It’s amazing how much children (like my 21 months old) can repeatedly do things so they can learn a new skill, like how to build a puzzle. There is no hesitation or judgment – just pure focus on repeating an action until she gets it right and sheer drive to learn more everyday.
Developing your job search skills (e.g. interviewing skills) also need this kind of practice, focus and drive, but often times as an adult, we judge too quickly on how we are doing while we learn. A simple concept of practice makes perfect is often not executed because of constant self-criticism. To build your interviewing skills, for example, there are many ways you can practice. How many of these are you doing?
- Self practice – get a video camera or use free internet tools to record your voice answering common interview questions like walk me through your resume or tell me why you think you are qualified for this job, etc.. Jing lets you record your voice for 5 minutes for free online. We all think we know what we sound like and look like in an interview, but I think you will be surprised by some of what you see and hear. This kind of practice can show you what your unspoken body language is like and how you sound from an interviewer’s point of view (like during a phone interview).
- Practice with a few friends – you want to select people that can give you different perspectives of how you come across. Choose a friend who has done recruiting and is an experienced interviewer to give you feedback. Choose a friend who is in the same field you are interviewing to find out how qualified you sound in an interview and give you pointers on how to shift your answers as needed. Choose a friend who knows your skills well to help you hone and boost your story. There are many things you can ask a friend that you cannot ask after a real interview. So don’t be shy, set it up as a real interview, and come prepared. Remember also to check your ego at the door and ask for honest feedback. They are your friends and will love you even if you are not good. Better to suck and know how to improve, then to not get that job, and not know why.
- Practice at networking events – When you are at a job search or business networking event, you have a chance to tell your story many times around what you do, what you want to do, and why. Use it as a chance to practice and then randomly ask people you just met how it comes across. You will be surprised on how much deeper of a conversation you can have. People are usually flattered that you asked for their opinion and may remember you better as a result.
- Practice at job interviews – Every job interview is a chance to practice. So if you are approached for a job interview that you may not be wild about, do it anyways so you can practice your skills. It’s a mistake to only interview with that dream company and no one else. No one is ever great at interviewing on their first try. It’s better to practice with companies you care less about. After every interview, if you were declined, try to get some honest feedback. If you are persistent but not pushy, you could get some valuable insights that your friends may not have seen either.
The job interview is probably the most important component of getting a job offer, so it’s worth it to invest the time to learn this skill. No one is born good at interviewing, no matter what you think. Stop comparing yourself with others – most of the times you will just feel down, because you only see people when they are already good.
I used to suck at interviewing. I was an electrical engineer in college. We are taught 0 and 1s and not how to talk well. I remember bombing many of my interviews during senior year, but then I realized I can practice and study for them like the SATs (yes I studied for the SATs – memorized 1500 words – but I digress). For my consulting interviews including McKinsey in college, I probably studied for 2 months straight. I found a McKinsey associate who was going to Stanford Business School at the time. He gave me two binders of his research on consulting and McKinsey and case interview questions. I read every page and did more research at the library (Yahoo and Google were not around yet – yeah I am old) . I practiced in front of the mirror, practiced with classmates, and then I chased after the same McKinsey guy to practice doing case interviews. He was very gracious to help several times. I still bombed a few more interviews but gradually got better and got an offer from McKinsey. Now case interview is one of my favorite things to do as well as give. Go figure!
Anything can be learned if you put your mind to it. Have fun with it and I know you can do great! Good luck out there!