Tongue-tied in Job Interviews? 5 Suggestions for Recent Grads

First job interviewA recent grad was telling me how he was struggling with interviews. He’d prepared but didn’t feel good about how he delivered his answers.
In fact, he said he felt himself kind of rambling, and then unsure what to do about it. If you’ve been interviewing you know the story: you feel a bit like you’re sitting in front of a panel of judges who are going to vote you off the island if you say the wrong thing.

Well, I guess it IS kind of like that… which is why I strongly suggest you practice with mock interviews and recording yourself.

Remember the point of the interview (or, why they can’t just hire you based on your resume): The employer wants to know if you can do the job, if you want the job, and if you “fit” the organization. They simply can’t tell that from your resume. Ergo, the interview.

You want to use the interview to communicate your ability to do the job, get more information about the position and the organization, and, determine if it’s a good match for you. After all, not every offer is going to be the perfect offer for you.

To keep from getting tongue-tied, here are 5 basic rules that will help you practice and perform better during the real deal:

1. Target Your Answers to Be Complete and Concise

  • Plan your answers to be about 2 minutes in length. 30 seconds is probably too short to convey major ideas. 3 minutes is too long and you run the risk of losing attention, and momentum

2. All Your Responses Should Have a Purpose

  • Be sure to connect your experience, story or comments to the employer’s needs. It’s great if you have a wonderful behavioral story, but it’s got to relate to what that employer is looking for. Test for the “so what” factor
  • Always be sure to answer the question completely. One recruiter said that up to 60% of the time, respondents get off track and don’t actually finish the entire story
  • Beware of the “ramble.” Often grads tell me they struggle with this part. Keep the purpose of your answer clear. Have a concise beginning, middle, and end to your response. That will keep you from rambling. This is where practice will also help

3. Don’t Bury the Lead: Talk About Results

  • Once you have your story out, don’t forget the most important part: The results or outcomes that you accomplished that convinces the employer you have what it takes!
  • One recruiter said that often candidates are great at telling their story, but then they forget to tie it back to impact, or results at the end

4. Clarify Questions Before Answering

If you aren’t clear about a question being asked, ask for clarification. It’s better to be clear rather that use your precious time singing the wrong song.

  • Clarify. “When you use the term resources are you referring to people, funding, or something else?”
  • Rephrase: “So, I just want to be sure I understand your question. You want to know how I would use resources – meaning funding – to improve customer satisfaction.” Repeat what you heard, and wait for clarification
  • In either case you are sure to answer the question appropriately, and, you demonstrate good active listening skills

5. Not Sure How Well You Answered the Question, Ask!

Maybe you’ve just finished your response masterpiece and he’s looking at you with a frown and a slight head tilt. Probe to see if there was a connection.

  • Did that give you the response you were looking for?
  • Is there anything you’d like me to clarify on that response?

In a recent survey 86% said the biggest mistake they made in an interview was not preparing. Preparing beforehand, practicing with others, and recording yourself will help you smooth out any interview bumps you may encounter when the actual day arrives.

Then stay focused and on task in your responses and you’ll leave with no regrets!




For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!



LeaAbout the Author: Lea McLeod helps recent grads and mid-careerists navigate the job search. And once you have a job, she’ll coach you to the brilliant performance of which you are capable! Her “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop has been deployed to help thousands of college hires worldwide do just that. She blogs at Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter, too.



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