Readying your application may cause a few butterflies as you strive to perfectly position yourself to be a stand-out candidate, particularly when you hit the “apply” button and you know you’ve done all you can to get to the next round. The rest is in the Hiring Team’s hands.
The waiting period — Did I or didn’t I get through to the next round? — can also be uncomfortable and anxiety ridden. Did I highlight the right mix of my work experience? Should I have been cheekier with my headline? Are they going to discount me for that brief stint at Job XYZ before I realised I got into a gap year program and quit to go overseas?
The moment you get the call or email inviting you to an interview and you realise out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow jobseekers who put their applications forward – your application rose to the top and made it through to the next round… YES! Relief and pride flood in, but then the real fear settles in your stomach. Ok – time to psych yourself up – it’s interview time.
Watching the premiere of Shark Tank Australia this week as the hopeful entrepreneurs readied themselves to walk into the Shark Tank and then watching as they faced the rapid-fire questions from the all-business Sharks reminded me of what it’s like walking into an interview, albeit a bit more exaggerated (we are talking about TV here) but nonetheless there are a few things I think Shark Tank can teach us about interviewing.
Go in Armed
There’s no better way to reduce your pre-interview jitters than to feel well prepared. I’m not sure if it was nerves or lack of preparation but watching the gentleman from Rent Resume in comparison to the other entrepreneurs featured last night was a little painful as he struggled to provide clear and relevant answers to the Sharks’ questions. Practicising your answers to interview questions you can anticipate will help reduce feelings of nervousness so you can answer any question thrown your way with confidence.
But it’s not all about you either. Spending time researching your potential employer well in advance of your interview will give you a better sense of what the company’s goals and motivators are so you can better appeal to what they are looking for in a new hire. Just like the entrepreneurs going in to face the Sharks are in a better position when the know what the Sharks can bring to their table and what they’re looking for in an investment opportunity, you’ll be in a better position if you know what you’re bringing to an employer’s table and what they’re looking for in a new hire.
Showing this kind of interest can catapult you ahead of candidates who don’t spend the time to do the same. And, this isn’t a quick Google of the company name as you wait to be called into the interview. It’s a few hours truly researching the company’s history, their goals, special interests, the role you’re interviewing for and who else has held it, the person interviewing you, anything you can find that will help you understand how you fit into their grand plans.
Handling Tough Questions
Heading into an interview, you can expect a few tough questions whether it’s designed to see how you respond under pressure or it’s a question completely from left field that you’re not sure how to answer. You may even be asked a question that you just don’t have an answer to. So, what then? There’s only so much you can prepare and anticipate but if you’ve done your homework then you’ve set yourself up to do the best you can.
If you are thrown a question you didn’t expect or want to be careful in answering, a really good trick is to buy yourself some time by saying, “That’s a really good question…” and then either answer as best and honestly as you can or re-frame the question and take it in a direction you feel more comfortable, “That’s an interesting question and while X is really important I think Y has become more…”
Every now and then, you may be asked something that you just don’t feel comfortable answering – perhaps it’s inappropriate or irrelevant to the position, or it’s just something you’d prefer not to discuss. Know when to stand your ground and politely explain that you’d prefer not to discuss the topic. Then take control of the conversation but asking them a question or saying, “I’d prefer not to discuss X, but what I’d really like to tell you about is Y.”
Watching the founder of Rent Resume in the midst of a feeding frenzy as the Sharks delivered rapid-fire questions and criticism last night, you couldn’t help feel that he should have been more prepared. But he did maintain composure and respect for the Sharks under the pressure which is a great example of how to handle tough questioning.
Sometimes, It’s Just Not Meant to Be
The truth is, whether you’re an entrepreneur in a room of Sharks or you’re a hopeful candidate in an interview, sometimes it’s just not meant to be. In the world of startups, you often have to raise capital from investors to take your business to the next level but finding the right investor who has the interest, skills and network to add value to your business is not easy. And, if you’re a smart entrepreneur, you don’t accept just any investment offer that comes your way, just like as a jobseeker you shouldn’t take just any job offer. In both cases, the consequences can be destructive. While you think you’re getting one step ahead, you’re really taking two steps back whether than means the failure of your business or a serious rut in your career progression.
Walking into the Shark Tank, the chances that your invention or business ticks all of the boxes that a Shark is measuring you against and that your opportunity stands out amongst the dozens of deals they’re approached with, is not high. It could be one little thing that turns the tide – like the Cricket Cooler founders who scared off a lot of the Sharks by mentioning they didn’t intend to go full time on their business until they could match their existing salaries. With those that enter the Shark Tank however, they have 5 chances to pique the interest of one of the Sharks unlike when you enter a job interview which gives you just 1 chance.
So, in the end, the Cricket Cooler guys nabbed one Shark out of the five and that’s all they needed. Unlike the Tank, if you’ve made it through to a job interview, you’re already a few steps ahead of the Shark Tank entrepreneurs because the interviewer has already decided they’re interested in you enough to invest their time in meeting with you face-to-face. But, still, there are no guarantees.
You may present well, answer all of the interviewer’s questions with confidence, provide informed answers and walk out feeling like you’ve done your best, but still not receive a job offer – just like a passionate entrepreneur with a great business opportunity may walk out of the Tank without an offer from one of the five Sharks. You may even find that the interview helped you decide the role or the company is not right for you.
It’s important to remember that sometimes the best job for you is not the one sitting in front of you, it’s the one about to turn the corner. So, while you may not get the job you thought you wanted, there will be another opportunity that comes along. You just have to keep the door open.
Luckily most interviews aren’t as intense and the stakes certainly not as high as they are in the Shark Tank, but I certainly think there’s a lot we can learn from watching the drama unfold. If you missed the premiere episode, you can catch it here…
If you picked up on any similarities between being in the Tank and being interviewed, please feel free to share!