You’ve been waiting for the perfect position to open up for three years and now you have your chance to go for it. But the thrill you felt on being asked to an interview has passed. Your hands are clammy hands, you have butterflies in your stomach, and you are afraid you will fail. And with good reason. It can be hard to stay grounded when the possibility of landing your dream job is just around the corner.
Applying for jobs is stressful. You feel vulnerable and worry that you will not succeed. It’s not easy to open up, try to sell yourself, and make a good impression so that you can land the job you want. The stakes are high and your expectations peak when it comes to the role you have dreamt about for so long. So how do you manage the stress that may cause you to slip up on the big day? How do you play down this opportunity in your own mind and limit the pressure on yourself? Uriel Megnassan, a professional coach in France and author of the book Décrochez le Job de vos Rêves en 5 rounds (Get the Job of your Dreams in 5 rounds), gives us his advice on how to get there.
Steer clear of the tunnel effect
Have you ever had the unpleasant feeling of completely missing the mark when answering a question, even after you had prepared your answer over and over? Well, then you are likely a victim of the dreaded tunnel effect that takes over when something big is at stake. “We can see this as a neurological phenomenon whereby putting such pressure on ourselves to achieve a result means that we make mistakes in spite of ourselves,” says Megnassan. But rest assured, there is a cure. According to a theory devised in the 1970s by Noel Burch, an employee of Gordon Training International, there are four levels of learning skills: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. However, only the first three levels suffer the consequences of this effect. So to get to the unconsciously competent level, that is, to be naturally gifted, you need to practice until the skills become automatic behavior. Then you’ll be immune from the tunnel effect.
Do more interviews to prepare
For any interview, practicing is the key to success, but it is especially so when the stakes are high and stress is at its peak. While practice interviews with relatives can be useful, it’s not always enough to get ready for the real thing. “To prepare as well as possible, I would definitely recommend applying for other positions and interviewing elsewhere,” says Megnassan. “This is how we can practice, correct ourselves, and improve our performance.” This not only improves your responses but also helps you better manage pressure and stress because repeating this exercise makes it more familiar and less scary. “Each of the interviews will give you skills that are sure to interest the recruiter in front of you, so take advantage of that. Also, as a bonus, if the recruiter for your dream job asks you if you have any other leads, you can answer them honestly. Believe me, then they will see you as an even more interesting candidate.”
Don’t lose clarity
You’ve always dreamt of working at this company, but are you sure you didn’t put it on a pedestal? While the job applications you send elsewhere can help you to keep your feet on the ground, compare offers, and not get too excited at first, don’t hesitate to reach out to employees at your desired company. You can start by contacting former employees who have left recently to ask them about the inner workings of the company. “When the excitement is at its peak, it is not uncommon to lose clarity, and this first contact will allow you to have an unbiased look at your dream company,” says Megnassan. So keep an open mind for some objective insight. Secondly, you should contact someone who joined the company recently with the aim of learning more about what life in the company is really like but also to get an idea of how the company is doing. Getting an insider’s view can also help you take into account potential issues that might upset you in the future. Again, the goal here is to downplay the importance of the job in your mind so as to take some of the pressure off.
Don’t show up empty-handed
You love the company, that’s one thing, but the recruiter also expects you to be proactive. If you spend the interview declaring your love and claiming that you find “everything is perfect”, the interviewer might doubt your ability to update the company’s strategy or to find opportunities for improvement. This is why all the information you have gathered leading up to this will come in handy in demonstrating your critical thinking. “Be proactive in order to best show how you can add value,” says Megnassan. The idea is not just to appear motivated but to show your desire to solve business problems. “However, be careful not to give the impression that you are bragging, this may displease recruiters who will then be wary of you,” says Megnassan. “It’s better to have the right balance: rather than trying too hard to seem interesting, show your interest in the company and its issues, this will make you seem even more motivated.”
Prepare for disappointment
Despite all this rigorous preparation, keep in mind that the final decision is not up to you. The timing may not be right and the job of your dreams may pass you by for many reasons that are not your fault. The important thing is to be sure that you do everything possible so that you don’t regret anything. If the answer turns out to be no, take the time you need to digest the information and start looking for the job that is meant for you. Once again, doing other interviews at the same time and devising a back-up strategy in case you don’t get the job can help you gain perspective. Even if you don’t get the role this time, it doesn’t mean the company will shut you out forever. Reach out to the recruiter to ask them to explain why you didn’t get the job. This could give you new objectives to work on and maybe, in a few years, reapply. Especially since by then you will already be on their radar.
Ultimately, being prepared takes away much of the apprehension and risk of failure. “But meditating or watching Youtube tutorials is not enough for it to work like magic,” says Megnassan. “So do more interviews, make phone calls, and practice as much as possible.” The goal is to stack the odds in your favor by all means possible.
Translated by Kim Cunningham
Photo by Welcome to the Jungle
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