This was adapted from CNBC’s Work It newsletter on LinkedIn about all things work — from how to land the job to how to succeed in your career. (Click here to subscribe.)
Introverts and extroverts alike, we all have to go through job interviews — and we all equally have the potential to blow them.
Not that I think you would. I believe in you.
But if you get to the job interview stage and find you aren’t getting job offers after, you have to examine what you’re doing in the interview. Did you fidget or giggle nervously? Or worse, did you pull a me and babble on way too long, leaving out some of the important stuff?
Career coach Natalie Fisher said there are four common reasons why you might get a job interview but not a job offer:
1. You look desperate.
2. Your self-doubt shows.
3. You didn’t provide enough details.
4. You try to hide your weakness.
We’ve all been there, right? It’s like dating. You can walk in feeling like you’re the whole package, or you can walk in feeling like you just reek of desperation and self-doubt that clings to you like a too-tight sweater. You can’t shake it no matter what. It makes me cringe just thinking about it.
Of course, overcoming those negatives is easier said than done. My mom is notorious for saying, “Hey, just be confident.”
If only it were that easy to flip the switch.
But there’s great news. There are some exercises you can do to help you prepare for the interview, shake that desperation and boost your confidence.
What to say — and what not to say — in a job interview
In an article for CNBC Make It, Fisher offered up some great tips for what you should not say — and what to say instead. For example:
Don’t say: “I was laid off, and this role checks all my boxes.”
Say instead: “Getting laid off gave me the time to step back and find positions like this one, where I can make a real impact in building a sales team. This is exactly what I’ve done in the past six years.”
The key is to play it cool and confident — even if those aren’t your dominant traits.
So, how do you do that?
First, you have to go in prepared. Read the job description, match up your experience with some of the skills and experience they’re looking for — and put that into talking points. Drill those talking points.
Read more of her tips and what NOT to say here.
Give yourself a pep talk
Here is a great tip I learned years ago from Peggy Klaus, a career coach and author of “Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It”: Pump yourself up before you walk into a job interview. Play your favorite song. Give yourself a pep talk before you leave home: Declare that you are so excited to be going to this interview and that you are going to wow them. They are going to be so impressed. Rattle off your accomplishments. Brag like no one’s watching. Literally, you can do this alone at home when no one is watching except for maybe the dog — and you know they are always supportive of everything you do.
You might feel uncomfortable at first, but saying these things out loud actually works. I watched Klaus boost the confidence of some young women at one of her “brag parties” in just a few hours. The difference was staggering.
Does that mean you’re cured, and you’ll suddenly be confident from this point forward? Um, no. But it will help you shake off the jitters and perform better in interviews. And the more you do it, the better you will get. Yes, you have to do it before every interview.
Another secret to help you shake that desperation vibe and ace the interview: “Don’t care so much,” said career coach Emily Liou.
That means: Don’t let your fear override your confidence.
You can’t hold on to the idea of one job so tight because it has to be THE ONE. If it is, it will work out.
Holding anything too tight never works. We’ve all read “Of Mice and Men.” We know how that ends.
And, if a job interview goes badly, do something fun to shake it off. Then treat it like online dating: Get back in there and keep swiping. There are more fish in the sea — and jobs on the job boards.
How to prepare for some common — and not-so-common — interview questions
In last week’s newsletter, we featured tips for how to answer some commonly asked questions in a job interview, such as “Tell me about yourself” or “What’s your biggest accomplishment?” You can read those answers here.
But it’s also good to prepare for a few curveball questions.
Instead of someone asking about your greatest strengths or weaknesses, they might approach it a different way and say, “Walk me through your career’s most difficult time so far.”
How would you answer that?
Jennie Rogerson, global head of people at graphic design platform Canva, told CNBC Make It that the best thing to do is focus on what you learned from that moment of hardship. Tough times are always going to happen — employers really value resilience on their teams. Explain how you navigated it, how you bounced back, and how you moved forward.
Another question you might not expect but should be prepared for is, “Tell me about a time you’ve advocated for diversity.”
There’s no one right or wrong answer here — everyone advocates for change differently. You don’t need to have started a petition or led a rally. What they’re looking for here is to see that you were willing to stand up for what matters to you, how you solve problems and if you were able to make an impact, Rogerson said.
Want to do more interview prep? Read all four untraditional job interview questions and how to answer them.
Interview tips from an HR pro who tracked her job search on TikTok
And finally, a few job interview tips from Jordan Gibbs. She’s a recruiter for tech companies who was laid off from a job at Lyft in November and documented her job search on Tik Tok, through 69 days, 173 job applications, 42 interviews and two rejections. The job search — which I would argue was more of a job journey after all of that — did end with a job offer. And she accepted it.
Here are a few of her top job interview tips:
- Never count your chickens before they’re hatched. This means never assume you have the job, even if you’re in the final stages of negotiations. It could fall through at any time. So, keep hustling. Keep interviewing.
- Overprepare. Even if you think you’re good “off the cuff,” read the job description and prepare your talking points.
- Be honest about what you don’t know. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. You have to be your authentic self or this isn’t going to work. If you try to oversell yourself, they’re going to smell that a mile away — just like desperation.
Read more job interview tips from Gibbs and how she ultimately landed her job.
— with reporting by Jennifer Liu, Natasha Piñon and Morgan Smith