I wanted to make a good impression at the job interview. It was a prestigious religious liberties firm, and a friend with connections had opened the door for me.
But shortly into the interview, things went south.
The interviewer asked me what I thought of the advocacy work done by some guy whose name I’d never heard.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I haven’t heard of him. Who is he?”
The interviewer paused.
“He’s the founder of our firm.”
I smiled and nodded my headed, tacitly acknowledging that I had made a fatal mistake. It was like interviewing for a senior position at Microsoft and saying I’d never heard of Bill Gates. I immediately knew someone else was going to get the job — someone who wanted the job far more than I obviously did.
In a world where the COVID-19 pandemic has wrecked the job market, the stakes are higher when you’re in an interview. You literally can’t afford to bungle up an interview because of a careless mistake. If there’s enough competition for a position, your interviewer is looking for anything to separate the good candidates from the best.
I’m pleased to report that I went on to get other jobs that I wanted, and, with respect to my future interviews, I was a better steward of the opportunity to vie for the job. That kind of stewardship involved three main things:
1. I did my research.
I revisited the prospective employer’s website, looking at all areas of their specialization — not just the ones that interested me. Then I did follow-up research of those areas so that I could talk about them proficiently. If I knew of someone who worked at the organization, I gave them a call and learned what I could to help me better understand the organization’s need.
It was particularly useful to figure out what the less desirable aspects of the job might be. Interviewers want to ferret out applicants who think they want the job but will grow weary once they discover that, actually — it’s just a job. For example, here are three questions I’ve been asked in interviews (some more than once):
“Are you OK with occasionally working on weekends?”
“You know there’s a ton of travel, right?”
“[This boring task] is actually a decent amount of what you’ll be doing in the position. Are you sure you’re willing to do that?”
By the time I sat down for the interview, I had already decided that I was OK with the less desirable aspects of the job, so those kinds of questions didn’t catch me off guard. That brings me to my next point.
2. I practiced the interview.
By the time I sat down for the interview, I had practiced confidently responding to pretty much every potential question I could think of.
For days, I would conduct imaginary interviews while driving around or taking a shower. During my practice interviews, I refined my intro for the inevitable, “Tell us about yourself.” My answer always started with: “I grew up in the boondocks of south Mississippi and was raised by a hard-working single mom most of my childhood.” By the time I arrived for my interview, I was ready for it because I’d already done it.
3. I prayed and trusted God with the outcome.
Finally and most importantly, I didn’t go into the interview alone. In the days before my interviews, I would ask God again and again to open the door if it needed to be opened and seal it shut if He had something else for me. I also recruited friends to pray for me, and as I waited to be called in for the interview, I would pray inside my head.
The difference between my best interviews and the train wreck I described at the beginning came down to this: preparation. At its heart, preparation is a show of gratitude to God for the opportunity to interview and a sign of respect for the interviewer, who set aside valuable time to give me a chance to join the team.
If you put time into preparation, your interviewer probably won’t think: “Wow. This applicant is so prepared.” He or she will think: “Wow, there’s something different about this person.” And the ultimate difference between you and less-prepared candidates is that you’ll be a lot more likely to get the job.
Copyright 2021 Joshua Rogers. All rights reserved.