I don’t tend to do well during interviews (You know that when the receptionist takes one look at you and say, “Don’t look so nervous!”) and I have one big interview coming up. It’s for a job attachment, and that interview is all that lies between a semster of doing what I really want to do and being a slave in some small company’s dim and dark cucible.
The problem with me is that I stutter and get tongued-tied easily during interviews. I still remembered the last one where I literally had to force myself to speak.
What else shall I do to improve my interview performance? And oh, there would be two Japanese superiors in the interviewing panel. Does that requires any special attention on my part? (Like, do I have to bow or something? It’s a Japanese company after all, but it’s not on its native soil and most of the employees are local. How fussy would they be about their culture?)
If you still have several weeks to prepare, try joining your local Toastmaster’s Club. They’ll help you get over your fear of public speaking, which should go a long way towards giving you more confidence in the interview. I’ve got a big interview myself coming up this Friday, and I think Toastmasters has been pretty helpful in preparation.
Toastmasters is a great idea. Since you say you have several weeks (and depending on where you live) you could try some kind of drama or improvisation class. Any kind of practice speaking publicly is bound to help.
It might also help if you take some of the weight off this particular interview. You get the job - great. You don’t get the job - still great. When you feel like your whole future rests on one performance, that makes it rather difficult to relax.
Oops, I misread, you didn’t say how long you have.
As to bowing (or whatever) — mirroring body language is always a good idea. A lot of people do it unconsciously, others (such as psychologists) are trained to notice and reflect what they see.
One thing I keep telling everyone is to smile, smile, smile. Everyone is more likable when they look happy.
My experience with the Japanese has all been positive. I think that they will understand that you are not in their land and are not expected to know their culture. When I was in their land, they *seemed *to appreciate my attempts at their customs - although they also seemed to laugh at me and poke fun a lot. But in a very comfortable way, one that did not seem malicious. (When I answered *yes *in their tongue the room almost always broke into laughter, but people always commented on it afterwards in a good-natured way.)
Nervous, huh? Everyone is, but yours seems to be more than average. If it were me, I would start by laying that out on the table. I would smile and say: Forgive me please, I am a little nervous and that makes me stutter a little. Please know though, that if you hire me I will do a great job for you and I won’t be this nervous on a day-to-day basis.
Don’t feel you have to answer a question the second it’s asked. It’s okay to ponder the question for a moment before answering. A lot of people rush to answer and then stumble around as they think out loud. It looks unprofessional.
Make a list of common interview questions and have someone ask them to you. If some of the questions are difficult or make you tongue-tied, write down the answer, read it a few times, then try to answer it again. Even if they don’t ask the same exact questions, you’ll feel more comfortable giving answers on the fly. If you can’t get someone to ask you the questions, read them to yourself and answer them aloud.
This may be too aggressive for you situation, but every time I’ve “asked for the job”, I’ve gotten it. Along the lines of, “I really want this job. I’ve met several people here, and I think I would fit in very well. The skills and personally required for this job fit perfectly for me.” Or something along those lines. Direct and brief.
I still remembered from my last interview I was asked “So tell me more about yourself”
And I said, “Eh, my name is Extrakun…”
Does I still need to re-introduce who I am at this point? What am I expected to say? Hi, I am Extrakun, and I am here for a job? Or hi, I am Extrakun…here’s why I think I am suitable for this job? Is it all right if I repeat stuff that they shall already know (well, they do have my resume…) just so that I could feel more comfortable. Or is the direct approach the best?
Practice practice practice. You probably know the common interview questions (tell me your strengths, weaknesses, where do you see yourself in five years, how about a time you really screwed up, etc) so go over them to yourself out loud. Work out what you’re going to say. Learn about the company so you can ask intelligent questions (not, “How much vacation time do I get?” but stuff like “What do you see as your company’s greatest strengths? Are there new areas your company would like to explore? What do you look for in promoting from within?”)
Your resume is the foot in the door. They liked it and wanted to learn more about you. You can expand from your resume, “As you can see from my resume, I worked at such and such for x number of years. There I learned how to do XYZ and was able to move on to company blah de blah.”
Remember, relax. It can also be a bit nerve-wracking for the interviewer, as they’re also talking with someone they’ve never met before. It’s not like they’re going to shoot you if you answer wrong. The more you present yourself as a confident interviewee the more you’ll put the interviewer at ease and the conversation will flow more naturally.
Think about the worst that will happen if you don’t get this job. Will you die? Will you have to live on the street sleeping in a cardboard box? Will people point at you and laugh as you walk down the street? NO! Don’t make it bigger than it is. That is to say, don’t minimize the importance, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
The single most important factor in a job interview is relaxation/self-confidence. Be a little cocky and self-assured and you’re a big chunk of the way there.
Don’t bow to a Japanese businessman unless you’re Japanese. I was instructed as a young man to avoid it because I’d never do it right.
DO take the business card if it’s offered to you. Don’t be surprised if they each offer you a card two handed: thumb and forefinger on each corner nearest them. Take it and READ it in front of them. You’ll know who you’re seeing and they’ll see you being respectful and paying attention to who they are. DON’T just put it on the table or in your pocket right away.
