After mailing out dozens of resumes, your dream job calls to say they want to interview you. You’ve gotten past the recruiter who was verifying your information but didn’t have any of the hard questions you will face in the interview. It will be online, with a panel of people, and extra one-on-one interviews following that. On the day of the interview, you turn on zoom and realize that your hands are clammy, your voice is shaky, and you have an overriding sense of anxiety in handling this interview online. You’re worried about what kind of questions you’re going to get asked. Some of them are going to be very hard and that makes you even more nervous.
Reboot Digital PR decided to examine the actual interview questions that raise people’s heart rate the most and have them squirm in their chairs. Reboot Digital PR asked participants to wear a fitness health tracker during an interview to conduct this study. They asked the same questions in the same order. They started with the person’s average heartbeat and recorded the most uncomfortable questions that raise their heartbeat.
So, what bothers people the most? A sudden ‘quick test’ frightens job candidates the most. Also, having ‘too many interviewers’ was an issue.
Here is the full list of questions noting the nervousness increases.
Ironically, the tell us about yourself question had the lowest impact in terms of making people nervous. Maybe if you understood how important that question was, your heart rate would go up more. (Read the Forbes article Best Way to Open the Interview to Secure A Job Offer)
Employers make snap judgments. You do not want to babble or bore them with a lengthy rendition of your background or life story. You need to open and grab their attention quickly because, most times, they are not paying attention to you yet. The most successful way to do this is to use the 60 Second Sell, a technique I use with all my interview coaching clients. You identify your top five selling points to perform the job you’re interviewing for. You link these together in a few sentences, and you have this verbal business card or elevator speech, known as your 60 Second Sell.
What salary range are you looking for?
In my experience working with job hunters, most people make critical mistakes when they answer the salary questions. Typically, people are asked what their current salary is, or what is the compensation they are looking for. Directly answering these questions can cost you the job or several thousands of dollars in future wages that the employer was willing to pay. The salary range question should be straightforward for you to answer if you have done the appropriate homework in advance. You can first reply, “what is the range this job pays?” and see if they answer. If they push you for a number, then try this approach. Cite a source like payscale.com and mention that their salary survey says that for an experienced project manager, the range is between $90,000 – $150,000, and you’re in that range. Then do your best to move on. If they want an exact figure, mention that you don’t know enough about the job yet to determine the actual salary you would require. You can table it until later.
Do you know what we do here?
This is an absolute must do. You must research before the interview to know about the company, what kind of products they sell, and precisely what they’re doing in the area or business unit you are going to work in.
What would your last boss say about you?
Think about your strengths and the duties required to perform this job. Then point out a couple of critical talents or abilities that your boss may have noticed that are specifically related to performing the new job. This gives the employer confidence you would work well in their position.
Why are you leaving your current employer?
Mentioning that you have gone as far as you can or want a new challenge are both acceptable answers. You can also bring up that you are trying to make a career pivot into a new industry. Of course, if you were let go because of a layoff, you can most likely attribute it to COVID.
What are the gaps in your CV?
Have a reasonable explanation as to why you took time off. You’re going to college, your family was relocating, you were on maternity leave, or the company restructured, so you got laid-off. One good strategy is to talk about what you might have learned during the gap. Maybe you picked up a new skill or finished a certification or degree, and you can move the conversation to talk about that.
What would you say are your weaknesses?
Notice this question is asking for more than one. Pick out skills that you don’t have that is not necessary to perform the job. For example, you could say, “I’m good at using Excel. I can take database info and layout the research or make macros subsets, but if you needed me to start coding or using SQL, I would need to take more classes. In this answer, you are pointing out something that you do well, and since coding or programming is not necessary for your job, the employer won’t worry about it.
Why should we hire you?
The answer to this question is the 60 Second Sell. You have already determined these are your five top-selling points. So, you would use the same response as noted in the Tell us about yourself question.
Where do you see your career progression heading?
Bring up the fact that technology and advances over the next few years will create brand new jobs that don’t even exist now. A solid answer is to say that you want to be working for the same company and apply your talents. If you have a goal in mind, you can mention it. Also, add that you are a lifelong learner and you keep yourself open to any new opportunities that might pop up in the company where they need somebody to go to a new area to help the company grow.
Tips to reduce nervousness
The number one way to reduce nervousness is to practice interviewing before the real event. Start by writing out the answers to the questions you think will be asked. Read them out loud and edit them so that you have the best possible response. Ask a friend to role-play with you, and you can practice answering the questions online because now almost all interviews are being conducted online. Get comfortable with looking at your computer’s camera and answering people by looking directly into the camera. That builds rapport as people watch you. The last thing to do right before you start is to stand up, shake your arms, shake your legs, move your shoulders around, and do a couple of twirls. These actions help you get some of the nervous energy out of your body.