There are good interviews and there are great interviews. Simply showing up on time and rehashing your resume does not constitute a good interview, much less a great one.
But before I can teach you how to ace your next interview let’s first be clear about the purpose of an interview. In today’s healthcare market employers are looking for more than just the right skill set, they want the right fit. The interview is the best method an employer has to get a glimpse into WHO you are and what you are like as a person. Interviews are an opportunity for an employer to see firsthand how you think and how you organize your thoughts and to determine whether or not you will be a good fit with the culture of their organization.
I just recently sat through a round of several interviews and while the candidates said all the right things many of them still didn’t make the right impression. I realized that even though they all were bright talented clinicians they made some errors that undermined their skills and left a poor impression.
These easily avoidable errors fall into the following categories.
Articulation and detail: Employers appreciate that when you are asked a direct question you provide a direct answer. Simply asserting that you are organized, flexible or caring doesn’t set you apart or make it true. In fact, it sounds as if you are pandering and just telling your interviewer what they want to hear. For example, many candidates dance around questions relating to conflict, leadership and teamwork with indirect answers that seem to show they understand the concepts but in the end don’t really provide a satisfactory answer to the question. What your interviewer really wants to hear from you are examples of how you have demonstrated leadership, solved a problem or worked on a team. When you relate a real life story it also has the added benefit of humanizing you and makes you sound more natural and authentic than simply reciting some well-rehearsed talking points. And if you really want to impress your interviewer, make sure that the example you provide is pertinent to the position you are seeking. This will also help your interviewer to actually envision you in the position.
Planning: Expect the expected. During your interview you will inevitably be asked classic interview questions such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” There is truly no good excuse for job seekers who stumble and stammer when asked “what makes you the right NP or PA for this position?” If any of these questions ever catch you off guard during an interview the employer will assume that there has been a lack of thought and preparation on your part. Seriously, these are Interview 101 questions that employers have asked applicants since the beginning of time. Why would anyone want to hire a clinician who failed to see the foreseeable?
Self-awareness: If you know you have performance anxiety then why didn’t you take steps to address the problem? Some nervousness is understandable but it’s almost painful to conduct an interview when a candidate has let their nerves get the best of them. It important that you be perceived as poised and confident, not remembered for how stressed out you were during the interview. Strategies such as staying away from caffeine, doing some relaxation techniques and arriving early are helpful but if you really want to lick your stage fright then you need to do what performers do before a big show – practice. Find a friend to do a mock interview with you, and then rehearse over and over until your butterflies are gone.
Body Language: Great candidates are also in control of their non-verbal communication. Be the first to extend your hand, because the person who initiates the handshake is perceived as the most confident. Good eye contact is a must. Find something to do with your hands during the interview if you tend to be fidgety. It can be really distracting when candidates click a pen or touch their hair repeatedly. And, you know, like, watch the, umm, annoying verbal fillers too.
Social skills: Yes, it IS possible for you to talk too much in your interview. One of the biggest complaints I hear from hiring managers is that the candidate “hi-jacked” and took over the interview. Let the interviewer set the agenda and the pace. The best candidates understand that interviews also involve listening. Employers want to share information about their organization and their open position. Your job is to be engaged, don’t interrupt, and listen politely. When it is your turn to speak, take a second or two to gather your thoughts before you begin. No one will notice and you will sound smarter.
Manners: Interviewers also appreciate when you save your questions until the end. This is especially true if the interview is highly structured. It can be difficult for the interviewer to stay on track and organized if a candidate is repeatedly interjecting with questions. And please, always have some questions prepared. There is nothing that makes you look more disinterested to an interviewer than when you have no questions.
Attitude: There is a saying that people may not remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel. People are drawn to people who have a good attitude and a positive outlook. Complaining is a red flag, so you should always speak favorably about your previous experiences and former colleagues and leave out the negatives. And smile. Your behavior during an interview is a proxy indicator to an employer of how you might behave when you are with a patient.
Now go rock your next interview!