If I knew you better I’d advise you to do the old ‘have a beer an hour or so prior to the interview’ to get you relaxed. This advice was passed on to me during my test-anxiety days in college by my favorite professor, Elinor Burkett. Helped quite a bit my freshman year. DO NOT attempt this if you can’t hold your head with one in you.
Try and take control of some part of the interview. When they ask a question that has real meat to it (we have problem X. What do you think?) lay out a plan of attack based on your experience (provided you have some. Don’t lie…you’ll be caught.) and continue asking them if they’ve done things this way or what they specifically thought about the problem.
Remember, again, you’re interviewing THEM just as much as they’re interviewing you. Go in thinking that they need YOU, too, and you’ll have a leg up.
When I ask a question like that, I want to see a couple things: how you react to an open-ended question in a moderate-pressure situation; and how you decide to sell yourself (and how successful you are at it). A good answer to this specific question will highlight what sort background you have, what your career path has been like, what you’re bringing to the table above and beyond the basic skills for the job, and where you’d like to take your career. Don’t memorize a spiel and recite it, but don’t try to wing it either.
We might be able to offer some more specific advice if we knew exactly what sort of job you’re looking for.
I have a nice portfolio folder that I take on interviews with me. It has a legal pad, and a place to store extra resumes and gives me something to do with my hands. Always take extra resumes with you. Write down everyones name and title or get a business card from them. Make a list ahead of time of what you want to make sure they know about you. If you have a job discription make sure you know the key points of the job, research the company so when they ask you what you know about them, you have an answer. They will likely ask you about how you have handled problems in the past or how you would handle a certain situation. Think about and write out a few key situations you can refer to. Have alist of questions you want to have answered, one of my favorites is asking everyone “what do you see as the key challanges in this position”. And although it is very hard to do don’t tell them a salary you want to make, at leastuntil you know enough about the job and the company. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, don’t fidgit, speak confidantly and loudly enough to be heard , and look them in the eye. Be Honest and straightforward about what you can do for them. Ask for the job (if you want it), establich when you will hear back (always a good ending question for their "What questions do you have for us?) Thank them for thier time and always always send out a thank you letter to everybody you speak with each time you meet with them. Lat thing is be nce to everybody you meet from the security guard, to the receptionist. You would be surprised who will put in a good word for you.
One way I’ve found to reduce my own anxiety is going in with the attitude that I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me. So I’ll prepare questions about the people who are interviewing me, and about the company, and try to throw them in whenever I can.
So if they ask me “Are you a good team worker? Can you give me an example of when you worked in a team”, I’ll give my answer, then I’ll throw the question back to them “So do you see teamwork as being a core requirement for the position? What percentage of time would be spent in team work versus individual work? Would I work in different teams for different aspects of the position or would I always be working with the same team? Is teamwork something that is highly valued by the company? etc etc”
Obviously I wouldn’t rattle the questions off like that, just ask the first question and then probe further based on what they say.
What it does is take the focus off YOU for a bit, but also shows your interest in the position and the company.
Don’t bow. The depth and duration of one’s bow is a matter of finely-calibrated etiquette in Japan, and unless you’ve spent years in the country studying the culture, don’t attempt it. If you don’t bow low enough, you may be seen as arrogant. If you bow too low, well, I’ve read of an American businessman who blew a major trade deal with Japanese customers. In an attempt to be polite, he bowed too low and held it too long, and the Japanese interpreted his bow to be a sarcastic burlesque of their customs. They took offense, and the deal was lost.
The Japanese gentlemen asked me the most interesting questions, all pertaining to my hobbies. I got quizzed on my career advancement…no idea why they asked that from an intern…was able to discuss what one does during to test a game.
Fumbled a bit by speaking too quickly and being too soft at the same time, but I guess I didn’t do too badly. Now I just have to see how I measure up with the other competitors.
Thanks everyone for your advice! Smiling a lot does help, and the prep was invaluable.
Foreigners+stutter can actually be a positive combination.
Most of us foreigners have problems understanding native accents. I understand a Swede or Singaporean just fine, but Britishers can sometimes be hard (Americans too but I’ve lived there for 5 years and I’m more used to their accents and slang). Sometimes, we’ll be listening to someone and, for example, it’s a someone who eats half his Ts… so you aren’t sure if he said “can” or “can’t” because darnit they pronounce it the same! So we have to stop and think about it, and by the time our brains come back to the present, the native in question is already three slides ahead, at which point panic ensues but you try not to show it (most of my problems with this have happened in situations where an American was giving a presentation to a bunch of foreigners - I’ve even had to take the American quietly aside and ask him for God’s sake and if he’s got a mother to take the darn baseball references out).
Speaking slowly will make it less likely for you to stutter - and it will make it easier for your audience to understand you. In my first trip to the US, I hooked up with a bunch of other foreigners in a Youth Hostel in NYC and we made an Aussie stutterer’s day when we informed him that of his group of three, he was the only one we understood without having to think: he actually pronounced things!