“Why practice interviewing?” a friend once asked me. If you do good work, people will be able to see that and you’ll always have a job. It sounds good in theory… and it’s a theory most people believe in.
But the truth is, the world doesn’t work like that.
Whether you are hired or not depends on two categories of factors: professional and personal. Professional factors include things like your technical ability, your achievements, etc. Your personal factors include things like personality and your innate characteristics.
Both are equally important – would you hire a genius if he’s always late and addicted to cocaine?
And, both factors have a diminishing return in value. That is, once you’ve reached a certain level, more wouldn’t do you any good. For example, if an employer is looking to hire an intermediate programmer, being advanced doesn’t benefit you at all. In fact, it can work against you – it’s called “overqualified”.
In other words, employers are not looking for the ideal candidate; they are looking for a candidate who is good enough.
That’s where interviewing comes in. Interviews are not a place to show off your skills (even though you might need to take short tests). Interviews are a place to sell your personality and characteristics.
So what can you do if you’re shy by nature and trying to sell your personality? Well, here are 10 interviewing tips for the shy to help you appear as natural as possible.
Google interviewing tips and you’ll get thousands of articles and videos telling you what to do in an interview. You patiently listened to each of them but they all sound pretty much the same.
“This is obvious,” you said. “who doesn’t know that?”
But try this: recite the answers these videos give – word for word – and I bet you can’t do it. So what makes you think you can give an equally good answer in an interview?
Don’t try to “get the gist”. Memorize the answers word for word and regurgitate it if you’re shy. You can always innovate later when you gain more confidence.
Get a friend or a family member to interview you as a practice. If you don’t have anyone to do it, videotape yourself. Why is this important?
Other than the fact that practice makes perfect, friends or a recording of yourself can tell you the subconscious mistakes you’re making. For example, do you smile enough during an interview? Do you shake your leg when you’re nervous? Do you “uhm” and “ahhh” too much?
3. Dress Well
Psychologists now know that what you wear influences how you behave. Yes, you read that right.
If you’re wearing a priest robe, for example, studies have found that you will adhere to the laws more strictly than if you’re wearing a leather jacket with torn jeans. Similarly, wearing a suit puts you in a state that a t-shirt and short pants just don’t.
4. Gain Foresight
Wouldn’t it be great if you know what interviewers are going to ask before you step into an interview? Well, here’s the good news: most interviews consist of standard questions.
So make a list of all the general questions and prepare for them. And, every time you go for an interview, also note the questions the interviewers ask you – are they in your list? If not, add them, just in case you need to go for another.
And, speaking of foresight, why not ask your friends and colleagues (or former colleagues) what are some of the common interview questions they get?
5. Ask Good Questions
Just as you build a list of potential questions they will ask you, you should also build a list of potential questions to ask them – I’m sure you know the value of asking good questions in an interview.
Again, consult your network about what to ask your prospective employer.
Then you know what to do: memorize it.
6. Divert Attention
People who are shy (I was one of them) tend to have a problem talking about themselves – so don’t. Bring a 6 month plan with you into the interview and talk about what you’ll do for the business if you’re hired.
Trust me when I say that the prospective employer will have lots of follow-up questions if this is done right. In which case, you won’t need to talk about how “passionate” you are in what you do. You can show it instead.
7. Build a Case Study
If you can’t build a 6 month plan, then build a case study. What have you achieved in your career thus far, what did you do to achieve it and what problems did you have to overcome?
Case studies are great if you want to divert attention to the “meat” of the interview and talk about technical problems rather than “personality” and other soft skills.
Nobody said you need to answer every question immediately. It’s a fatal mistake shy people make.
If you get a question you are not sure about, say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it.” Take 3 seconds then give your answer. Not only does it give you time to come up with and format your answer, it will also show the interviewer that you actually thought about it.
9. Get Introduced
Not only will getting introduced boost your chances of getting hired, you’ll also feel more confident when you step into the room. Networking is a great way to do this. Wait a minute… am I asking you to network when I know you’re shy?
Yes! Believe it or not, networking is not that difficult. All you need is a few mindset shifts.
10. Space It Out
Interviews take a lot out of those of you who are shy. So space it out and take breaks in between them. When you go into an interview, mentally tired, you can be sure you’ll regret what you do/don’t say during the chat.