “AHA!” light up in his eyes. I think he got the idea.
So here’s my advice: if you’re preparing for a job interview, warm up by using this exercise. Have a friend ask you simple questions: “What is your favorite color and why?” “Tell me about a time when you chose where to walk the dog.” If you’re alone and want to prepare, try practicing on this list of exercise questions. Print them up, cut them into slips and put into a hat. Then lock yourself in a bathroom and answer them to the mirror.
- What is your favorite color and why?
- Tell me about a time when you decided what to cook for dinner.
- Describe for me in detail what you keep on your bathroom vanity.
- Describe the process for making a peanut butter sandwich.
- Dog or Cat? Why?
- If you turned on the radio, what would you listen to? Why?
- What are your favorite kind of shoes?
- Describe your last vacation.
- What factors into your decision what to wear?
- Coke or Pepsi?
- What was your favorite subject in school?
- What one place would you most like to visit before you die? Why?
Now we all know some hiring managers ask just such questions in actual interviews, usually with the intent of discerning something about your personality, so see if you’re a good fit. In our exercise there’s no motive other than simply to get used to answering questions by using questions with which people are familiar, such as favorite color. So don’t stress about why they’re being answered, or how to answer them. Just give an answer!
This relaxes the mind, helps to put you in the mindset to answer interview questions, and should relieve the tongue-tied-itis. Try it and tell me how it worked!