Five Ways to Avoid Over-Thinking the Interview

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I once coached a 40-something manager in the healthcare industry who wanted to move from working in a hospital to a corporate or industrial setting. As we discussed her resume, she went into a long story about a recent interview and the difficulty she had trying to determine what the interviewer wanted to hear.  Her concern was not about crafting a good answer. She was more concerned about how to read the interviewer and what answer would best impress him.
It is possible to read body language to tell if an interviewer is interested in you and impressed with your answers. It’s difficult to crawl inside his head and tell what he is thinking. Body language can mean a variety of things, and it’s hard to be sure whether a person with crossed arms is upset, closed-minded or just trying to keep warm. You can waste a lot of valuable brain activity worrying about what you think you are supposed to say instead of listening to the questions so you can at least say something intelligent. Here are a few things to help you stop over-thinking during the interview:
  1. You’re there. Your resume did the work of getting you an interview, so you can relax. Out of the hundreds (thousands) of resumes, yours stood out enough to make the phone ring. You already won round one of the resume challenge.
  2. You’re qualified. Unless your resume has more fantasy than Star Wars, you’re qualified for the job. Your past experience, education and skills fit the position. You don’t have to figure out what you are supposed to be to get the job. The company has already decided you are a strong candidate.
  3. You can’t outsmart a pre-employment personality test. I used to administer a structured pre-employment test for the hospitality industry to determine job fit, and after 55 questions on different traits, we had a good picture of how a candidate would interact with guests and fit in with our company culture. Our advice to candidates was to just answer honestly. The test assures that in the end, we’ll find the real you.
  4. Let your mind work for you. Not many people can think about two things at the same time. If you’re trying to psych out your interviewer you won’t be listening to the questions and formulating your best answer. Don’t waste valuable brain power on an unknown (the interviewer’s thoughts) and use it to give great illustrations of your abilities.
  5. Square pegs aren’t comfortable in round holes. The interview is as much for you as the employer. If you try to morph into what the company wants, you may just get a job that isn’t for the real you. Be yourself, and if you like to wear jeans to work and don’t want to travel, you may not like a sales job with a 100-mile territory wearing a suit, even if they are begging you to take the job.
What have you done to help you ace an interview? Share your tips with the rest of our readers in the comments section below.
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients discover what they love and spend their life on it. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt

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